Oxfam International is renowned for its international aid work directed towards helping others and minimising suffering. Oxfam International’s Australian arm invested the time to train their staff in having reflective conversations about diversity and inclusion to foster a substantively better workplace culture.
We began our work with Oxfam with an interactive lecture in 2017 to mark their commitment to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s ‘Racism. It Stops with Me.’ campaign. As a result, Oxfam requested a bespoke program for their Australian staff to help embed their commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Oxfam wanted to equip staff with practical tools to navigate workplace diversity and tackle instances of discrimination.
We trained over 100 staff from across the Australian operations team using our active bystander approach. The training was calibrated for their needs as a development NGO.
Our training provides staff with the opportunity to discuss ideas, ventilate opinions and practise new ways of dealing with pop-up incidents at work. The program has a strong emphasis on the practical skill of engaging in difficult conversations using both direct and indirect strategies. We used Forum Theatre, a form of interactive theatre, to give participants a creative way to practise engaging in difficult conversations and use the linguistic, emotional and tactical tools explored during the training. Forum theatre gets participants on their feet, trying out possibilities in real-time, rather than sitting on chairs and imagining what could/would or should be done.
Our training is 30% theory and 70% practice – this ensures ample opportunities to implement concepts and reflect on what works (and doesn’t work so well) when seeking to challenge or disrupt hurtful and insensitive behaviours.
Oxfam has undergone significant changes in the past five years. What’s remained central and, even risen to prominence, is its commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion throughout its organisation. While uncomfortable, at times, the conversations our training allowed has led to diversity being treated as opportunity to examine power structures and the role open dialogue can play at bringing about change. We worked closely with Jody Kelly and the People and Culture team to continually improve the training as it rolled out across their entire workforce. Here are Jody’s thoughts on working with Polykala:
“The team at Polykala are truly interested in the organisations that they work with and adapt their training to suit our needs and culture.”Jody Kelly – People and Culture Business Partner, Oxfam Australia