The recent furore involving Oxfam aid workers is a salutary lesson for all employers but particular for those in the charitable sector.
It is fair to say that the majority of the population will have a high regard for the work undertaken by charities such as Oxfam who have provided sterling work and support to a number of disadvantaged regions and people over the years. The recent headlines certainly do not detract or undermine the work that has been undertaken.
However, the difficulty is that it would seem there have been systemic problems in relation to inappropriate behaviour by representatives of Oxfam which clearly are now going to damage the good name and reputation of the organisation.
There are a number of lessons for the charitable sector and they are as follows:
Policies in relation to sexual discrimination and particularly harassment should not only be drafted and sit on a dusty shelf but should be implemented, monitored and reviewed.
Where there are problems, they should be quickly identified and dealt with.
It is imperative that there is a whistleblowing policy in place so that those who feel that they may suffer a detriment by raising issues are given a cloak of protection.
There should always be careful supervision of members of staff and even the smallest of incidents must be addressed in a timely manner.
In an age where charities often need to compete amongst each other to gather funds to undertake the fantastic work that they do, there is an even greater requirement to be transparent and accountable to members of the public who are donating. Furthermore, charities must also protect and promote a duty of care to those that are undertaking work for the organisation.
The interesting underlying factor here is that recent Fundraising Regulations have brought into greater focus the need for transparency and accountability. Our view is this development is actually a positive step for charities. For too long they have become divorced from members of the public. This new era of accountability and transparency is imperative to enable them to rebuild those bridges with those who are donating money. It also gives organisations a good opportunity to review and to root out those who are undermining the good name and reputation of the charity for whom they are undertaking work.
Scrutiny, checking on references, making sure that matters are dealt with are all common matters of good governance within any organisation. Charities who often depend on the goodwill and commitment of individuals need to ensure that these principles are adhered to.
Hopefully, the public will see beyond this issue and recognise that Oxfam will deal with the problem immediately but also that the good work that they do undertake can still continue.