A charity for West London - based in West London – why representation within our charity matters

As Black History Month draws to a close, we wanted to reflect on what it means for us - as individuals but also as a charity 

  • We recently published a blog for Black History Month, which resonated with many people here at West London Zone 
  • As a charity, we have a responsibility to represent the diversity of children and young people in the areas that we serve 
  • Here, we take a wider look at the work we do, the steps we take, and our commitment to always act on our values

For Black History Month, we recently published a blog by Remel, one of our Link Workers. In it, he spoke about the need for positive representation, how this had impacted his experiences as a teen, and how it had influenced his career path, becoming a mentor to other young people that look like him. 

“A young person can relate in a more grounded way, can identify with personality traits, or have space to explore areas that they’re unfamiliar with, with someone who offers no judgement because they share a similar experience.” 

The blog was just one of a few internal initiatives we created for Black History Month, including videos inviting colleagues to share how their heritage might have affected how they navigate the UK as a Black British or immigrant, showcase of African art in the office, poems by Black poets, cultural foods being made (and eaten), a pop-up library of Black authors or books relating to Black history, and anti-racism training sessions. Since progressing on our equity, diversity and inclusion journey, it was great to see that our team felt safe to share their stories and culture – especially during a month that is important to us.

Our charity is in the heart of the West London community, which contains a multitude of cultures and ethnicities – communities that are often marginalised and under-represented in positive media stories. Indeed, Grenfell Tower is in our eyeline, a daily reminder of the anomaly that is west London – a place which has the richest streets alongside the most unequal. 

Kensington Aldridge Academy with Grenfell Tower in the background

Kensington Aldridge Academy, one of the schools in our Zone, with Grenfell Tower in the background

Here, we reflect on what Remel’s blog and our other Black History Month projects meant for us, as well as the wider work that we do and the people we impact. 

Why is it so important to be representative? 

West London is an area of deep inequality, where 1 in 5 children aren’t getting the support they need to thrive. Our Zone covers Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, and Brent, all of which contain streets where some of the wealthiest in the country live, and yet with  Harrow Road – one of the most densely populated areas of social housing in England – running diagonally through it. Simply put, we don’t believe a postcode should be a lottery to life chances. 

We provide early intervention support for children and families in our communities, identified through data, knowledge, and insights, to ensure all children can get access to the opportunities they need to thrive. We do this by training and deploying  Link Workers, who are based in school and are mentors to at-risk young people, while building strong relationships with teachers and families to create a cohesive approach. 

A Link Worker talks to one of the young people on the programme 

To do our best work, then, we must strive to be a team that is diverse, reflective of the communities we serve. But it is much more than this – representation is not only required to be impactful in our programme delivery, but also vital for us as a charity. Having a team from all walks of life allows for diversity of ideas, perspective, and solutions. It also fosters an inclusive and safe place to work, meaning happier staff and better retention, allowing the impact of our work to be long lasting. We feel representation is something to be celebrated not just in October but throughout the year. 

Striving to reflect our community

Since our inception in 2015, the West London Zone team has continued to grow, but we always work hard to keep our values to the fore. We want to consistently do our best work for the children and young people we work with  – and their families – within our community.

But we know it’s important to be accountable in our actions, and not just words. As we continue to grow as a charity our diversity of representation has also continued to improve. In 2021-22, the number of employees who identify as Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority grew to 32% of the workforce. However, we recognise that we have much more work to do to ensure that these improvements in representation are actioned in management and senior leadership positions. 

As part of our work to keep ourselves on the right track, we have set up the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Group which aims to raise awareness and promote equity in a way that informs our culture and practices. The group has been working to our EDI strategy, which feeds into our overarching company strategy, while EDI team reflections and feedback is helping us to embed learning and EDI culture more broadly. Ultimately, the group is there to hold West London Zone accountable to the visions outlined in the strategy, assist with working towards some of the initiatives, and promoting these initiatives by actively acting as champions and allies.

Four members of the West London Zone EDI group, taken as part of a series of videos on their heritage journey

Four members of staff who shared their stories with us, as part of internal initiatives for Black History Month

We pledge to continue learning

Understanding that inclusion and accessibility has to be threaded into the very fabric of our organisation, we continue to educate ourselves on what it means to be an ally to underrepresented groups. Since September 2021 we have undertaken 10 training sessions and courses, ranging from anti-racism, disability awareness, LGBTQ+ , and mental health awareness training. 

All of these efforts support our mission – to hold ourselves accountable, to be transparent, and to not shy away from those uncomfortable conversations that are needed for our development. 

"The EDI training sessions encourage us to be reflective about our own norms, and therefore how we navigate the workplace. It provides everyone with the same level of education on why we celebrate diversity at West London Zone, allowing us to ask questions in a safe space and pointing us in the direction of resources which will allow us to learn more. I enjoy each of the sessions as it ensures we have a culture where I can bring my true self to work." Grace

"For me, the EDI training we have received has been extremely important, reminding me of the privileges many of us take for granted, and understanding the prevalence of EDI related issues in the workplace. They have reinforced how important it is that we are consistently and actively promoting good policies and – most importantly – practices, as part of our organisational culture at West London Zone." Charly

Making West London Zone a positive place to work 

Our CEO, Louisa Mitchell, often asks us to reflect on some questions during team meetings, including: “Is my work helping children and young people to achieve better outcomes in life?” and “Am I helping to make West London Zone a great place to work?”. These questions ground us, and hold us accountable not only to the communities in which we work but also to our colleagues. We know that providing a safe and supportive workplace where staff feel welcome to bring their whole self to work is key to supporting children and families well, and ultimately driving change in our community. As Louisa emphasises, “it’s up to us all to act out the values, speak up and be heard, and continue the great work that you do.” 

As we look ahead, we will continue to build on this momentum. Mobilising our EDI Group is vital to this and we will share new developments with you soon. And so, as Black History Month draws to an end, our advocacy for all the communities that we work with will not stop –  we do more, we expect more, and we strive for more.

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together, every child and young person can flourish.