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'How we keep our people safe while collaborating with a sector that still has so much work to do'

Arts Emergency CEO Neil Griffiths shares an update on what we’re doing to protect young people in a sector that needs radical change.

Power in the cultural sector is held by a narrow group of white, upper class, privately educated, cisgendered heterosexual men. Arts Emergency exists to change who produces culture so that people from all walks of life are heard. We want young people to truly progress in the arts and humanities because we believe better representation will lead to a fairer society.

In the last year we’ve seen a much needed reckoning in the arts and media, there’s been a groundswell of protest and exposés. And it’s only the tip of the iceberg. While I’d relish the opportunity to call out every exploitative institution, our job is to help underrepresented young people flourish in the creative industries. So, we wanted to tell you about how we keep our young people, volunteers and staff safe while collaborating with a sector that still has so much work to do.

Protecting young people

On our mentoring programme, we train volunteers in safeguarding, carry out enhanced DBS checks and obtain professional references. We also check in with mentees and mentors throughout the mentoring year. In 2020 we also reviewed all of our safeguarding policies and procedures.

Any job, placement or experience we share with young people must meet our standards around pay, transparency and expectations. We give guidance to help companies provide an equitable and respectful environment for young people to thrive in. Organisations we partner with have to sign our Code of Conduct and have the right insurance in place.

If an issue arises with a partner organisation we will always prioritise the young person involved and listen to them. Our team will meet to discuss the issue further and then, with the go ahead of the young person, we will contact the organisation to report our concerns and any consequences - for example, whether the collaboration must end, if we want to notify their board or if we can ‘call them in’ to do better next time.

We are developing our peer to peer support systems with the help of our Youth Collective, and amplifying young people’s voices in our work. But we know that it’s not on them to fix the sector. It’s on all of us, and as part of our Network, you can make a real difference (more on this below).

Our working practices

As a small charity our committed team are always looking for ways that our employment practices can be better, so that we can truly support our staff, freelancers and volunteers. When we recruit we will always commit to; showing the salary, paying a living wage and we won’t demand a degree as an essential criteria (unless a specific qualification is required for a role). Our staff have permanent or fixed term contracts and all our freelancers have a contractor agreement in place and are paid on time. This year we are commissioning an external consultant to develop our existing internal policies and procedures on equality, diversity, bullying and sexual harassment.

What can I do to help?

Great question!

  1. If you’re not a member already then join our Network and start sharing opportunities with our young people today. If you’re already a member, encourage your friends and colleagues to sign up.
  2. Tell us what we could do to help you make the sector fairer. We want our members to be agents of change so please fill out our short survey and shape the events programme for our Network!
  3. Check out our list of useful organisations, training and resources to help you advocate for better working conditions and policies. Bookmark the page in case you or a friend needs support or advice in future.

If you have any comments, suggestions or questions we’d love to hear them.