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Steps we're taking to improve our workplace culture

The Shale Report

November 2019 - Save the Children UK has accomplished many of its initial goals in a drive to change the working culture of the organisation but needs to sustain progress, according to a report by an international expert in ethics.

Dr Suzanne Shale, who carried out a review of Save the Children’s workplace culture in 2018, says it has since proved ‘open, honest and humble about the charity’s imperfections and limitations, whilst still pursuing high ambitions to learn and improve’.

She writes: ‘The current leadership, notably the CEO, recognised the correlation between how employees work together in the charity’s offices and how they meet their charitable objects in delivering services to beneficiaries.’

2018’s Shale review was commissioned by Save the Children UK after complaints about its handling of allegations against two former senior executives in 2012 and 2015 raised wider concerns about workplace culture. The handling of the historical complaints is being investigated by the Charity Commission. 

2019 Progress Update

Shale’s progress report says Save the Children has embraced an approach in which ‘how we achieve is as important as what we achieve’ and summarises several positive developments at the charity. It has:

  • appointed three new trustees from diverse backgrounds, including expertise in organisational development, thus broadening the diversity of views expressed in board discussions;
  • embedded the values of accountability, openness and collaboration in a programme called Stronger which has involved staff across the organisation in efforts to strengthen working culture;
  • built organisational capacity by recruiting a transformation director and a diversity and inclusion specialist; and wellbeing manager; and
  • fully engaged its board in supporting, challenging and monitoring progress.

Dr Shale highlights the importance of making further progress on critical initiatives the charity has committed to deliver to continue to strengthen its culture. These include:

  • developing a cross-organisational diversity and inclusion strategy, building on staff-led work to increase awareness of workplace inclusion
  • rolling out a refreshed set of employee relations policies and guidance, which are being tested with staff, on how to raise concerns
  • examining good practice on how to measure workplace incivility to bolster new staff survey measures on workplace inclusion and safety introduced in 2019
  • further reviewing and strengthening its HR function.

Shale’s progress report says the Stronger programme is now transitioning into a longer-term People and Culture Strategy. ‘The acid test will be whether the charity sustains into the future the commitments it has made in the past year to supporting its people and enhancing its workplace cultures,’ she adds. 

Steven McIntosh, Executive Lead for Organisational Change, said: “We are determined to deliver a workplace culture which reflects Save the Children’s values and enables our staff to have the greatest impact for children. We’ve made good progress in strengthening our foundations and are putting in place a long-term strategy to ensure this is sustained. Critically, we will ensure this work is co-created with, and accountable to, our staff – and that we’re being transparent about where we are making progress and where further action is needed”.

The progress review was carried out by Dr Suzanne Shale and Professor Murray-Anderson Wallace who led Save the Children’s 2018 Independent Review of Workplace Culture, published here.

Response to the Charity Commission Inquiry

In March 2020, the Charity Commission published an inquiry into Save the Children’s handling of historical senior staff misconduct cases, the charity’s response in the media and action taken on workplace culture since. Save the Children accepted the findings in full, has apologised unreservedly to the women affected and has committed to continuing to strengthen its organisational culture. 

Chair Charles Steel sets out Save the Children’s response to the Charity Commission Inquiry and our commitment to respond to it

June 2020: our anti-racism commitments

In June 2020, our Leadership Team established a series of commitments as a first step to becoming an actively anti-racist organisation:
  • We will review our external impact, testing whether our programming and influencing work is actively dismantling white supremacy and other forms of oppression and putting the most deprived and marginalised children at its heart. We will question everything and create brave spaces where all colleagues can shape our thinking about how we decolonise development, dismantle racism in humanitarian action and work towards becoming actively anti-racist in our UK domestic work. We will seek more diverse partners across our development, humanitarian and domestic work, sharing with and giving up power to them. We commit to doing this as part of the wider Save the Children family so all parts of our global organisation are involved.  
  • We will reconstruct our storytelling, testing whether our fundraising, communications and campaigning work stereotypes, ‘others’ or strips agency and dignity from children. We will remove white saviourism and the white gaze from our communications about our international work and ensure the lived experience of Black families and families of colour in poverty is at the heart of our communications and advocacy about our domestic work. 
  • We will test our supporter engagement programmes, looking at whether they build power in diaspora and Black communities and communities of colour, and whether our volunteering offer is inclusive. 
  • We will ensure our people and culture work dramatically improves our diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organisation but particularly at our Executive Director and Director levels, where decision-making power is concentrated. We will set and publicise our June diversity baseline and publish our diversity data every six months. We will break down our data so that we can interrogate the intersections between different characteristics in terms of who joins, stays in, is promoted in our organisation. We will publish on our website our BAME pay gap and commit to narrowing it by the end of the year. We will formalise acting up and stretch opportunities and ensure transparent competition for them. We will introduce a specific leadership programme for communities who are under-represented in Save the Children as a whole, and in particular at leadership level, including Black people and people of colour, working class people and people with disabilities. We will ensure all of our policies and practices, particularly those relating to line management, create the conditions for racism and microaggressions to be raised and resolved. 
  • We will challenge ourselves and disrupt our thinking and actions to learn (and unlearn) more and to fulfil the commitments above without depending on the labour of Black colleagues and colleagues of colour. We will, however, continue to be accountable to our Black colleagues and colleagues of colour, and in particular our BAME staff network and the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group. We will actively intervene as individuals and as a group to disrupt harm and to ensure that all of our policies, processes and governance reflect diverse perspectives and protect people from harm. 
Our full statement of solidarity can be read here. 

February 2021: Update On Our Commitments

Some examples of progress made so far include:

  • We have audited and updated our website in the first phase of a piece of work aimed at making sure we remove white saviourism and the white gaze from our imagery. Work is nearing completion on a ‘self-check’ guide for content-gatherers, which will set out new guidelines to eliminate white saviourism and white gaze. A glossary of outdated terms has been drafted, with suggestions for more appropriate language.  
  • The third pillar of our Free To Be Me: Diversity & Inclusion Strategy is focused on decolonising development and the way we work. We have launched a Steering Group to lead on this pillar and contracted external expertise (Degan Ali Global) to support this work between now and April, especially to ensure that we challenge ourselves to think differently. This will include sessions with all staff and our Board, as well as us as an Executive Leadership Team (ELT). 
  • We have reviewed the profile of existing Save the Children supporters (including volunteers), which has shown that our current supporter base and the media we buy to fundraise and engage campaigners is in line with UK racial diversity. We have also reviewed our Supporter Engagement Strategy and there is nothing inherent in our audience segmentation and strategy that enables (versus hinders) progressing diversity and inclusion, so we are now thinking about what more we can do to enable progression.
  • Earlier this year we reviewed progress on our gender equality commitments during 2020 and underlined our commitment to do more in this area, including to address issues of intersectionality. 
  • We’ve wrapped up the first phase of our diaspora communities project, which focused on how we can work with and learn from diaspora communities in our campaigning. This is still in the thinking and piloting stage, but we’re excited to take it forward.
  • Internally, work is underway to create and agree a single, integrated programme of work for all of our People & Culture and Diversity & Inclusion commitments. We have ringfenced funds to deliver on this. Actions already taken include a successful pilot of sharing questions before interviews for neuro-diverse candidates, and our mean ethnicity pay gap reducing from 4.38% to 2.71%. We’re currently developing a pilot mentoring offer to our staff of colour, those with disabilities and our LGBT+ colleagues, which will roll out in the next couple of months. 
  • Teams across SCUK have continued to hold open discussions on D&I, including anti-racism, and to devote time to learning more about how to become an anti-racist organisation and how we can be better allies. We know there is still a way to go on this. To help, we are piloting D&I reps across teams (starting with our Global Programmes division), to help embed D&I considerations into day-to-day working, and to give staff another option if they have concerns they want to raise that they don’t feel comfortable raising in other ways. 
  • As an ELT, we are finalising our D&I and anti-racism commitments for the 2021 work planning period. These commitments and associated KPIs will be open to all staff, and regularly reviewed by the CEO.

Free To Be Me: Diversity And Inclusion Strategy