Dipika Kaushal

on ‘inclusion’

Sam is joined by Dipika Kaushal, CEO of Voluntary & Community (VAC), to discuss ‘inclusion’. Inclusion has been integral throughout Dipika’s diverse career working in the voluntary sector, focused on positive social change and improving local lives. Today she shares what she has learnt from her experience and why inclusion benefits everyone.

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Show Notes

Find out all about Voluntary & Community here: www.cvac.org.uk

Twitter:

@VACLocalLives

@kaushal_dipika

You can find Dipika on LinkedIn here.

Guest Info

A photo of Dipika. She is an Asian female with short dark hair. She is facing the camera and smiling.

Dipika Kaushal

Dipika Kaushal is the CEO of Voluntary & Community, which is an organisation that supports charities and voluntary run groups and organisations, promotes partnership working and advocates on their behalf. Dipika is passionate about inclusion and promoting positive social change which help to improve people’s lives. She has 20 years of experience of leading complex programmes and achieving sustainable solutions with economic and social benefits for communities.

Transcript

[music]

Sam McCormick:

Hello there, I’m Sam McCormick and welcome to Curious e-Motion. Today, I’m joined by the wonderful Dipika Kaushal, who is the CEO of Voluntary and Community, otherwise known as VAC here in Calderdale.

VAC is a charity that champions, supports and strengthens the impact of the voluntary and community sector on local lives. I was keen to interview Dipika as VAC has recently undergone a full rebrand, including a new name. Part of that process has been clarifying the values and culture within the charity.

I am a trustee at VAC too, and so have seen some of this process firsthand. Dipika’s drive and passion for people and inclusion has been integral. So it’s only natural that inclusion is Dipika’s value of choice to chat about today.
Dipika has enjoyed a diverse career with 20 years of experience spanning community cohesion, drug and alcohol services, mental health, and supporting people whose voices are seldom heard to have their say. So I’m delighted that she has offered to explore inclusion with me today.

Let’s go and meet her.

Hello, Dipika.

Dipika Kaushal:

Hello, Sam.

Sam:

Lovely to have you. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this out of your very busy schedule.

Dipika:

It’s a pleasure. Really pleased to be doing this, and on my favourite topic as well; inclusion.

Sam:

Yeah, wonderful. I can’t wait to get your thoughts on all of this. I know it’s a really big topic as well.

Dipika:

It is huge, I could go on for days, but I know we’ve only got a short amount of time. So, yeah, let’s crack on.

Sam:

Okay, so let’s start. Can you tell us a bit about your professional background regarding inclusion?

Dipika:

Yeah, well, it’s a bit like this really, I mean, everything that I’ve done and I can tell you a little bit about the types of work I’ve done in the past, but I suppose everything I’ve done has been about making a difference to people’s lives and making sure that everything that I’ve particularly worked on is ensuring that there’s an element of inclusion in there. So I’ll just give you some examples really.
So I started my career in a community development role. That was very much around education, training and guidance. And I fell into that due to some personal circumstances, but I fell into that. So I think that started me on this journey about actually, not everybody has equal chances out there. They don’t have opportunities. And actually, we can all play our part in society to make a world our bit better.
I met some wonderful people and it was part of– I’m Hindu. So I was working for the Gujarat Hindu Society as my first kind of real job. Really learnt a lot, learnt a lot about my culture. I learnt a lot about the barriers being faced by my community and actually being able to help people to secure jobs, volunteering, training, education – what was amazing. I thought, “I really like this. I really like the feeling it gives me.” So then I applied for a project management role for an organisation, it was called Alcohol and Drug Services. My job was very much around how do we make those services more accessible to people from different communities? Because it was one type of community or certain ages accessing the service, lottery-funded, and I thought, “I’ll never get it.” But I was green behind the ears, a couple of years out of university and I just went for it, and I got it.

And actually, part of that was also thinking about inclusion generally. So I didn’t use the word then. But thinking about, “What’s this project really about? What’s it trying to do?” And so, we did two things. It wasn’t a case of just recruiting people from different communities, I actually led on a culture piece, my very first culture piece for alcohol and drug services around awareness-raising, around culture, communities, the environment, and the environments that we were delivering in, and also working with our commissioners and stakeholders at the time, and the communities, most importantly. And again, that was across Lancashire and Greater Manchester, and one of the first BAME developments in those areas around drug and alcohol use and opening up services. And that was very successful, and successful because I think inclusivity isn’t just about one type of community or different communities, it’s about giving people choices. So when they walk through that door, somebody with a brown skin colour might not want to see a counsellor from that community. They might want to see somebody else. But as long as that counsellor had the cultural background and awareness, there were choices open to people. We customised how we met with people, where we met with people, and actually giving people more opportunities to get help.

And then I decided to go into the world of regeneration. So I started with project managing at some regeneration projects, and then went into actually managing big schemes. And one of the– again, another really enjoyable part of my career was working in the West Midlands for a scheme that was working with communities facing disadvantage, inequality, young people, street workers. And again, that was just amazing, giving people opportunities and very inclusively focused. And similarly, my journey has taken that direction. And I suppose, yeah, but it’s about developing innovating, transforming, services which help to improve local lives, which is what we’re doing here at work at VAC and why I’m here.

Sam:

Absolutely. I love what you said about choice because I think sometimes, we can get very stuck with a, “This is wrong, this is right. This is one way of doing something.” And actually, it’s about putting a bit of ownership in– the people who these services are for should be able to have a say in how they want it to run, not just a kind of, “Oh, well, okay, we’ve changed that now, so it’s like this,” actually, the choice thing is really vital, isn’t it?

Dipika:

Yeah, I think choice and control. I think one of the– again, I’ve had quite a few jobs, for full lengths of time, should I say, when I was transforming the social care department in Calderdale and really, again, really fantastic opportunity to transform and bring in personalization. And it was a government-mandated programme. Again, I was brought in to think about what does it mean for Calderdale? What does it mean for the council? And what does it mean to people? And a really fascinating piece of work, because we don’t have all the answers. But it’s again, going out to people and understanding what does choice and control mean to them.

Sam:

Yeah. Sure.

Dipika:

And Oldham had already piloted a programme around personalisation. They were one of the adopter sites, and I thought, “What’s the best way in which to really get some buy-in and engagement?” And we got some people who are benefiting from this choice and control to come and talk to our elected leaders. I was managers, our staff. And we had two afternoons or morning sessions just dedicated to listening to the journey and the difference it made to people’s lives. And again for me it’s not about different communities it’s about people. And every single person deserves a good quality service or experience. And I suppose for me that’s what drives quality services because it’s meaningful to the individual, whatever it is.

Sam:

Yeah. I absolutely love that. I’m all about people too as you know. That was so fascinating. I just want to talk about everything you’ve done but you’ll be here forever.

Dipika:

I could be on Desert Island Discs. I don’t think I’d be that exciting. But I think it’s important that– I think I’ve been very fortunate to have some very interesting jobs in my career. Very challenging jobs. I mean coming into Voluntary and Community– I was going to say Voluntary Action for a minute there but we have just rebranded. And again that rebranding is all about what we do. We’re here for the voluntary and community sector. But again thinking about inclusivity has been absolutely part of what we do here. It’s one of our values. We champion diversity, we promote equality and create an environment where everyone can flourish.

I’m not saying we’re there yet. We’re definitely not. We need to do a lot more work on our diversity and how we kind of have a more diverse workforce, how we work in better ways with our sector. But we’re on a journey. And I’m going to be first to say it takes a lot of effort. It doesn’t happen automatically and it’s got to be meaningful. So we’re certainly in our part of the journey to engage better with our sector and our community to make sure that we are being inclusive as far as possible and to continue to do work towards that.

Sam:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point as well that this really is a journey isn’t it? You don’t ever get to a point where you’re like, “Oh okay we’re 100% inclusive, we’re done.” That’s just not a thing.

Dipika:

I’d be worried if we ever said that because it would never. No. And no I think it’s easy to say that we’re doing this and then tick the box. We are doing a lot of stuff. So we’re going to be doing a number of things. So one is about engagement and listening and genuinely listening. And actually one of the other things in our values is doing what we say we’re going to do. But we can’t do that without listening. So it’s being very genuine, very authentic. The other thing that we’re doing because like I said, we need to do work internally as well. And I’ve been here for three years. And it does take effort but it’s also– we’ve got to make sure we do it in the right way at the right time.

So we are going to be– we are planning a big piece of work around equality, diversity and inclusion. It’s in our year two plan as part of our strategy. Our [strap line?] is #improvinglocallives. And we can’t do that without being inclusive. But I think there’s something about– our inclusive journey hasn’t started in a big bang way. Our inclusive journey started internally. And making sure we were inclusive internally. We were working inclusively with our staff team who need to feel that they are involved, can participate, feel valued. Are trustees who can be engaged to a degree where they know what’s going on. And again they can support in the areas that they have the strengths and skills in. And that’s taken time and effort. But we’re really, really reaping the reward [it’s?] now in terms of the staff team absolutely engaged and buy into our vision, our mission, our culture, our values, feeling valued for what they can bring. And so our kind of ethos internally then starts rolling out into how we do things externally. Hence, I don’t rush things. I try not to. It’s got to be done properly. And we don’t always get everything right, but we don’t need to because it’s a learning journey, isn’t it?

Sam:

Exactly. And I really love that about VAC. And as a trustee, seeing the rebrand happen and the renaming and everything, it just feels– there’s this lovely energy and this lovely team spirit of collaboration and value, hence why I asked you whether you would come on this series because of values. And I thought of that because I knew that you’d gone with the rebrand, with another look at the values, with another look at the whole culture of everything, which has just been really positive, and it’s so exciting for the future as well.

Dipika:

Yeah, and actually, my first CEO role. And I think it’s really interesting in terms of– so this is my first CEO role, as you know, Sam, I’ve been in senior leadership roles, but it’s really nice to be able to be part of leading some of the architecture and the aspirations but also not thinking that I know all the answers. So for me, this journey has been amazing. And I think we can share in this bit, can’t we, because you have been part of this journey. And for me, there’s some cornerstones around the way organisations or– in my personal life as well, there are some real cornerstones, so bringing some of that kind of personal values but also actually thinking about the values from across the team.

So the values are actually very cross-collaborative. I think they’re a really, really important tool for organisational success and growth because actually, the way our values are displayed actually then resonate with our partners. And not only funders, I’m talking about genuine partners. And actually, we talk about quality. We talk about integrity. We talk about connectivity, making sure we connect. This is about connectivity, what we’re doing now.

And yes, I’m a very busy woman, but equally, it’s really nice to have the opportunity to then just do a bit of reflection and think, “Wow, we’ve done some really remarkable stuff.” And I think the other one– we’re talking about inclusion, obviously, but the other one is about solutions and how we take ownership and make things happen in a creative and positive way. And that’s something that’s really kind of energized the way we work. So people ask me a lot of the time, “If somebody described you, how would they describe you?” And most of the time, they say, “I want to describe you as a whirlwind.” And I think yeah, but additionally, I think the word dynamic and to make sure that there’s a zing. And we never kind of become complacent about who we are and what we do and why we’re here. And everybody has a chance to grow and have a chance to be part of opportunities.

And I’ll tell you a funny story because you’re part of this. And we did actually do a turnaround, didn’t we? Because as a leader I thought, “I don’t want to burden my team, and I’ve got to think about how we rebrand this and we came up with some really daft names.” And we all said, “This really don’t feel right.” So we said, “Right. We stop. We start again. We do it differently.” And we did a task and finish group. And actually, one of the team members came up with, “Why are we changing from VAC?” Because everybody knows who we are. We’re a known quantity. We have a reputation yeah, we’re just back and what do we do? We volunteer in community groups, zing. And it just felt so good and it’s a funny story, isn’t it, because we went on a journey with that as well.

Sam:

I know. All sorts of different names out there, and then, oh, I mean, it’s a minefield trying to name something. And if something already exists, a rename is even more complicated, isn’t it? I suppose it’s really easy to get carried away with the whole dictionary, endless.

Dipika:

Yeah, and I’ve learned something in the process which is great in terms of I’m not good at rebranding, but actually, a team, and that included trustees. Absolutely pulled it out of the bag. We worked with an absolutely amazing graphic designer, again, very socially aligned to our values. So we did quite a lot of work in making sure we selected the right type of person who understood us, and I think what came out of it was a very inclusive brand. What’s not inclusive about voluntary and community? We can do so much with that. We are absolutely what it says on the tin. And locally, God, everybody thought we were genius, and I never did anything.

And I did say that, kudos to the team, but for me, inclusivity, should I say, runs right the way through my personal being. I’m hoping that as a trustee, you see that coming right the way through everything we do, how I work, how the team works. And I think certainly the team exude so much pride, it’s great. I mean, we’re buzzing. It’s superb, and we are working hard and we have got our challenges, but I think the important thing is we know absolutely why we’re here, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Sometimes it’s a bit fuzzy because that’s our world and a bit messy, but we’ve got some real kind of clarity in place in terms of what we do and how we do it and for me, that’s what defines us.

Sam:

Yeah. I love it, definitely. And that’s what gives you that– I love that word that you used, zing. That lovely buzz that everybody has to just be pushing forward with everything and feeling like you’re really having a part to play in people’s lives, and as [inaudible] says, improving local lives.

Dipika:

Yeah. It’s magic.
[music]

Dipika:

I just think it’s really important that we kind of remain inclusive because I think the world’s becoming a really, really strange place and I did want to reflect on that.

Sam:

Yeah. The past year we’ve had the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s been a lot happening, hasn’t there? It’s absolutely at the forefront of everybody’s minds, quite rightly and should have been, really. But I think we’ve seen a shift or I feel like there’s been a shift.

Dipika:

I think there’s been a shift, but I also think that the world is a lot more divided than it’s ever been. It’s quite a scary place. Yeah, and I do think and this is my personal view. I do think, yes, the world has moved forward. It’s moved forward digitally. It’s moved forward to use the word woke, which I’m not. I don’t claim to, but equally, we’re all more aware, but equally, I think we have moved backwards in terms of how we work together.

And actually, when I was doing the region work, I’m going to tell you a little story now, because when I was leading on the– it was called my programme with health and social inclusion. So again, very, very on topic. So that was my portfolio, a really inspirational set of pieces of work that we were doing. But one of the things that I led on was community cohesion, and these things become very fashionable. But why should they be fashionable? Why shouldn’t they be something that happens constantly?

So mental health until recently became, what was completely sidelined. We wouldn’t talk about it. Now, I’ve worked nationally in the mental health charity and really struggling to get people to invest in the fact that everything drives– your mental health drives your physical health, your social circle, your success in life, your quality of life. But actually, until recently, we just didn’t talk about it and particularly in BAME communities, Black, Asian or ethnic minority communities, whatever we call it. Even in my culture, it was like, “Oh, you don’t talk about that.” But yet people have been suffering, and so I think, yes, the world has advanced, but we still remain quite– primitive is too strong a word. I think we’ve gone backwards in how we relate to each other as human beings it feeling very, very fragmented and I’ll come back to the funny story.

Not a funny story but a great story. As part of my work, I was obviously commissioning a number of contracts and again, making sure the way we did that was very inclusive, including local people, actual people whose lives were affected and who could benefit from regeneration. My husband joined us on this day as well. But we set up– so I was working for Action Halifax and we set up what was the– and my friend Rob Billson from the Community Foundation will absolutely remember this because we worked together and there was this food and dance festival that we organized at Boothtown. At the park in Boothtown. And this was about– we did a similar one in Siddal. This was about getting people in other areas from other areas, just mixing together around. And, we got people from different communities. We had the army. We had people from different communities cooking the food. Oh, there was an African dance group there, they were brilliant. And then people from the community could have a chance to do different types of dancing.

Sam:

Great.

Dipika:

Somebody was looking down because the sun was shining because it could have been– we had over 3,000 people come through the gates and give us something. There was a lot of goodwill. It was just a buzz. And it comes back to that thing, that inclusivity shouldn’t be something that we should take for granted. Everybody should experience the fact that we have a richer life, a richer experience, a richer kind of environment and place where we have inclusion because everybody gains.

Sam:

It’s so true. 100%. I think that’s such an important message.

Dipika:

Support and inclusivity is about reaching those people whose voices aren’t heard. And again, just another example, really, Sam, is, we were rewarded in this current time as part of a partnership proposal, VAC led on that. And we’ve been awarded some Health Inequalities funding. That was to fund some interventions to see how we could tackle inequality. So brilliant from the West Yorkshire Harrogate Partnership. And I want to say that because, it’s not a significant amount of funding, but a little bit of funding can make a big difference, I’m a really, really big believer.

Sam:

Totally, yeah.

Dipika:

And however, in that zingy and dynamic way, we really decided to turn it on his head instead of saying, “Oh, we’re going to look at funding these two things,” we said, “We’re not doing that. We’re not giving you our interventions. What we’re going to do is we’re going to work with a set of partners and we’re going to gather stories and we’re not gathering stories. We’re going to get people in the communities whose voices aren’t heard. We’re going to train them as community reporters.” A great organisation called People’s Voice Media who have been doing that bit of the work. Like I said, this is a partnership. So, again, no man’s an island or organisation. The most richest experience I’ve had is around delivering collaboration and collaborative partnerships.
Basically, we’ve worked with our local community anchor organisations to kind of go out there and say, “Do you want to be part of this? We will provide training and support.” And actually, these people have gone and gathered stories from people’s voices that have never been heard.

Sam:

Oh, this is amazing.

Dipika:

And what that’s done is provided some reports on what the issues are – structural racism, lack of empathy for people from different communities and backgrounds. And I’m really starting to. And we share that. We share that with our council leaders. We’re not hiding anything. But equally, we’re not doing this as a propaganda exercise. We’re doing it with our partners.

So we have council on our collaborative partnership. We’ve got the NHS, we’ve got the equalities team. And actually, what a lovely, refreshing way in which to really hear. I’m not saying we have some great engagement going on, but to do it again differently.

So we’ve just actually commissioned our two grant funded projects based on that insight. And we’re about to do that in North Halifax as well. But we turned that around on its head to make sure it was inclusive. And can I just tell you the most beautiful part of that is that we’ve trained some local people now who have opportunities for doing some stuff, giving them hope, giving them a chance of feeling valued and giving them some purpose. And again, what’s not inclusive about that?

Sam:

Totally. And especially after the past year and everyone going through the pandemic and things, hope is so important, isn’t it?

Dipika:

Hope. And actually, that was a really– so that was one of the values where I worked for within mental illness and just giving somebody hope who’s really a– what they might say is, “I don’t have any opportunity,” or, “I don’t have a job,” or, “I don’t have a good life. I don’t have anything to eat.” And the list goes on. And to just give people hope through the work we do about opportunities, even if it means ringing up and saying, “I need food. I need some help with my bills.” We’re not all privileged. We’ve not had the same opportunity. I mean, in my family, I was the first person to go to university. So I feel very privileged. And it’s easy to say that. And people have told me several times I could work in corporate and earn three times as much. And actually, does that really matter? Personally, for me, money is not the driver. I’ve got a very high, altruistic kind of– I’m high on the altruistic scale. So anything I’ve got to do is meaningful. So I suppose that’s kind of driven my career and my career choices.

I’ve not always taken the choices that’ve come along my way, foolishly, maybe, maybe not. I’ve personally also taken decisions based on putting family first, whether that’s my parents or whether that’s my children. But also, really thinking about what makes the difference. And even if I’ve kind of enabled one person, and I’m sure it’s been many people, but one person to be supported or to have hope or an opportunity, then I think I’ve done my bit for society.

Sam:

Yeah. Oh, wow. Dipika, you’ve done so much. It’s amazing. I’m just so inspired getting to hear about this because, obviously, I know you very much in that—

Dipika:

I know you, but you don’t know me, do you?

Sam:

No. [inaudible].

Dipika:

I want to do this for you now.

Sam:

We’ll have to set that up [laughter].

Dipika:

Yeah, we’ll have to do that.

Sam:

Yeah, we will.

Dipika:

But I don’t often get to talk often about what I’ve done or what I’m about. And actually, I’ve done that twice now this month. And funnily enough, last week I was part of Holly Lynch’s Evening Citizenship School. So I was on that, and I had to do a little bit about who I am, what I do, why I do it. So it’s been quite nice because you get into that every day. I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to– you get into that thing and you forget, in fact. I don’t forget what I do and why I do. I never forget that because otherwise I won’t be here.

But sometimes you forget to reflect on what you’ve done or what we’ve done collectively and the difference we make. And what that makes really in terms of what VAC does and in our partnership work as well as part of the VSI Alliance and other collaborative partnerships. We are part of a puzzle. We’re not an island. And I think that’s part of it, really.

Yeah, but just reflecting actually part of what I’ve brought to different kind of organizations in my role and thinking about Rethink Mental Illness is the main reason I was the kind of national head of project development or development was about integration and integrating what we did. We did some fantastic work, but we were doing it on our own and thinking about how we could integrate that with our public sector partners so– yeah, developed inclusive and integrated prison health care services.

So, yeah, I’ve worked in prison environments, which was amazing. It brings a whole new perspective on people and how they need hope and support and recovery and life-changing experiences because not everybody makes a choice to take drugs, be a sex worker or offend because they don’t. It’s because life has really been tough and hard on them. And I suppose my inclusive journey has been around– yeah, it’s driven me to these roles. And I genuinely enjoyed thinking about how we could really reimagine what we do to improve local lives.

[music]

Sam:

So this question, it’s the question that we’re asking all of our guests this series. Which three things would you like to spend more time on in your life, and what about less time?

Dipika:

Oh, right. Okay, then. So I think the three things I would like to spend more time on in my life is, and I’m saying this very genuinely, is my family. And when I say my family, I do see– I think if we saw each other anymore, we’d probably kill each other in the nicest of ways. No, I suppose it’s having that quality time. So we do actually have– so my boys are teenagers, and so I’m surrounded by boys. So I think what can we do to kind of, again, engage, be inclusive and do something we all like? So we do quite a lot of walking.

Sam:

Nice.

Dipika:

So I’d like to do a lot more walking with them, and I don’t think they’d say no. But we are time poor because obviously, they’re in that kind of GSCE years, and we’re all busy, and we’ve got other things going on. And obviously, the job is very busy. So a lot more time to kind of do a lot more kind of getting together as a family and doing more of that connecting. I think in terms of the job, what I’d like more time doing is to kind of have time to kind of build those kind of strategic innovations. I do have time to do some of that, and we have done some of that. But actually, I could add the voluntary sector. We always have less people and lots more to do.

Sam:

Yeah, we do.

Dipika:

So how do you balance that? So I’d like to do– in my role as a CEO, I’ve got to step up to do the strategic stuff, but also make sure that the ship is sailing, and it’s also going in the right direction collectively. So, yeah, a lot more time to do the thinking and to kind of do those more transformational things. The third one, self-care. And I think we’re all so busy doing and life is busy. I mean, I’m in my late 40s now. I’m not going to tell you my real age. Although, I’ll tell you in private. But what I can say is I get told a lot by my family, by my friends, by my colleagues, very caring colleagues, by my staff that I need to slow down. So maybe that’s one of my things. I think slow down will give me time to reflect. And we have restructured internally, so I’m hoping I might have time to do a bit of that. So if you can hold me to that last one.

Sam:

Okay, slow down.

Dipika:

Slow down.

Sam:

Yeah, I’ll remind you at trustee meetings, Dipika. Just a little reminder.

Dipika:

Yeah, because I talk very fast as well. [laughter]

Sam:

No, you don’t. It’s fine. You don’t need to literally slow down. [laughter]

Dipika:

I need to slow down. I got told that a couple of weeks ago, slow down. Because I’m [inaudible].

Sam:

Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I think I try and remind myself of slowing down sometimes because it’s very easy in the world that we live in to get swept up into this ongoing massive energy that’s just there all of the time. But then also you want to make sure you definitely do it in a way that is definitely the way you need to do it. It doesn’t have to be how someone else does it if that makes sense.

Dipika:

Yeah, but I think I am neglecting myself a little bit. So I do need to– I think self-care. And I think there’s something about how we– self-care and I’ve done some– actually, to be honest, I did a piece of work– well, it started the year before last and we did a piece of work with– we were doing a piece of work around building health partnerships. And again, we turned it around because this was all about musculoskeletal conditions and joint pain and all of that. And we always think about old people, what we think older people should I say. And actually, we turned it around on its head and said, “We want to invite some young people to this.”

It was an event in Calderdale because we were leading on the musculoskeletal thing and we got some– one of our trustees is from the college. And I said, “Look, we’re doing this. Can you kind of chivvy some of your kind of departments [inaudible] to see if they’ll send some young people?” And we got some amazing young ladies. And they’re all ladies. There were no young men. But young men did join eventually. But actually, they joined this thing around self. Think about caring for ourselves, our communities. What did it mean in terms of–, and everybody feels guilty. Whatever your age you are, feels guilty about self-care. We’re not allowed to indulge. We’re not allowed to take time out and treat ourselves otherwise. And for me, again, let’s be a bit kind to ourselves.

And I’m so busy. And do you know what my self-indulgence is? And my husband always says, “You’re too extravagant on the evening. You make too two nice meals. Sometimes we can just have”– but actually that’s my bit of self-care for me because I like cooking and I process a lot of things and I do like eating. But equally, I want to make sure that I’m looking after my family, my children, probably too much my husband says because he likes to eat lots of food. He’ll kill me if he ever listens to that. [laughter] But what I’m saying is self-care is a really good thing. And again, if you can hold me to that.

Sam:

Okay. I’ve written it down.

Dipika:

What do I want to do less of? So I said running around like a headless chicken, slow down a little bit and less of really– I’m really trying to– I used to be a real control freak many years ago. I still am in some ways. [laughter] But I’ve really tried hard to– and maybe that was that branding story I was telling you about, thinking I had to do it and I need to really let go. And I think I am. I think I’m probably 50% of the way above ground, another 50% to go. So less control freakery, I call it, but not fully.

Sam:

Yeah. I think it’s natural to have– I mean, in the role you’re in as well, it’s a big responsibility, isn’t it? You’re going to need to have some level of control, and you’re going to need that for your own bit, feeling okay about things and for your own well-being as well, I think. But I do know what you mean. I’m a little bit similar. I’ve been very used to having to do everything myself. So when you get into a position where you’ve got a team around you or something, giving over the reins is a thing, isn’t it? It’s something you have to sort of– it’s another journey, I suppose.

Dipika:

It is. It is. And that there is now– yeah, absolutely. And I’m really, really relishing that kind of next 25% in terms of– and I’m not saying I haven’t done that, I don’t do that. But I think there’s a lot more that I can do to kind of make sure that I kind of lose some of that. But equally, you’re right. You still need some of that. You need to be delivering. I certainly need to be leading. And one of the reasons why I went into leadership and again, I fell into it, really because particularly– and I’m not saying this because of my background or who I am because I’m a woman, I’m a woman of colour. It’s not because of that, but because I do feel that being in a role of leadership, you really can influence, you really can provide some insight. And I think leadership, we’re talking about a glass ceiling. But equally, I think if we have a diverse leadership that will yet promote even greater inclusivity and culture change.

Sam:

Absolutely. So true.

Dipika:

So one of my sayings is ‘culture breeds culture’, and that’s through diversity and inclusion. So that was one of my reasons for coming into– there’s not many. Across a lot of the tables, I’m probably the only Asian female, and that doesn’t bother me because I don’t see myself as that. But equally, what I can do is bring hopefully a different dimension to that world of strategy and leadership in the health and care and the volunteering and community sector.

Sam:

Yeah, definitely. It’s so inspiring, Dipika. I honestly could listen to you talk about this all day. I absolutely would not mind if you just went on and on and on about it.

Dipika:

I think you would. [laughter]

Sam:

It’s amazing. I mean it. Honestly, genuinely, I mean it. I think it’s absolutely fascinating. And like we were saying, we don’t often get an opportunity to talk about the background and your previous work and how things are for you and how you’ve come into this work, and all of that lovely history to it, so yeah.

Dipika:

No, thank you, [inaudible].

Sam:

Thank you so much.

Dipika

I’m really bad at being self-indulgent, although you might not feel it now, having gone through this, but I’m terrible. I don’t tend to share a lot. So it’s really nice to be able to really reflect on this topic around inclusion. I think it’s given me some time to reflect on what it means to me, what it’s meant as part of my journey. And it almost cements who I am today and how I work. I hope it does anyway and also reflects how I work and how I lead because leadership does need to be inclusive. And I don’t get it right at all, all the time. I don’t think any leader can or should, but equally, it’s a fascinating place to be and I’m loving it.

Sam:

Ah, well, it’s wonderful. And I’m so grateful to you for sharing that with us.

Dipika:

Thank you. It’s been amazing.

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Sam:

Oh, a big thank you to Topeka for her time and energy. What an amazing woman she is, and what a career she has had and continues to have.

Do you check out VAC If you don’t know them already, they’re a brilliant team of people who are committed to positive social change and improving local lives. Whilst the majority of their work is in and around Calderdale, they have national connections too.

We’ll be continuing the conversation on inclusion with some more guests this series. Plus, we’ll be thinking about how empathy and compassion feature within this too. So do make sure you subscribe if you haven’t already, and please do leave us a review. We would love to hear what you think.

Until next time, remember to tune into your body, be kind to yourself, and stay curious. Bye.

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