FCDO Services strives to recognise and celebrate every colleague’s background and culture, and our work to mark Black History Month this year is a prime example of that. In fact, this year, we’re proud to say it was one of our biggest celebrations yet – full of thought leadership, collaboration, and virtual events across the month.
Organised and championed by our Race and Ethnicity Network (REN), with support from across the business, each event was designed to help colleagues of all backgrounds to dig deeper, look closer, and think bigger – supporting one another, learning, listening, and actively challenging racism wherever we find it. Moreover, it was the chance to spotlight and celebrate the achievements of the Black British community, as well as educating on the issues still to be tackled and to reiterate our commitment to anti-racism. And, of course, at the heart of it all was the opportunity to put Black history front and centre. As one of our colleagues puts it;
“Black History Month is a time of acknowledgement and honouring our ancestors. It allows me time to reflect on what’s gone before, where we are now, and the work we need to do to become more inclusive. In order to move forward, we need to know our past.”
In exploring that past, our colleagues attended a virtual event during the month with prominent academic and broadcaster Professor David Olusoga. His talk, ‘Now You See Us, Now You Don’t’, explored the historic contribution of the Black community to the UK’s economy. Re-examining white-washed parts of history, and questioning received narratives – for instance, around figures who profited from slavery – the talk was a brilliantly balanced and informative session for colleagues across our organisation, helping us all look more closely for a more accurate understanding of Black British history.
Looking to the present day, our teams also attended a virtual talk with Nottingham Forest football manager Chris Hughton, who discussed what Black History Month means to him, and how he’d overcome hurdles and prejudice in his industry. We heard too from Carol Bernard, the Cabinet Office Director of HR, on her experiences, challenges and accomplishments as a Black woman in the Civil Service. Both provided incredible inspiration – as well as powerful reminders that there’s more work still to do for equality.
As well as external speakers, there were also opportunities throughout the month for our own colleagues to share their experiences and learn from one another – including through brilliant articles shared internally. One HR Business Partner, for instance, shared a thoughtful series of written blogs and videos on her journey, her identity, and the music that’s influenced and inspired her, titled ‘The Tracks of My Years’.
Colleagues also had the chance to connect in online events too, thanks to our virtual coffee afternoon and our all-staff call with our executive directors. A particular highlight here was the announcement of the organisation’s updated Race Action Plan, developed in close partnership with our Race and Ethnicity Network (REN) and aimed at addressing any inequalities experienced by colleagues of ethnic minorities.
Across both events, it was a time for everyone from junior colleagues to senior leaders to share thoughts on race and equality and to offer ideas on how we can work together for positive change. Amongst our efforts to be a consciously inclusive workplace and our commitment to anti-racism, this year’s Black History Month has been a true step forward. In listening and striving for deeper understanding, our aim is that colleagues feel supported – and empowered to better support one another too. Critically, it’s also given us clear steps we can take to improve together. In the words of our Head of Policy and Employee Relations:
“This year’s Black History Month has been the best yet: an opportunity to have open and honest discussions about race with our executives and colleagues. The main highlight is that those conversations have already translated into real actions that will make us more inclusive and a great place to work.”