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Network vice-chair stepping down

Our vice-chair, John Peart, will be stepping down in September.

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By John Peart

At the end of this month, I’ll be stepping down from my role as vice-chair of the Civil Service LGBT+ Network.

I’ve been involved in leading the cross-government LGBT network since I joined the Civil Service in 2013; first as part of the communications team, then as a member of CSRA’s board, and more recently leading the network as a whole with Kate. Now, after 6 years doing things to make the Civil Service a great place to work for LGBT+ people, it’s time for fresh ideas, new faces, and — for me — new challenges.

Kate and I took over running the Network around 2 years ago, when the previous Chair, Ollie, stepped down. Since then, we’ve delivered a lot of activity — and I’m proud of what we’ve done, and what I’ve led.

Lots to be proud of

Since we took over, we have greatly expanded our national presence, making sure that our activities and events don’t only happen in London. We’ve supported a new, large volunteer team to establish regular socials in Bristol, Cardiff Edinburgh, Manchester and Leeds for the first time. This year alone we will have hosted 50 social events across the whole of the UK; more than ever before.

We’ve also launched a range of exciting campaigns and initiatives, including BiSpace and Civil Service Allies Week. Again, these have been volunteer led, brilliantly executed and it’s been fantastic to see them develop.

We’ve strengthened our network engagement, by establishing our quarterly Heads of Networks forums; giving a chance for feedback, development and debate of issues affecting networks across government. We’ve also kept growing. In fact, we’re nearing a pretty significant milestone — we’ll soon have 2,000 direct members; more than 10 times the number of people that were engaged with the network when I joined back in 2013.

And, of course, we’ve delivered our biggest and boldest Pride seasons ever. (And I think it’s fair to say that this year, in particular, I outdid myself with our float!). Not only that, but we’ve put our network’s Pride activity on a sustainable footing, having secured a commitment from Civil Service leadership to continue these activities going forward.

We do it because it’s important

Over the last couple of years, we have all put a lot of our own time, effort and energy into making all of this happen; just as those came before us did, and those that come after me will. That hard work has paid off though, with a more vibrant and diverse network of people involved than ever before.

It’s a pretty thankless task, most of the time. It’s difficult. It’s time consuming. It’s hard to keep everyone happy. But we all keep doing it; we do it because it’s important.

The world is not an inclusive place for LGBT+ people, and whilst the Civil Service is a better place than most, the same problems still exist as they always have. It’s important we keep up the work of cross-government and departmental networks, to ensure we keep chipping away at the big problems LGBT+ civil servants face at home and at work.

Good luck

Kate will shortly be giving an update on changes to the team, and some fresh faces. I’ll finish by saying “thank you” to the dozens of civil servants I’ve worked with over the last 6 years; and good luck to those who will keep carrying the flag.