When we talk about oppression, we mean connected systems like racism, ableism and sexism that dominate our world. As you might expect, collective liberation from these systems is deeply embedded in the way we think about our work. Breaking free from these systems would enable us to live in a society rooted in care - for ourselves, for each other, and for the land. This is the future we want to build together.
Sometimes anti-oppression (and diversity, equity and inclusion) work can get bogged down in only talking about the problems, or coming up with band aids that focus on only individual-level issues and don’t really fix the bigger problem. At NEON, we approach it differently.
Of course, we know that movements (and organisations like ours) are not immune from replicating the systems of oppression that exist in society. Understanding our power is key to us being truly accountable to the movements we support and our staff. So we proactively consult with our community, reflect deeply on our actions and apologise and change when we make mistakes.
But we also try to do our work with joy, and make time for rest and celebration - all things an oppressive system tries to take away from us. And crucially, we focus on the structural things we can shift. This is about real impact and action, not tokenism.
Here are a few examples:
All of our programme strategies have anti-oppression built into their design. This includes things like the choices we make in how we design trainings so they’re accessible to as many people as possible, how we recruit for programmes (we have targets for Disabled people, people of colour, womxn and non-binary people, and people with LGBTQ and different class identities), or heavily fundraising for scholarships to remove economic barriers to participation.
Our anti-oppression strategy (which is due to be updated) covers our culture and internal practices too. This means that when we make any internal decisions we think about it through the lens of anti-oppression and liberation. For example, even something simple like having a transparent pay scale and a policy of not negotiating on salaries - this makes it a lot more likely we’ll have pay equity and those with more power (historically men and also white people) don’t end up being paid more
Flexible working policy
We are developing policies for our team that explicitly put liberation at the heart. For example, our flexible working policy, a parenting policy in progress that will be gender-neutral and give 6 months paid leave, and a plan to update all other policies to push the boundaries of what it means to be an anti-oppressive employer. The aim is then to share these widely to put pressure on other organisations to do better.
We have designed our brand and website to be digitally accessible from the start. This includes things like readability & focus (correct hierarchy, colour contrast ratio, font size, clear navigation, progressive disclosure), proactive inclusion (making images readable, no motion that could trigger vestibular disorders, keyboard navigation), and ensuring forms are LGBTQ inclusive & gender inclusive. It also includes a focus on privacy - you’ll notice there’s no tracking, even for analytics.
This is an unfinished and ever-evolving list and we welcome any specific or general feedback from our community. You can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have and will get it wrong. When we do, you can count on us taking full accountability for our actions and the results. And you can count on us being joyful about the things going well too.