Many organisations are committed to ensuring a positive safeguarding culture, but struggle to know what this looks like in practice, and how to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their own organisational culture.
The protection and wellbeing of everyone involved in our work must be central to everything that we do. It isn’t enough to meet minimum compliance standards, the organisations we lead need to live and breathe a strong safeguarding culture.
When we speak about “leaders” we mean those people within an organisation that have the authority and power to make decisions and allocate resources. Depending on the organisation, this could be a CEO, directors, senior management teams, country directors, safeguarding leads or other decision-makers.
Safeguarding is about all the preventative and responsive measures we take to ensure we do no harm to anyone in our organisation and anyone we come into contact with as part of our work. This tool was developed with tackling sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment (SEAH) in mind, but is applicable beyond that. You can find a more comprehensive definition on the Bond website.
When we say ‘a positive safeguarding culture’, what we mean is an “explicit safeguarding culture and ethos with values and behaviours that are articulated and lived at each level of organisation,”(Wonnacott, J. & Carmi. E (2016) Serious Case Review: Southbank International School, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster LSCB) focused on keeping people safe from harm. On a practical, day to day level, this looks and feels like “a culture of curiosity, scrutiny and constructive challenge, with processes to underpin these behaviours.”(Proctor, S., Galloway, R., Chaloner, R., Jones, C. and Thompson, D. (2014) The report of the investigation into matters relating to Savile at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust)
Culture can be difficult to pin down and analysing the culture of an organisation can be particularly challenging to do from within. Everything that leaders say or do is visible and has an influence on the rest of the organisation. Some practical and meaningful ways that leaders impact the culture include:
It is easier to build a positive culture when everything is going well; but strong cultures are, in part, built by what is done during difficult times. Times of challenge are particularly important and the way in which difficult situations are managed shape an organisation’s culture.
The workflow graphic on the landing page depicts the process of using the tool. It starts with deciding as a leader to use the tool and finding a facilitator. Then you decide which section of the tool to discuss first. The facilitator should read ‘How to use the tool’ and ‘FAQs’ pages. Next, you will agree who should be part of the session. Don’t forget to book in sufficient time for your session!
During the session:
This tool builds on existing safeguarding commitments for the aid sector and guides leadership teams to have the challenging conversations that are needed in order to prevent harm, including sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment (SEAH).
We have provided an indication of how long it will take to complete each section of the tool on the Tool overview page. This ranges between three and four hours, depending on the section and your organisation. This is an estimate and some sections may take longer to complete, depending on your organisation.
One person should own the role of facilitator to run and conduct the session. While not essential, it is highly recommended to use an external facilitator, who can check and challenge your responses. We recommend involving leadership team members as well as middle and junior staff within all sessions. Depending on the size of your organisation, some sections may be particularly relevant to specific colleagues (e.g. HR colleagues should be included when discussing the section on “Safe Recruitment and HR processes”). Smaller NGOs may have very small leadership teams and may want to involve everyone in the organisation in these discussions. This can be very beneficial as you are likely to gain different perspectives from staff and volunteers and everyone can be more closely involved in the commitment to making improvements.
Please get in touch with Bond via [email protected] so we can discuss this further.
There is a possibility that during the session a participant will share something about a previously unknown safeguarding issue that needs to be addressed. This could involve people from your own organisation or a partner organisation you are working with. Plan how this should be responded to before the session. If the issues raised involve serious and immediate risk of harm, or concern people involved in the session itself, the session should be stopped whilst the issue is responded to. If the issue can be responded after the session, you should follow your usual reporting processes.
The leadership tool is not a one-off tool. We recommend repeating this exercise at regular intervals (e.g. annually) to account for people leaving or joining the team or organisation, and new issues potentially emerging over time, which could otherwise remain unaddressed. You should review the action plan generated on a more regular basis (e.g. quarterly).
The tool works best when completed online. Please get in touch with Bond via [email protected] if you’re having difficulty using an online tool.
This tool was developed by an NGO safeguarding working group on leadership and culture, with support from Bond. It was funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). The contents of the tool are the intellectual property of members of the NGO working group led by Sally Proudlove and Frances Longley. Hereby it cannot be reproduced without a written permission obtained via [email protected].