Hi, I’m Sarah Law and I am the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead and Service Analyst at YMCA Brighton.

What does your job entail?

EDI Lead: We are required by law to have due regard to eliminate discrimination, advance equality or opportunity and foster good relations. It is my role to work alongside the Head Office Stratedgy Team and our Executive Leaders to ensure that as an organisation we not only comply with our legislative duties, but we also address all areas of EDI in the broadest sense.

To do this we commit to:

  •  React to the diverse needs of people.
  •  Anticipates and welcome diversity.
  • Ensure our culture and community is positive, inclusive, and proactive.
  • Value and respect all people.
  • Remove and challenge systematic barriers.

Service Analyst: In this role I am required to work alongside the Head Office Strategy Team, Executive Leaders, and Management to collate data which will help monitor the organisations performance and ensure we are meeting our aims and targets. I also evaluate data with the aim of improving service delivery and informing decision making.

How did you start working at YMCA Brighton?

I have worked at YMCA Brighton since 2006, after I finished my Social Science Degree. I was initially employed as a Project Worker at George Williams House back when it was a hostel. I worked there for about nine years and during this time the project went through some dramatic changes. The old hostel was demolished while George Williams Mews and Centre were built around us. During this time we worked from a little porter cabin in the middle of a building site which was challenging! I then worked in George Williams Centre as a Senior Project Worker and then as the Assistant Manager until about 2015 when I started my training to become a counsellor. I worked briefly at Fred Emery Court as the Deputy Manager before moving to Head Office. At the time, I was studying for my Advanced Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy while working. At first it was my role to set up the Counselling Service and oversee Client Involvement. Once the Counselling Service was set up I worked in it as a Trainee Counsellor and then, once I had completed my diploma I worked in the service as a Qualified Counsellor. This year I stopped working in the Counselling Service and now I am the Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Lead and Service Analyst for the organisation.

Why do you feel Inclusion is important?

One very important factor when we think about inclusion is people’s wellbeing. People feel at their best when they know they are in a place where they can be their authentic self and be accepted and valued for that. This provides psychological safety that is important in all areas of society, from the workplace to the family home and beyond.

When we consider inclusion at the workplace then we can see the long-term positive impact of inclusive cultures; when we create workplaces where people’s individual experiences and abilities are recognised and valued, they will feel calmer, happier, and more motivated. They won’t feel the need to mask or create a false self and this will result in better wellbeing, productivity, and creativity. The outcome is positive for all, the individuals, the work community, the clients, and the organisation overall.

Given this I believe that we do not create inclusive work cultures just because of the positive impact this will have on the organisation, we do it because it is the right thing to do. By ensuring that the space we occupy doesn’t exclude others, by making sure that everyone feels a sense of belonging and purpose and by always treating others with acceptance and respect we are behaving in a ethical and human way. This for me is why inclusion is so important.

[This interview was first offered during National Inclusion Week. Sarah offered an explanation of the theme of the day, which was ‘inclusive dialogues’.] What does this theme mean to you?

I love Martin Buber’s philosophy on dialogue; he speaks poetically about the uniqueness of every interaction and how we can connect deeply with another through meaningful dialogue. His notion of dialogue and connectedness seems to transcend the spoken word; this notion challenges our very limited ideas about what meaningful communication entails and gives a much broader and inclusive definition of dialogue.

Inclusive dialogues is such an important theme as it reminds us to check how we are connecting with people and the world around us. How do our beliefs and knowledge impact our interactions and understanding? Are we open to hearing or experiencing difference? Are we selective about who and what we connect with? Can we challenge ourselves to dialogue in a more meaningful way with someone who we haven’t done so with before? Can we put our judgements aside and actively hear and experience another perspective even if it feels uncomfortable?

What do you enjoy most about your work at the YMCA?

I very much enjoy the subject of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. It is a very rich subject with fascinating themes and topics that are constantly evolving and expanding.

Tell us one unique thing about yourself.

I have quite diverse ethnic and national heritage; My mum is Venezuelan, and her parents were Basque and Spanish with Moorish (Arab) lineage. My dad is Scottish with some Irish heritage.

Is there anything you would like to share as part of our virtual library that inspires you or encapsulates what inclusivity and diversity means to you?

Book: Martin Buber: I and Thou (Ich and Du)

Docufilm: Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution