Today ACEVO launched Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector, a report that highlights the voices and experiences of Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic people working in the charity sector.
To accompany the report, we produced a special episode of the ACEVO podcast, conducted by ACEVO’s head of policy Kristiana Wrixon. Kristiana talks to Dr. Sanjiv Lingayah, lead author and Voice4Change England associate, and Sufina Ahmad, director at John Ellerman Foundation and a member of the ACEVO race advisory group.
Please scroll down for the full transcription. The report can be downloaded here.
Kristiana Wrixon (00:00):
Welcome to the ACEVO podcast. I’m here with Sanjiv Lingayah who is an associate with Voice for Change England and the lead author of the Home Truths report. And also with Sufina Ahmad, CEO of John Ellerman Foundation and also a member of ACEVO race advisory group. Welcome both of you. Sanjiv, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got involved with Voice for Change England, and the kind of work that you do with them?
Sanjiv Lingayah (00:28):
I suppose I’m a researcher mostly. I’m a writer and about 10 years ago it will be now I was a research fellow at London Metropolitan University, and my then boss bumped into the then director of Voice for Change England on a train, as you do. And we got involved, I got involved in writing their first strategic document. Voice for Change England is about 11 years old or so, and is a BAME umbrella organisation, supporting, BAME-led civil society organisations, and they, many of these organisations of course, are based on responding to being in a society where there is racial inequity. And over the years we’ve done various things together including, they supported me through a PhD and at the moment I’m doing two things with Voice for Change England. One is the Home Truths report with ACEVO. And in another piece of work I’m doing where the partners is Runnymede Trust, it’s a program called Reframing Race. So essentially we’re looking at how advocates and activists can talk more powerfully and effectively about racism and about the need for racial justice, so that we can better secure change.
Kristiana Wrixon (01:58):
Thank you. And Sufina you’re CEO of John Ellerman Foundation, and a bit of a shero of mine, being a young woman in a senior leadership role. You’re also A big advocate for equality in the charity sector. Can you tell us a little bit about your professional career, how you got to where you are now and, your kind of role with Institute of Fundraising and with ACEVO in its race equality work.
Sufina Ahmad (02:22):
Wow, that was very nice. Thank you. Um, I don’t want to kind of overstate my job title, technically a director, but, um, I’ll take CEO. That’s very kind. I mean, my career has predominantly been in the charity sector. I started off in adult with learning disability charities and working with older people before moving to the funder side of things, starting at the National Lottery Community Fund before then moving to City Bridge Trust. Then did a stint at the City of London Corporation, working in corporate strategy and kind of being outside of my comfort zone when it came to having to work on more than just civil society related matters. So recently joined Ellerman back in January this year. We are a responsive, flexible, open funder. We fund organisations with a turnover of between a hundred thousand pounds and 10 million pounds a year to do work in the arts, social action and environment. We provide core funding towards core costs. In terms of being an advocate around equity, diversity and inclusion. My kind of first foray into that formerly was through the Institute of Fundraising where I chaired the Change Collective, which was an initiative that they launched a few years ago now to think about how the fundraising profession could be more equal, diverse, and inclusive, and to try and move away from this kind of feeling of people had to be the right fit in order to do well in that profession. So, yeah, I think in terms of my career, it’s very much, um, charity sector based, and I’ve been really fortunate that in the last few years, I’ve been able to work both with the Institute of Fundraising. And since that role, I’ve also been able to work with yourselves at ACEVO with your race advisory group and kind of make this a part of what I do in the profession as well, which is great.
Kristiana Wrixon (04:07):
Thank you, both of you. We are here today to talk about the report that Voice for Change England and ACEVO are launching today. And it’s been 12 months since we started the project, but probably about two years since Sanjiv and I started talking about it or had a first meeting about it. The report to give its full title, is Home Truths: undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector. Sanjiv when we launched the project last year, you wrote a blog to accompany it and you said in that we need to change the song, not just the singer. Can you talk a bit more about what you meant by this and how that kind of led the structure of the report?
Sanjiv Lingayah (04:47):
Yeah, sure. I suppose I had been tuning in a little bit to the diversity discussion and debate. So really I do racial justice work. So it’s a bit new for me to come into the diversity agenda because it’s different from doing racial justice work, I suppose. And one of the things I was seeing just kind of by listening and reading things was that, in some ways, the term diversity kind of hid a lot or obscured a lot of the key issues that I think we need to address. So as Sufina said, you know, I’m very much of the kind of diversity equity and inclusion, and then still we have the challenge of, of what, what does that mean? And I think I noticed quite a limited debate. In some ways the debates seem to be mostly about who does the work in the charity sector, not the work itself. And I think that’s a misunderstanding of what true diversity, equity and inclusion means or does or should do. Because having worked with lots of BAME-led civil society organisation, who does the work and what the work is, are inextricably linked. And I think I’m not so interested in a charity sector that essentially does the same work, but has more black and Brown people in more senior roles. What we’re trying to ultimately, um, the charity sector ought to be a means to building a just society in sustainable environments. So I’m really interested in that kind of external way in external ways that the charity sector is going to be a force for progressing justice. So the term not just changing the singer, but changing the song is not just about replacing the personnel. It is about fundamentally rethinking what the charity sector is for and what it does. And so I wanted to make sure in doing this work and, and to ring the diversity debate, that was a centerpiece. This is not a limited project, actually, in some ways it’s quite a transformative project. If we are going to do diversity, equity and inclusion well in the sector, it really is going to transform who does the work, how it is done and what the work is.
Kristiana Wrixon (07:17):
That’s great. Sufina, does that chime with what you want to see in the sector as well?
Sufina Ahmad (07:22):
Yeah, I think that’s such a kind of compelling way of putting it to be honest. And I guess it comes to what I thought I wanted more from the report on. Firstly, I want to say a huge congratulations to all of you involved in it, but certainly to you Kristiana and Sanjiv, it’s an incredible report. I think for me, and it touches a little on what Sanjiv just spoken about. It’s kind of get our heads round and, you know, what’s already happened in the sector and what effect and impact has that had, and possibly, you know, the focus on diversity has been quite limiting, potentially not had as much impact as we might like. And so the fact that this report looks at this in terms of racial justice, social justice kind of need for the sector itself to consider the systemic inequalities and barriers that it itself sustains in order to then become more just and equitable is quite a fascinating and different dare I say, angle for this type of discussion. I think there’s an element of trying to understand where we’ve been and understanding where we are now, which, you know, the report absolutely does. I’m getting a sense of how do we get to the, where next, which I know is partly in the recommendations, but yeah, that’s, that’s some of the kind of questions I was left with having read it.
Kristiana Wrixon (08:42):
I’d love to come back and explore some of those later on in the podcast. And I think, some of what you’re both saying, and Sanjiv what you’re saying is this was, is, a partnership between a mainstream charity and a BAME-led charity. And I think obviously my learning as a, as a white person, I think in the last couple of years come to huge amounts. But I think to an extent, obviously, Sanjiv you were there at the very beginning of this project and, you know, that’s something that I hope ACEVO can bring as a white-led organisation that is trying to change how it views and sees diversity. Because quite honestly, I think when ACEVO started working on this a few years ago, I did think of diversity and inclusion in terms of numbers and not in terms of culture. And didn’t really think of it in terms of changing the work, which I think is now absolutely the root of what the focus should be, changing the root in the work of how we do things. So coming on to the report itself. So just to talk a little bit about numbers quickly, we had just under 500 responses to our online survey. And then we did 24 in-depth interviews,13 with charity leaders, two BAME leaders and 11 white leaders, and then some more in-depth interviews with BAME charity staff. And we also did two round tables, one with race justice activists, and one with what we’ve called system shapers, so people who are funders or influencers or membership groups like ACEVO. It was a huge amount of data there. And we were quite surprised weren’t we Sanjiv with the number of people who responded to the online survey?
Sanjiv Lingayah (10:14):
I think I said at one point, if we had a hundred responses, that would be great. We ended up getting near 500 detailed ones. That was fantastic. So it really added to the richness of things. It was a lot of data and, um, quite challenging, I think to, to hear some of those stories that we, you know, we recognize that it isn’t a, a random sample of BAME people in the charity sector. So that does have implications for the, uh, findings, but even so it was a very rich and textured data set and people were really honest. We also recognize that it’s hard for some people to talk about these issues that are very painful and harmful. Certainly I’m immensely grateful for all of those people who did fill out the survey. I think it’s one of the richest pieces of data that we have about BAME people in the charity sector.
Kristiana Wrixon (11:11):
Yeah, absolutely. A question to both of you. Was there anything, when you read the report in terms of the findings that we pulled out that you found particularly surprising or shocking, or perhaps if not, something that stood out to you as a key thing, there was a challenge or a key takeaway that you think people should focus on.
Sufina Ahmad (11:31):
Just in terms of what surprised me, I was really struck by one, the actual way in which the report was written. So there was a real kind of frankness and a real honesty to it. And I think that seeing that come from organisations like Voice for Change England, and ACEVO is really powerful and necessary. So I think that the absolute kind of style and way in which it was written is probably unlike a lot of this type of literature that I’ve seen before. And in terms of things that surprised me as well… because it was so kind of direct in terms of what it was that you were describing and analyzing, it’s actually quite difficult to read about people’s experiences, but also to read about the responses that you’re getting from different leaders and how they’re managing the questions that you’re asking of them. So that in itself is quite, um, an unusual reaction I ended up having to reading the report because normally, they’re sanitized in a negative way, but normally you don’t see that kind of rawness.
Sanjiv Lingayah (12:36):
Yes. And that was one of the things that we were, I think all the team, because Maisie is the other author as well from ACEVO, I think we’re all keen to be as direct and honest as possible. And I should say as well, some of the interviews, I think at one point I did flag with Kristiana, I was getting some battle fatigue doing the interviews because it’s so hard to listen to some of those stories as well, but that is the reality. And I think one thing that I’ve learned, if you want it to change, you have to be real at least. There was something as well about honouring those especially kind of BAME people who came forward and contributed. We were all very mindful of doing that. In terms of surprises, I try and be a good researcher and not have too many expectations, but I am also an advocate for change as well. I’ll start with a positive thing because I often go more with the negative side. So, um, it’s interesting. I think there were 10% of respondents that say that their ethnicity had helped them in the charity sector. So given the numbers of people responding that’s 40 odd, or maybe closer to 50 people, and I would really like to know what that is about I suppose. And it could be, it could be a number of things, but perhaps they are working in particularly DEI forward organisations, or organisations really ahead of the game on diversity, equity and inclusion. They might be just really optimistic and optimism is okay quite often needed. But I was quite surprised by that. And then I suppose the other thing I want to flag up is I’m not sure if it’s surprising or not, but interesting, nonetheless, so basically half of our respondents thought that they had to either tone down or be on their best behaviour in order to get by and get on in the sector. Yeah, that’s, that’s very troubling because it means that people can’t be who they are or aren’t allowed to be who they are. And in the report, there’s a reference to a report by American academic on the concept of covering and emotional labour it takes to pretend to be someone you are not. I think that’s slightly unseen costs. So we know that there were lots of BAME folk exiting, and probably not a lot of BAME folk, not coming into the sector in the first place, but there’s even damage around just being in, and trying to navigate the sector. That, that was kind of fascinating to me and kind of, and, um, flagged up in a way that I hadn’t thought about as strongly before. The collateral damage, the human cost of just being oneself.
Kristiana Wrixon (15:29):
The point around covering and feeling like they have to tone down their behaviour I think, just the way that the question was framed, I think it was particularly stark. And when I think about one of the statistics that particularly stood out for me was, we asked people who was responsible for the racism they received in the charity sector. And I think – and this is probably again, me trying to sanitize the experiences, or intellectualize them away from a sector that I thought that we’d have bigger problems with say corporate partners for fundraisers or external people we’re working with. But by far and away, the people who are perpetrating the racism were senior leadership within the organisation that the individual worked for and senior leadership in partner charities, and that really struck me as, showing me kind of how big a challenge is that it goes to the very top. And that’s why people say leadership is needed on boards to change this because it’s directly the behaviour of leaders that’s causing this harm. So I hope that the report is engaged with in that way by leaders, but maybe that was less perhaps surprising for both of you, or did that one when you saw it Sanjiv for that jump out as wrong?
Sanjiv Lingayah (16:45):
Certainly makes sense and one of the things we noticed through the data is there are problems in reporting racism as well. So people feeling punished by the hierarchy in organisations for calling out racism. I think a number of authors have talked about this idea where it’s the person calling out racism that becomes the problem, not racism itself. Yeah, so certainly I was expecting leadership to be in some way, implicated. You’re right to say, Kristiana, this is quite a direct connection. And I think that is troubling. I think perhaps one of the things that we’ve talked about and it’s in the report as well, is that racism is really ordinary. It’s rather pervasive. It’s in sectors that aim to do good. It’s a deep mindset. And we’re all swimming in the same ocean where kind of racism is around. So in some ways perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. I think the other thing is what it also tells me. I would say that the in depth interviews with some of the charity leaders reveal as well, is that some leaders have displayed defensiveness, white fragility. So the very mention of racism is, is something that closes them down and leads to defensiveness and resistance and pushback. That is at play as well. But also our research reveals that there’s so much more work that some white charity leaders just have to do in engaging with the subject matter, thinking about how they are situated in a racist system and also to some extent the investment they have in that system. And I think it’s really hard to unravel that. That is a lot of work, and I think we have to expect and demand from our leaders that they do the work.
Kristiana Wrixon (18:43):
Sufina do you have any reflections on those points?
Sufina Ahmad (18:46):
Not a huge amount to add. I think all I would say is that there’s so much that seems to have escaped people’s attention about the subject and this issue that inevitably I think it is far more prevalent at all levels than any of us realize which this report helps to demonstrate. You know, I’m sure there’s lots of positive stories, but you cannot escape the fact that the research highlights so clearly that at all levels, including a leadership level where it is as unacceptable as it is at any level, this is happening. And I think it is partly because we don’t really understand what racism is as a society, that is perhaps as stark or obvious as it comes through in this report.
Kristiana Wrixon (19:30):
So if we move to a discussion on language, which we touched on before. We use the term, BAME in the report, which stands for black and minority ethnic, but it’s not a term that many people would use to describe themselves. Could you speak a bit about why we decided to use it and perhaps also about the use of the term minoritized instead of minority?
Sanjiv Lingayah (19:52):
Yes. So it’s Black, Asian Minoritized ethnic and it’s really, it’s largely a census term that scoops up, I think it’s about 17 or 18 ethnic groups, essentially everyone who’s outside of the category, or self identifies outside the category of white British. So it’s not great language. It is, as you say, it’s not the language of self-identification. So I think it’s really problematic. I think some of the alternatives are difficult too, obviously there’s things like people of colour, ethnic minorities. So I think there is no easy kind of catch all. What I would say is that I would use another term or prefer another term, but I’ll tell you about that in a minute. And if I don’t please remind me, but the reason why we use BAME in the report is because we wanted to highlight the experiences of a large set of different populations who exist beyond the category of white British. If you’re trying to do an aggregate report I think it’s quite hard to not use some aggregating term. The term I prefer and I’ve used elsewhere is racialized and minoritized. The ‘ed’s’ on the end of both of those are quite important. So race doesn’t exist. You know, it’s, it’s made up by humans to order the world in a certain way. So the term racialized indicates that something is being imposed on certain populations, in order to do work, which is largely around constraining freedom and opportunity. And minoritised is the same because well, mathematically in the UK, there are more white British people than exist not in that category, but the reason why we use minoritized in our version of BAME rather than minority is again, to indicate a process that is happening in order to ‘other’ people and often to problematize and make a problem of certain populations. Yeah, it is tricky. And the other, I suppose, one of the reasons, well, I didn’t push racialised andminoritized in this report is essentially because of some of the audience at least, that we want to reach, kind of…. BAME is something that people have heard about. I think the report asks people to do a lot of work. So engaging with white fragility to think about racism as a system that is pervasive and harmful, there’s a lot of work. So sometimes I think one maybe uses language that is imperfect, but allows you to kind of make, make the point.
Kristiana Wrixon (22:38):
Yeah, I think we talked in the report about, not in depth, but we’ve definitely touched on colonialism and paternalism and I think people, many people in the sector would not have given any thought as to how those two concepts actually built in today’s charity sector. We were quite conscious about using the term racism rather than bias, or sometimes people say ‘racially charged’ or ‘racially infused’ to kind of soften the term racism. And I think that’s a fact that felt quite an important thing to, to include in the report and in the title, in fact.
Sanjiv Lingayah (23:10):
I would echo that and because a lot of the diversity reports exclude the word racism and I noticed, I did a quick word count in our report and we mentioned it 191 times. Yeah. So I have, I have tried to balance out some of the previous failings. But the thing about racism as well, what’s kind of interesting about that is I think it’s simultaneously something that we make too much of and do too little about. So when, I mean, make too much of, of course it’s, it is a kind of terrible thing, but it’s so hyped and normalized that people could even in the charity sector racism could exist, but actually it is there, it’s there it’s a very everyday phenomenon just like sexism is. So in some ways I think we just really need people to engage with that as a concept. And of course it’s something we do too little about because in some ways there’s quite a silencing atmosphere about the discussion of racist or whatever that’s someone putting racism in an institution or talking about it in a sector more generally we have to do it in a hushed tone. Yeah. So I think language really, really matters. And I do realize that especially around the term BAME that will be a bit problematic for some, hopefully people will go with us.
Kristiana Wrixon (24:32):
Sufina, any thoughts around language, either how it’s used in the report or language that you use yourself when talking about racism and BAME?
Sufina Ahmad (24:40):
So super supportive of the language that is used. I think that it is really difficult to get language right. And kind of find the terminology that works for everyone, particularly people who are kind of fighting the good fight on this day in day out. And everyone is kind of having to address so much in that regard. For me, it comes down to intention and in reading the report, you can see so clearly what the intention behind the language that’s being used is. And for that reason, it makes it a lot easier to kind of not get distracted as Sanjiv says, because there’s a, you know, a bigger picture in there as well
Kristiana Wrixon (25:18):
To look back at kind of BAME, as you said, Sanjiv, it’s like 17 or 18 groupings, artificially made groupings, put together and we’re recording this a week and a half after the death of George Floyd in America, which led to protests, civil rights and justice. And the experiences in the report we touch on, but we don’t go into detail about, the experiences of people are different within that BAME structure. And they’re all racialized in different ways. Is there any kind of reflections or thoughts either of you have on that, that you want to share?
Sanjiv Lingayah (25:59):
I think that’s absolutely correct that different populations are racialized in different ways and harmed in different ways and punished in different ways. One of the things that I’d be keen to do in the future, and it is in the recommendations is to do further work with more specific, racialised groups about particular experiences in the charity sector. As you say, Kristiana, we scratched the surface of this a little bit, but, um, but we work kind of constrained just by the nature of the type of survey that we did and so on, but we scratch the surface of gender and look at how that seems to play out in terms of negative experiences in the charity sector. Um, we look at a little bit, I think there’s one kind of anti-black racism, around notions of, uh, intellectual inferiority, which is one mode of racism that was identified in the research and, and, you know, just think about some of the interviews that I did with a BAME charity folk. At least a couple of the black women talking to me about being stereotyped as angry, that, that, that kind of old trope, the angry black woman. And, and again, it’s used as a silencing mechanism. It is absolutely right, the people that are differently racialized. And we talk about doing some kind of barometer survey for BAME folk in the charity sector as part of the follow up work. And there are at least I’d hope that we might be able to zoom in a little bit more on specific experiences because those really, those really do matter.
Sufina Ahmad (27:47):
Yeah, absolutely. Would echo so much of that. I think the other points I’d make would be that ultimately I do think that there is a real spectrum of disadvantage and marginalization that occurs based on so many different factors in terms of which category you’ve ended up falling into, how that then might intersect with your class, your postcode, your gender, your ability, or disability or whatever it might be. And so I think that, you know, we talk a lot about lived experience in the sector, and I think it’s really important to bring lived experience and user voice into everything that we do, but we have to be so mindful of the fact that everyone’s lived experiences ultimately quite unique and representative first and foremost of them as an individual, then to an extent of whatever label they might be representing in that moment. But I think it is really important to recognise that this is a huge spectrum of experience and the ways in which it intersects with other labels that people might have can further widen the kind of extent of the experience that people have.
Kristiana Wrixon (28:53):
I think one of the things that Sanjiv was saying, that we’ve scratched in this report, and I think is certainly an area where we could look to go into more depth in the future is understanding or, or putting out some of that intersectionality a bit more and what that looks like. And I think people use the term racism to kind of encompass all experiences. And, but then if you’re asked to name the stereotype of a particular group of people that becomes easy and similarly the pandemic and East Asian people and Chinese people, they’re kind of called the ‘model minority’, I think is the phrase that’s used, b ut since the lockdown began, I think there’s been a threefold increase in racism towards people who are East Asian. So how are we checking in with those people in the charity sector and how does that present in the workplace? And what does that look like? And similarly, you know, with the kind of trauma that is being put on our screens and our timelines and being discussed in the media, how are we supporting our black colleagues at the moment through that format? Is that something that we need to live as people who live and work in the charity section or something that can just be something we read about and intellectualize? I don’t know if that makes sense to either of you.
Sanjiv Lingayah (30:03):
I think I agree with that. I just want to come back to something that Sufina was talking about, which is just recognizing how we are all differently situated in society. And there are multiple different aspects to that, you know, so I’m a Mauritian boy from Tottenham and all of that has certain implications about kind of education I received, places I go to, places I don’t go to and so on. And I think as Sufina says, that’s quite unique in some ways. And I think part of the balance around doing racial justice or anti- racism work is to recognize the uniqueness of how people are situated, but also to look for the common aspects in struggles so that we can build the power of our, our movement to do work around racism as well. So there’s something about how do you kind of hold at the same time, the idea of what does racism do to us as individuals situated in different ways, but also what are we going to do about racism and the work that we can collectively do? Particularly when I think about gender, race and class, I could see how those issues can compound to multiply punish certain groups. Sometimes it’s hard to, I find to kind of navigate how we talk about that. And I think in this report, I think we did make the decision to kind of recognize and express kind of the affinity with other struggles, but it’s not always easy to operationalize that. And I just think about one of the factors of this report is it has allowed me to do… ask to do a couple of things which is to talk very openly and explicitly about racism and to talk about white privilege or the privileges that can accrue because one is white and sometimes actually through an intersectional frame that’s harder to do because the added layers to that produces.
Sufina Ahmad (32:00):
To be honest, I think that when it comes to a conversation on racism, it’s so easy to lose the focus on it, even when you’re there to talk about one thing. Somehow, I’m sure you’ve been in a similar situation, many times Sanjiv and Kristiana, where you started talking about racism and somehow you end up talking about something else. And so I think is really important to have a relentless focus on that in the report. And I do think, you know, it’s absolutely referenced that this is, is intersectional, of course, but no, I completely agree. I think it’s important to have that focus because otherwise it’s so easy for it to be distracted away from.
Kristiana Wrixon (32:37):
I think when ACEVO first started working on…. Saying that we wanted to explicitly work on race and we had a round table, a number of BAME participants were saying, it has to be explicitly about race because otherwise it gets called into other more comfortable areas of inclusion. And by and large, I think I’ve, I’ve read studies that say that when you talk about diversitymore generally it’s white women who benefit the most and progress towards justice isn’t made with other groups that experience oppression. Just to move on to the recommendations, there are, there are 15 recommendations in the report, which kind of span individual action to policy and process. Are there any, when you’ve read them, that you thought were particularly important to creating change? And also perhaps Sanjiv from your perspective, looking back, is there anything you wish we’d included, but we didn’t? And Sufina, anything that you think should have been pulled out that wasn’t?
Sufina Ahmad (33:30):
So, first of all, I really like the framing. I like the fact that the recommendations are broken down into what the sector can do, what organisations specifically can do. And then the roles and responsibility of CEOs and senior leaders. I think it’s important to be very explicit about who needs to do what. Maybe it’s just a bit of unnecessary pessimism, I think it will be really hard to get a lot of this adopted. I think it’s necessary. And I’m sure that it’s the right organisations to be leading the charge. I think ACEVO and Voice for Change England have credibility and sway in the sector. So it’s good to hear these recommendations coming from you. I think even that first recommendation of redefine racism as ordinary, systemic and institutional, when you unpack that, having read the whole report, that is a huge recommendation right there, and you’re only on number one. I just think there’s an element of… these are necessarily ambitious, but they are ambitious. I love the framing of them. I think that they will be hard to see real adoption of, in the kind of immediate term. But I do believe that they’re very much feasible and necessary recommendations.
Sanjiv Lingayah (34:47):
You’re right. The, um, there is a lot in the recommendations. I think it’s ambitious. I know, thinking about, well, how do we do the work? I was on a panel at a civil society event in January of this year. And one of the things that I said there, which I think is still correct is: what does critical mass mean in order to get things moving? Like what, what, what is it enough to begin to, to shift things significantly? I don’t know the answer, but I’m not expecting that every organisation will do this by any means. But I think one of the things I was thinking about is that there, there has been relatively little consequence for organisations not to move meaningfully on diversity, equity and inclusion. We need to get consequence back in the game. And I think I really do like some of the work that #CharitySoWhite has done really shining a light on some of the contradictions that exist in the charity sector about talking about higher values, but not necessarily upholding them. Um, so I think we need to get enough movement on these recommendations that it becomes consequential to not be moving. In terms of, in terms of specific recommendations. One of the things that I am very keen on organisation, mainstream charitable organisations to talk about is what are your race equity goals? I think that is really significant because I think many organisations have been silent on, on that. And I think we need them to talk about that. And one of the things emerged in the research was the idea that some white leaders, some white-led organisations are feeling nervous about getting things wrong, and I think that’s okay, but some of the other recommendations give guidance on the work that people could do.
Sufina Ahmad (36:54):
Can I add, I’ve obviously forgotten the most obvious set of recommendations, which was funders. So love that framing too. To be honest, I think those two recommendations are really, uh, solid. Um, the points I make just briefly are that obviously there are a huge range of statutory, non-statutory, private investors into civil society. And so I think this kind of feeds into some thinking that needs to happen in the sector around where the money comes from and where it goes and how we address the fact that that may be driven by issues as outlined in the report itself. And then just on a kind of smaller, additional point. You know, I think it is important that funders use their role as not just giving the money away, but trying to work with the organisations it gives money away to, to think about how best to spend that money, but it’s like anywhere in the sector, we’re not necessarily the experts and we’re not necessarily best placed to do that very well, but it is obviously in the trust and foundation space and in the funder space, it’s definitely a conversation. And that’s referenced in the report in terms of the work that the Association of Charitable Foundations is doing around diversity, equity and inclusion and the Grant Givers movement. So I think that there are, you know, lots of, kind of flowers that are being planted here. But I think like, every part of the sector, it’s got a ways to go on this.
Sanjiv Lingayah (38:18):
Can I just add one thing? So I think that’s absolutely right and really helpful. I think it’s interesting in this pandemic moment as well, you noticed Sufina, I’m sure you’re involved in lots of conversations with other funders about the disproportional impacts on BAME lives and livelihoods as well. There are, I know, lots of conversations that are happening amongst funders, certainly to talk about crisis money. I think part of the challenge is how do we ensure that as we begin to rebuild that, uh, racial equity is fundamental to that rebuild and clearly funders are thinking about that, but they need to step up. I’m inviting them to step up
Kristiana Wrixon (39:10):
Today I read an article, that three BAME advisors to the National Equality Trust stepped down because they didn’t… their suggestions and their expertise wasn’t being taken seriously. So I think we can’t just assume that when we build back better, that we will without consciously changing how we operate and how we work. So I think that throws that into sharp relief too. And just kind of, a kind of final what’s next? ACEVO and Voice for Change would like to work together. Again, it’s a shameless plug in it that we’ll need some more money to carry on the work, but also that I would love to, I would love to work with a bigger coalition of organisations, especially BAME-led organisations on this work. I think the key is around accountability because you know, we’re very conscious of that even though yeah, I’m definitely very proud of the report and I think it’s necessary and I’m really pleased with how it’s framed, but also I know it is a report and action has to follow and I want to play a role. I want ACEVO to play a role in making sure that action is followed through and that there is accountability because, you know, in the report I think it was 61, 60, 61% of people had raised concerns with their senior leadership team, but only 20% of those felt that those complaints have been dealt with. There’s clearly an accountability issue in the sector as well. So I think that’s really important. Any final thoughts from either of you two?
Sanjiv Lingayah (40:37):
I mean, I would certainly say that the next thing really is about action. Obviously, ACEVO is well placed with its membership, certainly at Voice for Change we are committed to doing this work and to me, the next phase is definitely about implementation. And how do we think imaginatively about moving on various of the different elements in the recommendations? Um, when I did the first ACEVO blog, um, our major goal was for this not to be just another diversity report. And I think we have framed it well and hopefully honoured the people who have contributed and done justice to their experiences. But if there’s not follow up action and implementation, then we will be one of those pile of diversity, equity and inclusion reports. And I’m very, very committed to not making that the case.
Sufina Ahmad (41:38):
I just really want to say a huge congratulations to all for pulling this together. It’s definitely not just another diversity report. Coming back to the point I made towards the beginning around where we’ve been to, where we need to get to. And I think the far point I would say, and, you know, not withstanding the points you’ve made already so well about accountability and making action happen. But I would just say that when I joined the sector formally in 2009, this is not a report I would have ever seen. And so there is something in that in itself, the fact that a report like this exists is important.
Kristiana Wrixon (42:17):
Thank you. And a big thank you as well to #CharitySoWhite, who I think have pushed forwards this discussion and the how we talk about racism. I think at the beginning of the report, I had some thoughts that this would be the first time a mainstream organisation engaged in this way, but I think the work that #CharitySoWhite have been doing to make, to engage with mainstream organisations to be more progressive in how they approach race equity has really changed the landscape. So that’s big thank you to them as well.
Sanjiv Lingayah (42:48):
Thank you Sufina for all your points, really constructive, really helpful.
Sufina Ahmad (42:53):
No, I’m really pleased to be here. Thank you. I think I’m, yeah, somewhat more in a personal capacity than my role, perhaps. It’s hard to say at the moment when I’m so new, but um, yeah, really pleased to be here.