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What happened at the first Leaders of Networks Forum

Last week we held our first Leaders of Networks Forum. This is what happened.

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By John Peart

Last week, we hosted our first Leaders of Networks Forum — something we committed to in our business plan. In this post, I’ll share some highlights from the meeting.

The Leaders of Networks Forum is a new regular event that we’ve set up to help shape the work of the Civil Service LGBT+ Network and give the leaders of local LGBT+ networks a space to share experiences, frustrations, resources, ideas and solutions.

The event is open to anyone who helps to lead a Civil Service LGBT+ staff network in a department, agency or arm’s length body, or to anyone that volunteers with the Civil Service LGBT+ Network itself. At our first meeting, around a dozen networks and departments were represented, both in person and over the phone1. Here’s what we talked about.

Welcome and introductions

After everyone had introduced themselves, I set out what the headers of Networks Forum was intended to do. We’re planning for the meetings to take place at least once a quarter, and for it to be open to everyone who helps run a Civil Service LGBT+ network.

The agenda will usually involve updates on cross-government delivery but also any other items networks might want to talk about.

Update on Network delivery

We then moved on to an update on our delivery against our business plan: and we’ve done quite a lot!

We published our business plan in June last year, following an open consultation on our strategy. The plan had four priority themes in it:

  1. Building strong and stable networks
  2. Creating a diverse and inclusive community
  3. Having a national impact
  4. Understanding and representing your needs

Under each theme, we set out what we wanted to do. I gave an update on progress. Some highlights include:

  • starting a team to look at ways networks can share best practice to support their Stonewall Workplace Equality Index rankings
  • network volunteers organising participation in at least 6 Pride events in 2018
  • starting our new BiSpace initiative
  • launching the first Civil Service-wide Allies Week in October 2018
  • expanding our social events to more regions across the UK than ever before, whilst continuing to build on the success of our London events
  • successfully influencing a number of Civil Service diversity and inclusion policy initiatives

There were a number of questions at this stage; the most pertinent of which was about Pride 2019. We will be releasing more information about our plans for Pride later this month.

BiSpace

Next, our bisexuality lead, Mary, led a discussion an initiative we launched in September 2018 called BiSpace.

Mary talked about some research she had conducted in late 2017, which looked at the experiences of bisexual, pansexual, asexual and queer civil servants. You can read more about the research in this summary report.

Mary then spoke about some of the work that she, and a small team of volunteers, are leading to act on the findings. Principally, this includes a new community space for bi+ civil servants and a new fact-sheet that is being produced to help people understand more about bisexual employee’s experience in the Civil Service.

BiSpace has now taken place in Bristol, London and Manchester twice; once in September for Bi Visibility Day, and once in February for LGBT History Month. There are also now monthly bi socials taking place in London, in advance of the usual cross-government socials.

Attendees had a wide ranging discussion about the work. In particular, there were requests for additional fact sheets beyond just bisexuality. This is something we’re going to look at doing once we have received feedback on the initial bisexuality fact sheets. The fact sheet should launch later this month.

Stonewall Workplace Equality Index

The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index results were launched last month; a number of government organisations were featured in the Top 100. I led a discussion about how networks would like to act on the outcomes of the Index this year.

Attendees said they would welcome the opportunity to meet up with other networks — either at one event or a series of events — looking at how to improve departmental practice, and subsequently improving departmental submissions. Attendees suggested that anyone who submitted to the Index this year that wished to take part in such an event should only be allowed to do so if they shared the content of their submissions with other attendees, which a majority of attendees appeared to support — though it was not unanimous!

We will look at facilitating this with our Stonewall volunteer team later this year, after networks have had their feedback sessions.

Civil Service Awards

Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Civil Service Awards Champion, has written to colleagues across government asking for feedback on the current format of the Civil Service Awards. Of particular relevance for LGBT staff is the format of the diversity and inclusion award, and it’s relationship to the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Awards.

Attendees briefly discussed whether there should be any changes to the awards. There were no strong opinions on the topic, but attendees did say they do not necessarily agree with the current format, where the winners of the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Awards become the shortlist for the diversity and inclusion award at the Civil Service Awards. Some attendees felt this puts different diverse groups in competition with each other in an unhelpful way.

We will be shortly writing to Richard Heaton with feedback; if you have any particular view on this issue, do let us know.

Civil Service Judgement test

The psychometric tests that are used by Civil Service Resourcing for the purposes of recruitment are being revised. The team responsible is looking for people willing to test the new formats, and provide feedback. Details will be circulated to network chairs.

Future working

I shared that there were around 50 to 70 volunteers involved with the Civil Service LGBT+ Network at the moment, and that this expanding volunteer team required additional leadership support to keep up with the growing volunteer base. As a result, Kate and I have decided to appoint some additional vice-chair roles to help lead the network.

We have now published information on the appointment process for this, if you are interested in becoming a vice-chair.

I finished by inviting any feedback on the meeting and any future agenda items.

Full meeting agenda

Item Time
Welcomes and introductions 15:00 to 15:15
Update on CS LGBT+ Network delivery 15:15 to 15:30
BiSpace: what’s happened and what’s next 15:30 to 15:45
Stonewall Workplace Equality Index results and discussion 15:45 to 16:00
Consultation on the Civil Service Awards 16:00 to 16:15
Review of the Civil Service Judgement Test 16:15 to 16:20
Future working 16:20 to 16:35
Any other business 16:35 to close
  1. We were thwarted by departmental IT for this meeting; we know those dialling in had some issues, and we’re going to fix that for the next meeting. We want these meetings to be open to all, regardless of where you’re located.