Working towards Equality

ELREC logoWho are they?

Where are they?

What do they do?
“ELREC exists to promote racial equality and to fight all forms of racism.”

How big are they?
13 members of staff

What did they receive?
MS Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition with 3x client add-on packs; 20x MS Office Professional Plus; MS Project Standard 2007 & MS Office Multi Language Pack.

The outcome?
Office software has been completely upgraded.

Nina Giles laughs when I ask her if there’s a ‘typical project’ she’d cite to illustrate the Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Council’s (ELREC’s) work. Deservedly so, as the scope of the charity is so broad. From individual community initiatives – such as offering one-to-one support for jobseekers or providing advocacy to victims of racial harassment – to liasing at a strategic level with regional Chief Executives and leaders, ELREC has a wide mission – to promote racial equality and to fight all forms of racism. “We’re a small organisation with a big agenda,” smiles Nina.

ELREC image

Based in central Edinburgh, the organisation now employs 13 people and has been going for 37 years – although this success and growth masks the tight financial footing on which the organisation has always stood. Indeed, when Nina joined as Director, the charity was so financially strapped that it had lain dormant for a year. Maintaining a modern office environment in these conditions is never easy.

“Even now, staff will complain about how old the PC’s are!” chuckles Nina. “They should have seen it before!”

‘Before’ was prior to ELREC’s IT supplier pointing it towards the CTX programme. “We had ad hoc software – some running Windows 98, some on XP; nothing was standardised. We didn’t have a proper server. To cut costs we tried using the free Open Office, but honestly it was so bad – we weren’t able to read everything we were sent.”

Discovering that they qualified for an extensive software donation from Microsoft was a big boost for the organisation, therefore. “We wouldn’t have been able to do the full upgrade otherwise,” says Nina. “It would have been so much more expensive, and would have taken away from the operational side.”

Nina talks through the huge benefits that a modern server network has brought to the organisation. "Everybody passes us information via email,” she says. “Not just companies – individuals as well. Working on an employment tribunal, for instance, you might need to follow a weblink to get documents.”

Maintaining credibility at a senior level with major strategic partners also provides a paradox – the charity has to present itself in an utterly professional and businesslike light whilst working on a shoestring. This, in turn, can lead contacts to assume that the charity is better resourced than it is. “It was embarrassing,” confesses Nina, citing a small example. “A group of people would share meeting dates via Outlook, and we couldn’t even read them.”

“If you’re working in a big establishment, you take these things for granted.”