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Staff networks can be a powerful tool for empowering minoritized groups, supporting staff to progress and help consultation.
A minoritized group is a group of individuals who are known to have been discriminated against on the basis of a shared characteristic(s). They may not be a minority in terms of numbers. For example, women are a minoritized group, despite comprising over half the population of the UK.
Staff networks may not work in every workplace and/or for all minoritized groups, and their viability and success will depend on the culture and demand within individual institutions.
Networks need to be led by the staff groups that they represent. However, there is a role for institutions to facilitate and support the development of networks:
- Involve staff and discuss the need for staff networks. This could be linked to specific times of year to maximise impact, for example discussing the possibility of a women’s network on international women’s day. A specific event gives the opportunity to discuss whether it is viable and to look for volunteers to take the network forward.
- Provide a budget. From refreshment for meetings, to organising specific events or training and development, a budget of any size helps to ensure the network is sustainable and effective.
- Ensure senior management are open to dialogue. Networks can provide a useful perspective on institutional practice. Consultation should be genuine and views of the network taken seriously.
- Publicise networks to all staff. A dedicated area on your website/intranet means that all staff are aware of support and opportunities. Promote the networks during staff inductions to maximise membership and ensure all staff are able to benefit.
- Create a culture of acceptance for participation. It can be intimidating to join a network and there can be a perception that members of networks are ‘troublemakers’. Ensure line managers encourage staff to attend meetings in work hours. Senior management engagement can help to legitimise the group, and positive endorsement can underline that taking part is worthwhile.
Aims and objectives
Staff networks can have a variety of aims; two of the most common objectives are: