Rebecca Saunders, Trustee and Vice-Chair of the Orchestras Live board shares more on the significance of our Diversity, Inclusion and Relevance Committee.
I’ve been a Trustee of Orchestras Live for over five years, and I am currently the Vice Chair as well as Chair of the Diversity, Inclusion and Relevance (DIR) Committee. I joined Orchestras Live because I’m passionate about music and believe it’s important that everyone has access to high-quality musical experiences.
The Orchestras Live Diversity, Inclusion and Relevance Committee was set up in 2021. I was keen for this to become a formal Board Committee rather than a working group, to demonstrate our commitment to diversity both internally and externally and to hold ourselves to account for improvement.
I firmly believe that if we have a more diverse organisation – and engage with a wide set of viewpoints – we will increase access to music more effectively. For Orchestras Live, diversity covers all the protected characteristics, and also elements such as geography, since we deliver projects in areas that are not typically served by classical music organisations.
I was, and continue to be, conscious that I don’t have the “answers” on Diversity, Relevance and Inclusion – I certainly have a lot to learn. I was keen to build this Committee to include both Board and staff members to avoid a “top down” approach; ideas can come from anywhere within the organisation. This helps to provide diverse perspectives and I actively encourage open conversations among the team.
Sometimes these discussions can feel uncomfortable – including for me, as I’ve been challenging my own assumptions, biases and language. Recognising that we come from a place of commitment is really important to create a culture in the DIR Committee where we learn from one another.
There are various areas we work on as a Committee:
- Focus: Ensuring that DIR is an important part of our organisational make up – not an afterthought but something that we weave into ongoing conversations, projects and ways of working.
- Hiring: New initiatives to engage a broader set of individuals to apply to vacancies. We’ve started to see the results of this already. Of course there is more that we can do but we are confident that we’ve made a great start.
- Influencing: Ensuring our projects engage diverse participants and audiences and that we hold our partners (e.g. orchestras and promoters) to account in ensuring they have similar goals.
- Data: Like many Arts charities, we had patchy data around the diversity of our beneficiaries (and about ourselves). An important activity has been setting the direction for future data collection and usage, and supporting the team in delivering this. Our tracking is starting to bear fruit in terms of both our projects and the people within the organisation.
- Connections: We also work with others who can help us broaden our perspectives. Sarah Derbyshire MBE, the Orchestras Live CEO, and her team have built a relationship with the organisation Black Lives in Music; they in turn have supported us with recruitment as well as providing thought provoking workshops.
My advice to anyone interested in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is that working as a Trustee with an organisation such as Orchestras Live is immensely rewarding. Trustees themselves can come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, ages and of course a diverse set of personal characteristics.
I find it rewarding to use my professional skills (in particular digital, finance and strategy) to advance the organisation and ultimately to make a difference to people’s lives. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a new community through connections with other Trustees and staff. I’d wholeheartedly recommend being a Trustee and would urge anyone with an interest to discover more.