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Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce

Creating Psychological Safety to Facilitate Complex Conversations

14 September 2020 | by Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce

Please welcome back Dr Nasreen Fazal-Short, Chair of the Presidential Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusion, with an update on the aims and actions of the group.

So the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce is going well. We have already developed a detailed work plan which I will be presenting to the Board of Trustees in September.

This is to ensure that the Taskforce is a group which is less about just talking and more about movement.

We have made sure our terms of reference will facilitate actions as well as monitor progress, and I will give more details on one area of our work plan in each of my next few blogs, and ask for the assistance of members of the society.

One of the areas that we are focusing on at the moment, in order to make the BPS a welcoming place for everyone, is to facilitate and support the leadership in the BPS, whether it’s for member networks or in support of the Trustees, to become more inclusive.

We have recently launched the first of a series of 12 webinars talking about different aspects of diversity and inclusion. Lived experience is a key component of these.

As I said in my recent article in The Psychologist, the broad aspects of inclusion will be the focus across the series.

I am hoping that these conversations will begin to make a start on creating safe spaces to talk openly about all of our views as people, experiences as people and psychologists, our painful emotions and sometimes lack of understanding about difference.

This will mean the Taskforce has created the ripple to enable the work of having real conversations across the board in an open, honest and more inclusive way.

These conversations will need to continue for years to come to enable a real difference to be made within the society.

I am very keen that as psychologists we utilise our skills of bringing people together and enabling complex and difficult conversations to change the discourse.

The purpose is not to have all the answers or to fix everything that is institutionally biased with one conversation. It is to make a start on the long road to working together properly to make the changes that are needed.

We need to be able to tolerate the anxiety of ‘not knowing’ and allow ourselves to be changed by the people who are different to us.

 There is understandably a lot of fear about getting things wrong and hurting people. The job of the Taskforce is to encourage and support on the basis that we will sometimes not do it as well as we might in the future, given that we are human and striving to learn and do better.

We have to have some compassion for those trying to do better and support their endeavours, otherwise you have a situation where everyone is afraid to move in case they get it wrong and then the changes are stifled.

 We want to create an atmosphere of psychological safety in the society so it enables everyone to move forward together.

I am aware with my NHS hat on that healthy organisations, like some NHS Trusts, create an atmosphere that allow their staff, and in BPS type context, members and staff, to talk openly and report mistakes. These organisations do much better for those they serve, as people feel safe and therefore are much more likely to report near misses which can be seen quite clearly within the context of the NHS.

In a BPS context, we need to embrace these ideas to support each other in moving forwards rather than get entrenched in positions which mean we do not listen to each other properly, or make the necessary adjustments to come to a plan that everyone can endorse and action. 

Professor Amy Edmondson makes extremely relevant points when she talks to the Kings Fund about psychological safety at an organisational level.

We want everyone to listen in to our webinar series and participate where you can. They are free to members. You will also have the option to listen in afterwards as we will be recording these webinars and they will be available on YouTube.

We hope you enjoy and feel inspired by the first of our conversations that look at diversity and inclusion. The webinar was initiated by Katherine Carpenter and Dr Ndidi Boakye and examines how the Division of Neuropsychology can really begin to talk about diversity and inclusion.

It is followed by a panel discussion where myself, and Dr Ingram Wright joined Ndidi and Katherine as we welcomed questions from the webinar attendees.

After the webinar I caught up with Katherine and Ndidi. As Chair of the neuropsychology division Katherine said:

"As a white middle class privileged woman, doing this webinar felt quite scary but also really important – so much opportunity to offend people, to sound lame, to get things horribly wrong!

In Neuropsychology we have not to date paid enough attention to issues of equality, or rather inequality.  And Neuropsychology has some very real baggage in terms of its history and heritage which has to be tackled – past abuse of IQ testing by eugenics lobbyists, the lack of cultural normative data, inequality of access to our services and lack of diversity in our workforce.  

But having put my head above the parapet, I’ve felt massively supported both by my colleagues, Ndidi and Ingram, but also by Nasreen and the recently invigorated DI Presidential Task Force.  Despite my fears of being laughed at – or of no one being interested or wanting to listen – lots of people seem to have signed in, and it seems to have got other conversations started!

My job now, is to turn some of our talking into actions."

Ndidi is a member of the Committee within the Division of Neuropsychology and her reflections went like this:

"It was interesting to do this piece of work.

At its heart inequality is a human rights issue, and so fighting for equality is important to me.

I am pleased to be afforded the opportunity to support discussions that enable scrutiny of persistent inequality, and I hope they play some part in driving change.

I am also encouraged that the DoN is able to take this step and thank my colleagues for their contribution in this process."

I would like us all to keep thinking and feeling as people and psychologists, and please stay with us as we get going on our journey to support sustained change within the society. 

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