As the UK’s Black History Month draws to an end, MAG’s Director of People & Culture, Louise McDonald, reflects on challenges and progress for our organisation.

It would be a mistake to think that at MAG we only consider the challenges of equity, diversity and inclusion during Black History Month. Of course we don’t. But as I enter my third month at MAG, it feels timely to share my perspective on progress made and how we plan to continue our important EDI work moving forward. 

And it feels timely also to consider the challenges that remain.

We are, of course, a complex organisation. The MAG family is made up of scores of different nationalities and ethnicities, working in some 30 countries, speaking many different languages and with many different cultural outlooks and perspectives. What binds us in this diversity is the strength of our shared purpose. Inclusivity is now enshrined in MAG’s new Values, which we created and launched to our staff last year. Inclusive is one of those five Values because we believe there is strength in our diversity. Being inclusive and being diverse makes us a more effective organisation, able to deliver more positive impact for the communities we exist to serve.

In the last year we have lived up to that new Value by doing much to improve our thinking and our practice when it comes to inclusivity. We have established gender, diversity and inclusion committees in Lebanon and Cambodia, and our programme teams have been designing action plans for gender, diversity and inclusion. We have also been refining our HR policies and more purposefully investing in training for staff. And we have continued to have organisational conversations to understand better issues related to diversity and inclusion. We have also piloted data collection in the UK - this will help us to understand further the diversity of our staff, design concrete action to meeting our diversity and inclusion aims and measure the progress of these. Colleagues have also been more deliberate in encouraging and facilitating internal communications in different languages, ensuring non-English speaking staff voices are heard at the most senior level of the organisation.

Importantly, in line with the commitments we made in 2021, the diversity of MAG’s Board of Trustees has improved in the last year, with the appointment of trustees with different ethnic backgrounds and lived experiences. Alongside our EDI Manager, two of our trustees attended the Bond conference on Power in Development, and the Board commitment to moving forward on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion is clear. We recognise that MAG, along with many other organisations of its kind and society as a whole, has much work to do on anti-racism and other forms of prejudice, breaking down structural inequalities. Our vision is to ensure that we tackle this in a way which is sustainable, and in line with our values. We acknowledge that at times our progress may not be as fast, nor as visible, as we would like it to be. 

We are renewing our commitment to becoming an anti-racist organisation and our work on EDI will also be a key area of focus in our strategic planning process. We acknowledge that we need to increase participation and representation at the most senior decision-making levels in MAG. This means taking a more strategic approach to career pathways so that staff from the communities where we work are supported to progress to the most senior positions (both technical and non-technical) in the organisation.

We also need to invest more in diversity training for staff and managers so that our staff have a better understanding of racism and are equipped with the tools to foster healthy workplaces and teams. More work is also required to address unconscious bias, not just as individuals but also in our language, our communication and our organisational policies.

Above all, we recognise that the theme of this year’s Black History Month, Time for Change: Action Not Words, is one that applies to MAG as much as it does to others. That’s why the next year will see more focus and more investment so that we continue to strive to make MAG the most inclusive organisation it can be.