Leaders at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations have said they were “shocked and ashamed” that the charity allowed “toxic culture” to persist and have pledged to turn things around quickly.
In a blog post on the NCVO website, Sarah Vibert, interim chief executive of the umbrella body, said an independent report into the charity’s culture on equality, diversity and inclusion, the contents of which were revealed by Third Sector last week, “provides a picture of an organisation with a toxic culture which has caused so much pain to staff past and present”.
She said the charity’s leadership team and board were unequivocal in their response to the EDI report: they believed and accepted the findings and would take action.
“We are shocked and ashamed that an organisation with such a long and proud history as NCVO has enabled such a culture to persist and we are absolutely determined that this should change, and fast,” said Vibert.
She said the charity has “only just scratched the surface of the process of healing for staff who have been harmed by NCVO’s culture”, and that her first priority was to support people who had experienced bullying, harassment or microaggressions.
Vibert said the most important takeaway from the report was “the learning that the board and leadership team are applying in order to create a culture at NCVO that is inclusive and enables everyone to thrive at work”.
She said: “A damaging culture had gone unchecked for too long and we have been taking steps to ensure incidents like those outlined in the report can never happen again.
“This includes changes to our governance structure, an equality impact assessment of our restructure, coaching for leaders, and ensuring our new strategy is underpinned by cultural change.”
Vibert said the NCVO was “keen to attempt to find resolution for incidents that have taken place” there.
She said: “The inquiry into unresolved incidents, led by the board with support from an independent consultant, provided a forum to enable individuals to formally raise incidents in a safe environment.
“It also provides an opportunity for incidents to be investigated and reach a resolution. This includes holding people to account for their actions.”
Vibert said the EDI report showed that NCVO staff had not been confident that the issues they raised would be believed and dealt with.
“People haven’t trusted that our processes, systems and leadership would believe or support them,” she said.
“I am absolutely committed to changing that and am so grateful to those members of staff who did find the courage to speak out. We will do better.”
Vibert also said: “We are clear we are not experts on EDI; many others in the sector are leading the way in this arena.
“Priya [Singh, NVCO chair] and I will continue to openly share about our EDI journey, both for us personally and for NCVO. We will also continue to ensure our staff have a platform to do so.”