Meet the Trailblazer: Oxfordshire County Council

Race Equality Matters is pleased to announce that Oxfordshire County Council have been awarded Tea Break solution Trailblazer status!

 

The Tea Break provides the framework and opportunity for an organisation to hear the honest voice and feelings of its colleagues about race inequality. All employees are invited to a one-hour themed, online discussion about an issue that matters. This initiative was developed through the Solutions Collaboratory™ in collaboration with Network Rail and its staff network, Cultural Fusion, Mental Health First Aid England and those with lived experience from other organisations. In a recent Race Equality Matters’ Event, 85% of attendees thought that Tea Break would facilitate their organisation in having uncomfortable conversations about race inequality. The Tea Break methodology enables courageous conversations. This gives the organisation and its senior management insights and the opportunity to address concerns and issues that are being shared.

 

Oxfordshire County Council is making genuine steps in tackling racial inequality, facilitated by their successful implementation of Tea Break. The independent judges- all of whom are ethnically diverse- unanimously recognised the successful implementation of the Tea Break solution within the organisation. As one of the three successful Tea Break Trailblazer applicants, Oxfordshire County Council’s action is a pioneering example of making positive change towards racial equality. Through this, other organisations can learn and implement Tea Break in their own workplace.

 

Voices: Listening to ethnic minority employees by Oxfordshire County Council

Oxfordshire County Council used the Tea Break as a platform to give ethnic minority employees a voice, within honest and safe conversations. The council first introduced the Tea Break system, led by its own Race Equality and Cultural Heritage Network, in April 2021. This was to mark Stephen Lawrence Day, and the council informed the judges of their reasons for starting:

“The communications made it clear that this was going to be a safe space for a two-way conversation to remove barriers, discussed lived experiences and to bring staff together to create inclusion.”

Conversations that prioritised ethnic minority voices  and improved ethnic minority engagement were successful, with 67% of judges voting the evidence as “good”.  Judges praised the “on-going dialogue” Oxfordshire County Council have maintained, as well as the “encouraging” and “proactive” nature of their work. Voices were heard through active change in the workplace, including:

  • Awareness: Tea Break facilitated greater awareness of microaggressions and microharm within the workplace, creating positive change in tackling these.
  • Senior Leadership Engagement: Regular meetings have taken place between the Race Equality and Cultural Heritage Network- and senior leadership teams to facilitate ethnic minority voices reaching the top of the organisation.
  • Support and Guidance: A document for support, titled ‘Talking About Race and Racism’, has also supported Tea Break conversations across directorates. 

 

Creating Change and Impact

All judges unanimously voted that Oxfordshire County Council’s Tea Break had prompted future action in tackling race inequality. The judges praised the breadth of reach this has had on the organisation, reaching middle managers and senior leadership, ensuring that honest conversations have led to organisation-wide change. Recently the network spoke at a managerial conference to exemplify the benefits of staff networks, as well as the Tea Break solution, to open conversations about race and racism. Although the Race Equality and Cultural Heritage Network led and initiated Tea Break, the impact and engagement has had a much further reach with engagement from the majority of directorates. One judge stated that:

“The Tea Break is achieving what it needs to, which is facilitating conversations, creating awareness and the real human emotions that are critical vehicles for change.

 

Next Steps taken by Oxfordshire County Council…

Moving forward, Oxfordshire County Council looks to continue the use of Tea Break and the conversations it facilitates. Beyond the application of Tea Break, the council is working on a range of initiatives to support and promote inclusion in the workplace, from rolling out a reciprocal mentoring programme to holding ‘Have a Go’ days aimed at encouraging underrepresented groups to join the Fire and Rescue Service. 

 

Oxfordshire County Council has demonstrated commitment and impact for change. Their Tea Break Trailblazer status echoes the impact felt by the organisation’s ethnically diverse employees. Celebrating our Trailblazer community will accelerate the change and momentum towards racial equality, through action not words.

 

Follow Oxfordshire County Council’s Lead: Become a Trailblazer 

If your organisation is driving change for Race Equality and you can demonstrate impact, endorsement from ethnic background employees and share future plans; register your interest to be considered for the next round of trailblazers.

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