The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. Our work involves developing relationships with people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures. Working effectively with diversity and promoting equality of opportunity, including everyone involved is therefore an essential part of our work.

Our aim is to mainstream equality, diversity and inclusion. That means taking diversity into account as we develop and deliver processes and functions, considering it as part of policy decisions and building it into the planning of programmes and projects.

Equality

Equality of opportunity is about treating people fairly and without bias and about creating conditions in the workplace and wider society that encourage and value diversity and promote dignity. It is also about trying to redress past imbalances and ensuring that dealings with clients, customers and suppliers are conducted in a constructive way that supports appropriate inclusion and does not give rise to unjustified discrimination.

Diversity

Diversity is concerned with creating an inclusive environment and practices which benefit the organisation and those who work in and with it. It takes account of the fact that people differ from one another in many ways. Understanding, valuing and effectively managing these differences can result in greater participation that can be leveraged for success at an individual, team and organisational level.

When we talk about equal opportunity and diversity, we focus on seven main areas:

• Age
• Disability
• Race/Ethnicity
• Gender (which includes transgender)
• Religion/Belief and culture
• Sexual orientation
• Work-life balance

We have developed a number of policies to promote equality and diversity and we use a range of tools to monitor and evaluate our progress in mainstreaming these. We believe the best way to manage equal opportunity and diversity is to ensure that they are built into all processes and functions, considered part of all policy decisions, and present in the planning of all programmes from start to finish. This is what we mean by mainstreaming equality and diversity principles and practices.

Inclusion

Greater inclusion is an important diversity outcome.  To achieve this we intend to improve the involvement and representation of women in senior positions, and in some instances of men generally, as well as minority ethnic and disabled people, both in our workforce and activities.  We will also nurture an organisational culture where people working and engaging with us feel respected and comfortable being themselves, free from unjustified discrimination.   

Our equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives in Poland

In addition to implementing formal policies, we also try to ensure that our commitment to equal opportunity and diversity is reflected in our events and activities. Here are some examples of initiatives that have a strong diversity theme and/or successfully demonstrate our commitment to this important aspect of our work.

Polish Diversity Charter

British Council has signed the Polish Diversity Charter, a written obligation to introduce the prohibition on discrimination in the workplace and to undertake measures to create and promote diversity. The project of the Polish Diversity Charter is part of the EU-level Exchange Platform funded by the European Commission Directorate-General for Justice.

More information at www.kartaroznorodnosci.pl.

Current projects centred around equality, diversity and inclusion

British Council organises and offers a wide variety of initatives promoting equality, diversity and inclusion:

Empowering Communities in Europe project aims to deconstruct the process of migrants’ stigmatisation and to foster intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding. The project will involve selected communities and train local leaders to overcome stereotypes and develop counter narratives for more accurate perceptions of migrants and refugees arriving to Central Europe. 

The Active Citizens programme aims to contribute to social change within communities and sustainable development by establishing an enduring global network of leaders who as influencers in their communities, work together to address global issues. The programme works with leaders of youth, women’s, cultural, recreational or religious groups, with non-governmental organisations and local governments, to build on their own skills and models.

Active Citizens for Social Enterprise is the British Council’s innovative professional development programme promoting community-led social development. It motivates members of communities to take responsibility for their social needs and give them the knowledge, skills and experience to address them.

Unlock your potential – activate space is an international project co-funded by the European Social Fund as a part of the Operational Programme Knowledge, Education, Development (OP KED) concerning revitalisation of urban spaces. The aim of the project is to improve the efficiency of public spaces management processes in areas of high importance for local communities

The British Council believes that the inclusion of children and young people into the regular education systems of their respective countries is an entitlement and a fundamental human right regardless of their gender, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic background, health or medical condition.

Diversity Week in the British Council

Every year British Council organises Diversity Week for its employees in order to raise awareness of diversion, equality and inclusion.

In previous years, week has started off with an official signing of the Polish Diversity Charter. During the week employees were invited to meetings with experts such as: Ewa Wojsławowicz, Coordinator of the Polish Diversity Charter and Robert Biedroń, Polish MP and LGBT activist.

All employees could also send applications to win a Diversity Award, for the best practices for diversity implemented within the organisation. The Awards will be awarded at the regional level. Everyone was also invited to take part in lunch with diverse dishes, discuss a film about work-life balance, and take part in an "Invisible Exhibition".

Throughout the week employees could enter a survey asking how we can better promote diversity inside and outside of the organisation. Every day links about various aspects of diversity were posted on Facebook, in addition to a campaign started in June 2012.

Examinations for candidates with special needs

The British Council ensures equal opportunities to all candidates, including people with special needs. You can find more information here.

In 2012 we conducted Cambridge English examinations sessions for 158 visually impaired and blind candidates from all over Poland, which was the biggest number of candidates registered for such a test in the history of both Cambridge English and British Council. We received very positive feedback:

"Examinations sessions organised by the British Council have enabled our students to test their language skills and get internationally recognised certificates, as well as build their self-confidence. It was an extremely valuable experience for students with special needs" - Barbara Planta, Educational Centre for Visually Impaired and Blind Children in Cracow.

Since then the interest in Cambridge exams for candidates with special needs is still growing.

British Council Warsaw was short listed for the Ambassador of the Year award at the Platinum Centre of the Year Awards 2013, organised by Cambridge English Language Assessment.

Previous initiatives and awards

Special Educational Needs course

Several teachers have completed The British Council Special Educational Needs course in Spring 2014 semester. This course helps teachers to understand special educational needs (SEN), and feel confident about including learners with these needs during lessons. The course raises awareness of the individual requirements of all students, and states that teachers should adapt lessons to better suit the individual learners.

The course gives examples of ways to differentiate tasks so that all students are able to achieve, and work with their individual strengths. The course includes units about Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Multicultural/Multilingual learners, different assessment approaches, as well as other special educational needs.

The Rainbow Bee Award

The Rainbow Bee Award has been established by the LGBT Business Forum Foundation for LGBT friendly company.
British Council in Poland has been awarded The Rainbow Bee as an organisation where the matter of equality is taken seriously, and where the diversity standards, relating also to LGBT employees have been introduced; an organisation where you can be yourself during the recruitment process, because, even if you are a nonheteronormative person, this fact will have no influence on whether you are hired or not. Awards were a result of a "LGBT market and workplacace research" completed in June 2014 where British Council was the only organisation perceived as having comprehensively implemented anti-discriminatory policies in the workplace by employees participating in the research.

Autism Awareness Month

April is an Autism Awareness Month. On 2nd April British Council employees wore blue to support “Light it Up Blue” global initiative. Our teachers shared information with our students and educated them about autism.

Watch our “Teaching Students with Aspergers” webinar for teachers

In Poland the initiative was coordinated by Fundacja Synapsis

See also