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Look up and out at what's going on around you

October 2023

Written by Jim Islam, Chief Executive Officer

October is Black History Month, an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the invaluable contributions of Black people to British society.

This year, the theme is ‘Saluting our Sisters’ to recognise that Black women have had their voices silenced, had their contributions ignored or their ideas appropriated right up to the present day.

It’s an opportunity to write them back into the history books and showcase their achievements, whilst also acknowledging the omissions that have happened.

But more still needs to be done and none of us can be a silent bystander to any form of exclusion, whether it’s intentional or not. Bigotry in all its forms needs to be called out.

"When you are struggling to put food on the table, you are less likely to want to look up and out at what’s going on around you"

Right now, we’re in an extraordinarily difficult external environment that’s rolling from one crisis to another – a perma-crisis.

We’ve had the devastation of Covid, followed by a cost-of-living crisis, inflation, high fuel prices and rising interest rates.

People’s focus is on the here and now – they’re in survival mode. When you are struggling to put food on the table, you are less likely to want to look up and out at what’s going on around you.

But as businesses, that’s exactly what we need to be doing. We need to be actively shifting the discourse forward, not allowing it to passively slide backwards. Everything might be overwhelming at the moment, but there’s a real risk that diversity and inclusion is going to take a backseat to the economic priorities of the near future.

If that happens then values could get side-lined and voices become, once again, silenced.

"Inclusion comes from the very top"

This is why Black History Month is so important. It’s a reminder of the need to learn from history, to understand the frailties of the value systems that afforded people to be erased.

And then to stand up and challenge them in the loudest of voices.

Inclusion comes from the very top, your position gives you the opportunity to make a real difference for the better.

The future is in your hands. Hold it gently and guard it well.

Jim Islam

Jim places great value on the importance of education, citing it as the foundation stone upon which social mobility can be built. As OneFamily’s CEO, he wants to hold out his hand of support to those who don’t know where to turn and to use his platform to lift people up and inspire them to fulfil their potential.

He encourages thinking big, having great aspirations and setting audacious goals to free potential. With education, encouragement and empowerment he thinks that any child can achieve their biggest and most colourful of dreams.

Jim was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of financial mutual, OneFamily, in December 2023.

OneFamily is the UK’s third largest mutual with over 2m customers.

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