Energise Manchester: Our Approach to Inclusive Language

by Blog

As the end of the first winter of activities comes to a close, the Energise Manchester team has taken some time to reflect on our experiences. We’ve found that our thinking around inclusive language has evolved, shaped by the project team’s insights.
In this blog, we share an overview of our journey and the changes made to how we describe the people we work with on Energise Manchester.

Under-represented and under-served communities

The original project bid for the LEAD project called projects to deliver energy advice to “consumer groups that are most likely to benefit, such as hard-to-reach consumers with no access to the internet”.

We quote partners at Snook to explain why we won’t use the term “hard-to-reach” in our project going forward:

“The view that underrepresented communities are ‘hard to reach’ is commonplace and controversial; the truth is they’re not hard to reach in the world we live in today. We can reach people via multiple methods including in person, (by going into the community or attending events), and online (via social media). The tough part isn’t actually the process of reaching people but taking the time to build trust and relationships with them.”

Chandni Patel – Snook

The term ‘marginalised’ has been used to describe the communities we are working with in the ‘Warm for Winter’ strand of work. This term can counter-productively be experienced as disempowering for people from ‘the global majority’ and other groups not in the mainstream, as there is a sense of being made small or marginalised through being described in this way. 

Instead, we choose to use the terms ‘under-represented’ and ‘under-served’ when talking about the communities we are delivering services to via the Warm for Winter strand of the Energise Manchester project.

  • ‘Under-represented’ is a term that covers many different groups of people who have not historically been included in the design, development, and delivery of energy advice.
  • ‘Under-served’ refers to groups of people who are not served by existing energy advice provision. This could be for a multitude of reasons, from the medium of the advice not being accessible to people, to the language of the advice, to the advice not being culturally appropriate.

Under-represented and under-served communities can include people who experience systemic discrimination of any kind (e.g., racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, economic, cultural, and/or linguistic) and encounter barriers to accessing existing energy advice and retrofit services. 

Under-represented and under-served communities are not currently being provided with effective energy advice that meets their needs. The terms ‘under-represented’ and ‘under-served’ put the onus squarely on service providers to address injustice and oppression in their work, rather than putting this onus onto the communities we’re describing.

The Energise Manchester project aims to serve these communities by creating effective energy advice that does meet their needs, through a Behaviour Change model.

Using specific language

‘Under-represented’ and ‘under-served’ are overarching terms. There will be times in this project when we are talking about a specific person or a specific community that we are working with on the project. By being specific about what we mean when describing people and communities, we hope to avoid assumptions and tackle bias in our work.

When choosing specific language to describe a person’s identity or community, in the first instance we will align ourselves with GM=EqAl’s guidance on inclusive language. 

GM=EqAl Inclusive Language Guidance

GM=EqAl have published a range of guides covering:

  • Race and ethnicity
  • Disability
  • Gender and sex
  • Faith and belief
  • Age (young and old)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Neurodiversity and autism
  • Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (and other similar) communities
  • Gender reassignment and trans and non-binary identities
  • Learning disability and poverty.

Being responsive and flexible

As well as using the GM=EqAl guidance as a first point of reference, in this project we will be responsive and flexible to how individuals and communities we engage with describe themselves. 

We will ask people how they want to be referred to and respect their wishes. We will be open and willing to change our language based on feedback. 

Not everyone will agree with what’s in the GM=EqAl guidance and not everyone in a community will agree with each other on what terms they prefer: that’s okay! 

If we find that people or communities we work with are in direct disagreement with the GM=EqAl guidance, we should feed this back to them in order to inform their understanding: 

GM=EqAl is keen for others to share and adopt our language guidance, and   welcomes dialogue with partners in order to keep evolving the documents along with our understanding. 

GMVCO

Taking an intersectional approach

“The concept of intersectionality describes the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class and other forms of discrimination “intersect” to create unique dynamics and effects.”

Centre for Intersectional Justice

We understand that each person we meet in this project is a member of multiple different communities and may face multiple, diverse barriers to accessing existing energy advice provision.

We will not make assumptions about people’s experiences or reduce them to one demographic characteristic. We will be open; we will listen and learn about the compounding effects of intersecting forms of oppression.