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Leadership Worth Sharing: Warm Words, Cold Comfort special

In this special episode of our podcast Leadership Worth Sharing, ACEVO’s head of influencing Roberta Fusco talks to Sanjiv Lingayah, author of the Home Truths report, and Frances Brown, governance and EDI specialist, about the latest output of the Home Truths 2 programme: the Warm Words, Cold Comfort report.


Roberta Fusco  00:00

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this podcast. I’m Roberta Fusco. I’m head of influencing at ACEVO and I’m joined by Sanjiv Lingayah, who is the author of Home Truths. And the report that we’re discussing today, which is Warm Words, Cold Comfort. And by Frances Brown, who is an all round governance expert, who has strayed into the EDI space, she says more out of necessity than design but is joining us today on the podcast to give her insights and valuable wisdom on the survey. So, I’m going to tell you a little bit about the Warm Words Cold Comfort report to set the scene and then I’m going to pass over to my colleagues, Sanjiv and Frances to answer a few questions. So hopefully, those of you listening to the podcast will have had a look at the report will have kind of looked through the recommendations. It’s a hard hitting report, we called it Warm Words Cold Comfort to pretty much explain, it does what it says on the tin. It is the first major output of the Home Truths 2 programme, the programme designed to offer solutions to the problem uncovered or brought to light through Home Truths, the first report which uncovered that civil society has a racism problem. It won’t be news to many of us that that’s still the case. However, the survey that we ran in the summer of 2023, in which the report is based, showed that the same problem still exist. Again, perhaps not much of a surprise. So hence the title Warm Words Cold Comfort. Home Truths 2 programme, again, you can find out more about it on the ACEVO website So the programme is, as I said about finding solutions. And the results of the survey are informing our work throughout Home Truths 2. So Sanjiv I’m going to come to you first if that’s okay, in this in this cosy fireside chat that we’re having. Could you tell us a bit about the background toHome Truths 2 as you see it? And about the survey? How did the survey come about?

Sanjiv Lingayah  02:23

Yeah, thanks Roberta and nice to be able to kind of share some thoughts on the report. Back in about 2019, we did the first Home Truths survey. And about 500 Black and minoritized ethnic people responded to that survey. And that survey was really set up to understand the experience and treatment of black minoritized ethnic people in civil society. So it looked at the degree to which people felt that they could be themselves, that they were supported. But also looked at other elements, which is asking people if they felt over scrutinised, harshly judged compared to white counterparts and so on. So the first Home Truths survey, which informed the Home Truths report, which came out in 2020, was very much about what was it like for our survey respondents in 2019/2020 to be inside civil society. And as you say, what that very much highlighted was that the way civil society doesn’t, it does have a lack of diversity. But what the conclusion from that report suggested was, it doesn’t have a diversity problem, it has a racism problem, because that’s what the experience of our 500 participants are very much telling us. So fast forward onto their Home Truths 2. Ff Home Truths was about the problems of racism in civil society, I think very much for Home Truths 2 which we’ve kind of started working on in the last year or so was very much about, ok so we have identified and laid down, codified if you like the nature of the problem. And as you say, Roberta, and I’m sure this is true for Frances as well as some of the testimony in the first Home Truths survey will not be a surprise to many of us, but it was really interesting that it seemed to be a surprise for lots of civil society. And it’s worth saying that we launched Home Truths, the first report in the summer of 2020. And so if we kind of just turn back the clock a bit. George Floyd is murdered towards the end May 2020, you’ve got COVID with a disproportionate impact on black and minoritized ethnic populations and you’ve got campaigning from obviously, this kind of upsurge and Black Lives Matter. And in the UK, especially there are campaigners like charity so white which are pointing to this, this gap between the so called kind of do gooding of civil society, and actually the kind of on the ground reality in relation to race and racism. So we have all of that in the background of the first report. As the second report, which what we’re trying to do with this second chance of working Home Truths 2, and this is reflected in a survey is not only to think about how is it to be in civil society if you’re black, or minoritized ethnic person, but what are the what is civil society doing to address these problems? The survey, the second survey took place in the summer of 2023. So we’re three years on from COVID, Black Lives Matter, charity so white, and so on. So very much the idea was, can we identify what’s happening? What solutions are being implemented? Or are we finding that actually, there’s a lot of talk in civil society rather than action and changing the experience of black and minoritised ethnic people?

Roberta Fusco  06:31

We’re kind of we’re now at the stage of we’ve done enough talking about the problem, I think  in the sector, and I think that’s something that I’ve heard, as I’ve been working on Home Truths Two programme with you, Sanjeev and, and with you, Frances, when we had an initial meeting a few months ago, to kind of kick off and start exploring some themes that, you know, , we’ve done exploring the problem, and people are tired, people are tired of kind of rehearsing, going over the same things. Doing, you know, doing that hard work, really of uncovering the problem. We’ve done that people are tired, and we need to move on, we need to kind of find, think it’s really important that we try and find the hope. And I hope, you know, that’s that’s for me, what Home Truths Two is about  trying to get to a point of some action and actually extracting some hope from this, hope that things can change. And that we can, we can take tangible action. So Frances, I’m going to come to you next. And feel free to introduce yourself, I know I did a short introduction for you beginning but, tell our listeners, everything you’d like them to know about you. But I’d like you to let me know of any reflections that you had on the first Home Truth report. And where you feel that we are now in civil society and this survey, what light does that shed? What do you think we need to do next?

Frances Brown  07:54

So I’ve worked in civil society for 25 plus years, so I’ve been around a long time. And even then that was quite interesting, because I came from a background of working in local authority and other places, which were much more diverse. So I think I was surprised at the lack of diversity, when I came into the into the sector, particularly given that lots of us are drawn by the values of the organisation and what they’re about. And, and so when we come into those spaces, you just kind of expect it to be more diverse than it is. So I’ve worked in governance for most of that time. So I’ve been a head of governance at a number of organisations. And as you said, I’ve kind of by necessity, found myself in the EDI space, particularly around anti racism, because lots of organisations haven’t had EDI leads and haven’t had that kind of dialogue. And I obviously realised that working at a governance level with the board and SMT, I’m in a position to try and get things onto the agenda and to make those conversations happen. So that’s kind of the background I  have come into this. So my reflections on the first Home Truths? Well, first, it was the boldness and just stating very openly that there’s a racism problem in the sector. It’s just talked about, but it was always kind of I think skirted around that, you know, yes, we know we’ve got some diversity issues. Yes, we know that we could do better, but to actually openly state that there was a racism problem was was quite illuminating. The timing, obviously, nobody could have predicted the timing. But obviously, that created a better sense of will people get this or people now understand where we’re coming from? When we talk about what racism is. And then that leads to the fact that the types of question that Sanjeev had asked in that survey, made the reality of what racism looks like real. People oftentimes think that you know acts of racism are some really significant overt act of racism that somebody’s experience in an organisation, rather than the drip drip undermining that happens through everyday experiences and microaggressions. So I thought it was really helpful that it came out at that time, and it came out also at a time when, you know, I was feeling quite disenchanted in the sector, because of those kinds of things. Because oftentimes, your experiences and I think this is something for lots of people to realise is that if you are from a black or minoritized ethnic community, racism isn’t the first place you go to if you feel you’re not being treated well. Oftentimes, you go through a process of trying to work out what is it? What is what, you know, why is this happening? Until you eliminate everything else, and you think, Well, I can’t see that there’s anything else but this. And it’s not often that we get a side by side comparison, as I did in my case, which is, if it’s my view, you’d look at it this way. But if it’s somebody else’s view, the same view, you treat it differently, and we don’t always get those side by side comparisons. But that was my wake up call that, okay, what I’m feeling and sensing is real. And it was interesting, therefore, to see the report and to see how that was reflected across the sector, particularly when you’re in a space, which is not very diverse, and you don’t often get to have those conversations with other individuals.

Frances Brown  08:11

So it’s like almost a sense of kind of validation.

Frances Brown  11:33

Yeah, there was a sense that, yeah, my experiences are being validated, they’re being heard for the first time. And, and they’re being spoken to, in a way that I don’t get when I raise my concerns in my organisation.

Roberta Fusco  11:47

I think that’s why it’s so powerful. And we know how powerful that kind of sense of being seen being heard being validated, can be. So hopefully, where we are, now is, with Home Truths Two is kind of moving, moving that on towards some solutions, like we know this, we just need to kind of move on. So kind of moving on to the Home Truths Two survey that we did in the summer that the one on which the Warm Words report is based. Was there anything particularly shocking or surprising, to you Sanjiv from that survey, what you know, what stood out to you.

Sanjiv Lingayah  12:26

Just maybe just to pick up first on something that Frances said, I mean, there’s a kind of cruel irony isn’t there that it takes black or minoritized  or ethnic people to die disproportionately from COVID? I don’t know if you remember, so at the beginning, we used to have the faces of people who were dying, because you know, the numbers were all enough to do that and just kind of say, oh, you know, there’s a pattern here. And similarly, you know, I like me, Frances got a lot of speaking requests after, like Black Lives Matter and kind of murder of George Floyd himself. One of the things that I would always say is that, let’s think about what it has taken to stimulate this interest. It requires, like people to die or a black man, in this case, very, very hyper visibly, if that wasn’t recorded, if we didn’t have that technology, or if they’ve managed to get him into the back of the police car, which they were trying to do, and him as a kind of formerly incarcerated man, and you know, and a claustrophobic man, that was a horrific prospect for him. You know, a lot of these conversations wouldn’t be happening. So I do think it’s really important to just to note that, and I kind of offered people, you know, when I was engaging with people who asked me to come into, I kind of tried to give that very kind of uncomfortable truth back to people, because I think the underlying issues were no different. Like the the attention was focused, and it takes, you know, kind of horrific violence to do that.  In terms of this survey, so I think, Roberta at the beginning, you mentioned this kind of fatigue or kind of tiredness that people are hearing, understanding the problem, but where is the movement? So one of the interesting things I think in our second survey, which is running kind of  summer of last year, we’ve got about 130- 140 respondents. Now, first survey in 2019, we got 500. Now, that’s partly a context thing.  Kind of Charity So White was you know, kind of very active and they and they put their weight behind our original survey and that brought people but I think even in that kind of 2019 period, there was a kind of sense that, you know, we have to move things and we can move things and you know, the kind of campaigning community the kind of racial justice community kind of black or minoritized ethnic people  inside civil society were sensing that there’s kind of possibility. Now, obviously with Home Truths Two our work is to try and galvanise energy, create impetus and so on. And I think that that is an important thing. I think the other thing to say is, and we found this in the first survey, is that the process of reporting racism is still really unproductive and rather damaging on black or minoritised ethnic people . So what what we seem to be finding is that when people raise issues of racism, to some extent, they become the problem. And I think that the survey suggests that only 16% of those who raise concerns were satisfied with the institutional response, compared to 64%, who are dissatisfied. So there’s something about how civil society is holding these issues that are still really problematic. I think there’s a lot of kind of fight, flight or freeze responses, you know, there’s pushback, we clearly can’t make progress towards anti racism, embrace equity in these circumstances, we need to find more productive ways to handle complaints to take them seriously to believe people and to make progress.

Roberta Fusco  16:30

Yes, it’s quite shocking. Frances, any kind of key things that you want to draw out at this level. We are going to go into some of the killer stats in a minute, but anything kind of overall that stood out for you.

Frances Brown  16:41

I mean, obviously, the you know, the forms of racism and the level of racism experienced hadn’t particularly shifted, but I can definitely empathise with the the fears around reporting. And I think there’s something about how we centre, you know, who’s centred in these conversations. And it’s quite interesting that when I’m having conversations with organisations and doing training with organisations, who ends up being centred is white staff, white attendees. So oftentimes, we’re talking about microaggressions, the conversations or lean towards their experience, or their fear of saying the wrong thing and doing the wrong thing, rather than the impact on the person who receives a microaggression. And that’s a constant theme. And what’s interesting is because I know a lot of organisations have done work to try to do training and to build much more awareness and unconscious bias, and also all manner of conversations have been held. But yet, there’s always “we need more training”. And there’s and there’s a defensiveness behind it, “well, we can’t really engage with this conversation properly until we have more training”. And it doesn’t necessarily take enough account of personal responsibility. This is a societal issue, not just an organisational issue. It’s more prevalent maybe in our  sector. And I think some of that has to do with race and class. That centering means that the fatigue that you’re describing –  you know, I did a session recently, and a black member of staff who spoke up was, you know, spoke very openly, like, “I’m just tired of having these conversations, I don’t really feel comfortable being here, having these conversations”. And so the very people that we’re trying to centre this on, and the very people that we’re trying to reach and improve things for are disengaging from the conversation, because it doesn’t feel like enough has been done. And it’s just more talk. And I’m not going to see any action. And so for me that the moment was quite prevalent in my mind is not just how do we get leaders to accept their role in all of this? But how do we reengage black and minoritized ethnic communities with a sense of hopefulness given what they’ve seen in what they’ve experienced? Because a lot of these conversations are really traumatising.

Roberta Fusco  19:15

Yeah, I can appreciate that.  It’s going over and over ground and continuing those aggressions. And for me, there’s something that comes out from all of this about about comfort, you know, who’s comfort are we prioritising and who’s discomfort do we accept as – well, that’s okay. So okay, for that, that’s where the discomfort has to be. And that balance, I think, has to has to really shift. White leaders, white people probably need to get uncomfortable,  I say need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, but need to be uncomfortable. That’s not an easy place to be, but that’s how it’s been for many others. Yeah, thanks, Frances. That’s led me to reflect

Frances Brown  19:57

And can I just add to that, also, the thing I thought that the report spoke to really well was the personal impact that black and minoritized staff and people working in the sector are experiencing, and how that’s often exacerbated by the drive for change.

Sanjiv Lingayah  20:15

You know, we talk a lot about self care, don’t we, and actually, if one is exposed to the harm of racisms, actually, taking a step back is, is a completely understandable thing to do, because people are trying sometimes just to get by, not even get on, you know, and it comes through very much in some of the open written responses to the survey, sometimes people are in settings in workplaces, where they’re afraid to talk about these issues, or have been constantly sidelined. And so people taking care of themselves is, you know,  as a kind of anti racist, from an anti racist perspective, that’s a perfectly that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. And I think, maybe part of that reengagement that you talk about Frances is, organisations need to show people that there’s progress rather than tell people that all we’re doing this, this and this, and I think,  that maybe that’s where the emphasis lies as well.

Roberta Fusco  21:29

And that’s hopefully, I know, we’re gonna come on to this later, that’s hopefully what we’re trying to do through Home Truths Two and through elements of that is get things moving, get things moving, so that that hope can can come back there.  What I’d like to do now is talk about some of the killer stats, some of the kind of the deeper dive into the data,  the headline things that we put in the press release, but also the things that kind of really, I think, really stand out. So the first one I want to talk about is the big number that always  gets a lot of attention, and rightly so. And that kind of gets to the nub of the issue is that 77% of respondents to the Home Truths Two survey that we carried out in the summer, have experienced or witnessed racism in the last five years. 77% ,probably on the one hand, we talked before about how that’s not a surprise, but given all the attention that there has been still 77%. So, Frances, you’ve talked about the micro aggressions, that it’s not always you know, you don’t always go to racism as that’s  what it is, you have to go through a process of elimination. Is it me, is it this, is it that. But 77%? How does that land with you?

Frances Brown  22:41

There’s not anybody that I’ve spoken to who’s from a black or minoritised ethnic community who hasn’t experienced it. So 77% probably sounds like it’s a big number, but it’s actually probably quite small. That’s not including the things that people say, “Well, I can’t necessarily talk about that as a incident of racism, because I’m not sure”  but you know, but when we start to take, you know, acts of micro aggression, and over scrutiny, and all of those things into into account, that big figure starts to feel quite small.

Roberta Fusco  23:15

Quite possibly an underestimation because of that, drawing back from acknowledging something as racism or wanting to attribute the word to it.

Sanjiv Lingayah  23:25

I think that’s an important point, because I think people aren’t necessarily trying to inflate, you know, trying to kind of lump everything into the box of racism, because, you know, people are, you know, are thoughtful and reflective and kind of don’t , as you suggest, Frances, and I think that’s a really helpful insight that people aren’t always looking to, to kind of run to racism as, as the reason. I think one of the other things to say is, it’s experienced and witnessed, right. So that that’s kind of so sometimes not direct, but what people have seen, and you know,I’m sure many of us have seen things as actually, I’m trying to kind of figure out what else it could be. And it kind of clearly, it clearly looks like it, you know, this is somehow informed by kind of ideas of race. And when we think about racism, we think about kind of ideas about how, you know, racism is a, race is a nonsense concept, but it is used by humans to kind of organise human life and it’s not just saying that people are different. It’s typically there’s a hierarchy and you know, kind of white Europeans are at the top of that hierarchy and then you know, kind of, and then  it works its way down. So it’s kind of it is about the supreme premises of some groups and the kind of the fallen-ness of other groups and you know, and those ideas do permeate a lot and they get reflected in kind of thoughts and deeds and actions and harms. And so that’s what you know, I think that’s what the surveys is picking up. One thing I would say is that we made the decision to ask about the last five years. What would be interesting is, you know, what about the last two years and you know, in a way, we decided to go for five years, because that feels like a reasonable sweep. If we, if we ever do a Home Truths Three, you know, kind of maybe that will be a different five year period and that will be kind of post George Floyd’s murder, and so on. And, you know, one would hope that things move, but one couldn’t be sure. But  it’s figures, it’s data like this, that made us put  in the title “Cold Comfort”, because actually, just clearly the experience is still one where people feel squeezed, feel over scrutinised, feel either have directly experienced racism or seen it, or have having to live  in situations where they feel that they might be on the receiving end of racist harms. And which is in itself a very difficult kind of psychological space to be in, because, you know, you feel like you have to walk so carefully in the world, behave a certain way and so on. And that this is all this is all very harmful. Hence, hence the use of the term Cold Comfort.

Sanjiv Lingayah  23:25

Yeah, and one of the one of the stats I’m going to come on to is around respondents. I think we’ve got 68% of respondents felt the need to tone down their behaviour, or to be on their best behaviour in order to fit into mainstream civil society, which talks to the point that you just you just raised Sanjeev. So coming to you, Frances, it sounds like yes, you would, you would absolutely agree with that. And you probably say that that’s a potential underestimation.

Frances Brown  26:58

I mean, the reality is, we all come to work and conform to a certain degree, you know, we have our professional selves and our personal selves, and they’re not always exactly the same. So you know, I don’t want to over inflate it, because there’s always an element of that. But for obviously, back and minoritized ethnic communities, when when you reveal different things about yourself, now, it could be something simple, I used to have very long hair, very big, curly hair, which I used to tie back. And then when you come to work and your hair is out, suddenly, it’s like, oh, you’re a bit more ethnic than I thought you were because I’m very, I’m very light skinned, and can be quite ambiguous. Or being on an away day and obviously, we’re just having conversations about ourselves, and you reveal something about yourself. And then I found myself being interrogated, because I was suddenly a curiosity, you know, that insensitive questioning, I’ve revealed too much of myself. And that was like, Okay, let’s delve into this. Because this is, this is a culture that we don’t understand. And don’t get me wrong, to some extent that was okay. But then it became interrogative and then it started to make me feel like a curiosity. So I’m sure that, you know, there is a lot of conforming, to feel that you’ve got to tone down and to fit in. And also, I have to say that’s going to be different depending on the charity that you’re in. [And the culture?] Yes, some smaller, much more grassroots charities, that wouldn’t be an issue, particularly depending on the demographics that they’re working with. But if you’re if you’re talking about some of the larger mainstream organisations, they want the same cultural expectations about what looks professional as there are anywhere else. And that can have an impact.

Roberta Fusco  28:49

Yeah. And that and that speaks again, to the,  you know, the fatigue and the tiredness, that individuals might feel, you know, not only do I have to hide certain parts of myself, but I need to look a certain way. Then also take on the micro aggressions constantly. So it’s yeah, it’s no wonder that we have, we have a diversity issue and in representation, because who would want to necessarily put themselves in the way of the trauma all the time and harm all the time?

Sanjiv Lingayah  29:21

Can I just throw in just one extra thing Roberta if I may.  Just building on Frances’ point, so it is true that yeah, when we come to work, we bring our work selves. I think the additional point  that I’m picking up from this data as well is though, there’s a type of way to project being a professional and typically that’s kind of associated I think, with certain ways of being white, being middle class,  being you know, kind of “educated” in inverted commas in a certain way. So. So I think while we all release some bits at home, when we come into work, I think there’s something a little bit more pernicious in here, because I think it often it means that, you know, so what you have to do is kind of conform to a kind of idea of what it means to be white and respectable. And that’s how to get on. And I do think that’s, that’s very harmful. Yeah. And I think over time, that’s, that’s exhausting.

Frances Brown  30:32

and I think the thing I’d want to add is that, you know, I’ve had these conversations with individuals that, you know, as somebody from a white community, you might have all sorts of different challenges than you might have to conform, and you might not be middle class, and you might have all of those things, but all those things are true. But there are additional barriers and hurdles. And expectations, if you’re coming from a black and minoritised ethnic community, it’s whatever you’re experiencing, it’s that ratcheted up by however much percent. And, and it is, after a while, it’s, you know, it’s completely exhausting for individuals. And also, when they do achieve, they don’t necessarily feel that they’ve achieved on their own terms, they feel they’ve had to compromise themselves in order to achieve and that in itself is undermining of your personal self.

Roberta Fusco  31:20

Another stat that we wanted to look at was a 73% of respondents feel that mainstream civil society has a racism problem. That’s in a nutshell, the issue that we’re continuing to need to address.

Sanjiv Lingayah  31:35

Yeah. And obviously, because it feeds through from what people experience, what people witness, and I think it’s a recognition of the work that is still to be done. Interestingly, and we’ll come to it a bit later, there is also hope, as well, because I think while we want to kind of centre the reality that, yes, the words are not matching up to kind of actions. What we did also find in a survey that there is hope that change is possible, as well. But the reality is in the here, and now, it’s hard to make a different kind of assessment, particularly when you when you see what our survey respondents have experienced, have seen, have understood to be how it is that they have to be in order to kind of move through, get on in civil society. I think it’s a perfectly kind of understandable insight really.

Frances Brown  32:42

Yeh I was just also thinking about, you know, just thinking about some of the intersections. So obviously, the majority of the respondents are female. So how much does that impact on the experiences, but also the absence of, for example, black men in the sector. When there are people of colour there, it’s disproportionately Asian, Black women, there are very few black men in the sector. So they’re, you know, so there’s all kinds of layers that you see played out in society as a whole, but see amplified, almost, you see them amplified when it comes to the charity sector.

Roberta Fusco  33:26

So thinking now about, I think, you know, the way we we talk about the differences in experience and the way we like to use labels or shortcuts. I think it’s problematic personally, that we kind of collectivise people’s experience under, you know, under broad banners, or the broad banner of BME or black and minoritised. ethnic. How do you feel? Where do you feel is the importance of pulling apart kind of those specific experiences and not kind of just lumping things together and saying, oh, well, that’s EDI is a big umbrella term or that’s BME experiences. There’s so much as you just mentioned around intersectionality, so much that kind of lies underneath that. So yeah, I’m interested in kind of finding out from you, Frances, what you think needs to be done to kind of draw out the detail of experiences really?

Frances Brown  34:15

Yeah, I feel kind of torn on this one. Because on the one hand, yes, absolutely, it should be about the individual and individual experiences and responding to those individual experiences. I don’t know that we’re sophisticated enough in our practice that we’ve got to that place. The thing about collectivising experiences, it’s shown patterns and trends, you know, so the survey is about collectivising those experiences and showing the trends that are that are happening, but you know, I do inclusion training, and one of those reasons is because lots of organisations are focused on diversifying but they haven’t thought about what’s the experience when people come in. How do they feel included? How do they feel a sense of belonging? And how does that impact particularly at board level, and then when you’re talking about inclusion, that is about addressing individual experience, because nobody wants to just feel ‘I’m here as a demographic’, or ‘I’m just looked at as a demographic’, it’s an important part of who I am. It’s part of my cultural experience. It’s a part of my cultural lens. But I’m an individual. So I think it’s quite interesting, because we’re looking at the problems as a whole. Yes, I think we need to understand the collective experience, but in addressing it, we need to address it from a much more individualistic perspective.

Sanjiv Lingayah  35:40

Yeah, I think that’s that’s a really helpful point. And, obviously, how one can walk in the world, walk in the workplace, is affected by one’s particular ethnicity, gender, class, certainly comes into it. I think in these surveys, we have a kind of technical problem. So we invite people to participate in the survey and people come forward. We don’t have a randomised controlled sample where we could, you know, kind of have different kinds of populations. And so we’re unable, statistically speaking, to tease out what, for example, might be the black female experience, even though of course, there’s not a singular thing at all, or, you know, what does it mean to be Muslim in civil society, you know, with the kind of various moves we’ve heard, quite recently in the news, and so on, you know, the kind of kind of anti-Muslim racism and how that plays out. So, we have a technical limitation. And as Frances says, I think, because in part this is a stimulus for change, seeing the overall patterns, I think, is quite helpful, can offer also some opportunities for solidarity for those populations who are affected by racism, so I hope that that is possible as well. But so just looking at some of the qualitative responses, you know, you kind of see where a black woman says, she comes up with an idea in a meeting, five minutes later, her white male colleague comes up with the same idea. So when the black woman says the idea earlier, it’s kind of you know, a tumbleweed. And when the white male colleague says it, it’s like wow, you know, what insight. So these things kind of operate in particular ways in its try to kind of lift up some of those stories through the qualitative responses. But you know, by its nature, having surveys a bit of a blunt tool, however, I do think as Frances says, it kind of suggests and shows some of those patterns. And then when we do the solutions work, kind of identifying you know, what are the stereotypes, what are the problematic kind of racial hierarchy ideas that we’re kind of carrying, you know, these all must come to the fore, as we try to take serious action to do kind of serious fixes and kind of transform.

Frances Brown  38:34

Yeah, and just to add to that, I think, you know, one of the challenges that for a lot of organisations, certainly not that I’ve worked in, is the data that they have available. And, and it’s not always possible that they have enough data to be able to crunch it down like that, and see the discrepancies and the disparities between different communities that come under the black and minoritised ethnic banner. But anecdotally, you’ll often hear about, well, okay, you’ve increased diversity but everybody that you’ve recruited has come from a particular demographic. It’s not a wider demographic. There still aren’t any more black people here. You’ve got a lot more Asian people, or whatever the dynamic might be. So you can’t always have that collective response, and then not look at the nuances within that. Because your staff are going to be looking at it thinking well, okay, yes, you’ve made some headway here, but hang on a second, there’s still some people missing from this picture.

Sanjiv Lingayah  39:43

And you know, just kind of Frances mentioned earlier, the relative absence of black men. It’s a think about the centuries of portrayal of black men in certain ways and how that has a read across, you know, in that recruitment room, decisions are being made. And so kind of, you know, these ideas, they carry on and they have a hold even though you know, we know that racism kind of nonsense is an idea, it has no basis in science, you know, it’s constructed to do work, it’s a political programme to organise and take resources from some populations and redistribute them elsewhere. So yeah, I think there’s also something, when we begin as a sector, to open ourselves to the idea that we have a racism problem, and that being non racist is not enough that we have to really kind of step into being kind of anti racist, we really need to think about race equity, I think some of the conversation that we’ve been having about the particularities of how populations are affected, I think we can have much more kind of open and honest conversation about that. And then put in place kind of solutions that reflect, you know, the different positionality of your kind of black men versus I don’t know, kind of South Asian women or, and so on, while trying to kind of affirm everyone in our sector, including, you know, like white people as well. Because this isn’t about, yeah, with trying to kind of affirm that we’re all fully human. We all have foibles and kind of failings, as well as you know, all of this life experience, wisdom and possibility. And that’s the civil society that I’m kind of interested in building.

Roberta Fusco  41:52

Absolutely, that’s the civil society that I want to be part of, as well. So I’m really lucky to get the chance to work on Home Truths 2, to try and push it forward with you and with others. So, kind of getting to the crux of things and why in a way, you know, why are ACEVO are working with Voice for Change, and with Sanjiv to kind of promote this programme and to facilitate this programme. So I inherited ACEVO’s relationship with Home Truths from my predecessor, Kristiana Wrixon who worked with Sanjiv and Maisie who worked with Sanjiv as well on Home Truths. And, you know, I do feel very privileged to be at ACEVO at a time when we’re working through Home Truths 2. So, Frances, I want to come to you with your governance hat on, you mentioned this before about the responsibility of leaders, the responsibility of governance, of pushing this forward? Can you tell me a bit more about your view of the role of leaders in this. In, you know, pushing for change?

Frances Brown  42:55

Leaders are critical, because they set the tone, they set the parameters, they give the permissions and the authority, they can draw the line in terms of what we will tolerate and not tolerate. Sometimes people might not realise how much influence they have, but the reality is, the leadership sets the tone. The interesting thing that I say at the moment is because there has been lots of work done to diversify, particularly at board level. Boards are something that you can influence much more quickly and have a little bit more control on. So lots of organisations have much more diversified boards now. They have thought about those dynamics, they’ve thought about the different perspectives that they need to bring some need to think about it more because I’ve also seen some where they’ve diversified, but they’re still all the same kind of people. They still all went to Oxbridge, regardless of their ethnicity or any other dynamic about them. So you know, we have to think about different perspectives as well. The boards, there’s been a lot of work around diversifying. And now what I start to see is a bit of a sandwich. So there’s diversity here at the top and the board, there’s maybe more diversity in terms of staff who come into the organisation, and in the middle, the leadership managers, not much has necessarily changed. And the reason I bring that up is that, yes, obviously boards do have a significant role in changing organisations. But the day to day leaders of the organisation are the ones that the staff are looking to. They’re the people that they see on a day to day basis. And if there’s no change there, so no matter how much we’re doing, and pedalling fast to get that diversity at board level, they don’t see any change there. And it’s not just changing and this is what I tried to explain to people. It’s not just changing, that, you know, staff are expecting to see a more diverse looking set people at senior leadership though, of course, that would be ideal, they’re looking to see a change in thinking, a change in dynamic or a change in, oh okay, well, where we have our deficits, how do we do things differently so that we can be informed by different perspectives, that we are responding to, for example, Sanjiv was talking earlier about forms of reporting, and then people report and then they feel that they’re part of the problem. How do we get to a place where our leadership don’t feel defensive. So therefore, when those reports are made, they’re not received from a defensive space, so they can be looked at appropriately and humanely and with due regard to you know, all the individuals who are in place. So there’s definitely a role for leadership. The other thing that I would also talk about is retention. So when we’re talking about bringing people into governance, how long do they stay? If you haven’t got your inclusion piece right, you’re not going to benefit. You’re not going to benefit from the perspectives, it’s going to be the same as the individual who said, well, I raised something and nobody listened and then somebody else raised the same point and what a wonderful point. All those experiences are felt by black and minoritised ethnic individuals who are on boards. So there’s still work to do to understand that they have something to contribute, and that something that they contribute is beyond their demographic that they come from. They’re not just there to represent that particular view. They’re there as a whole person. Because it can be marginalising and it can lead to people thinking, well I don’t think this is for me. Or they look back at the organisation, they think, well, okay, I’m here, and that’s okay and I feel comfortable with that. But do I, when I look at the rest of the organisation and it’s not reflective of what I experience on the board. So I think we’ve got into a space where it’s like, how do we tackle that – the filling of the sandwich – so that we are making sure that the leaders at MAT level are able to fully realise themselves. I know that’s a very geeky kind of words, but fully realise the influence that they have, and you know, we’re also talking about resistance. And I know as a EDI leader, you can experience resistance from the same person who’s saying, and sometimes I think, quite genuinely saying, I really want us to make a difference on this, I really want us to become anti racist, and mean it, but at the same time, be held back by things like, well, if we’re talking about diversify, what does that mean for me, you know, and feel a little bit threatened. If we’re talking about managing difficult conversations, am I properly equipped to do that? Can I speak to people in my organisation? Can I pull somebody up on an allegation of racism and feel confident that I don’t do those same things myself? There are all manner of issues that mean that people can be softly resistant? Or they want to control the narrative. So here’s some recommendations about how you can change. It’s like, fine, can we change everything else except me? Can we put a process in place, which means that our organisation does things differently, but I don’t really have to change? That’s the kind of issues that I think we have, and we need to help leaders to realise.

Roberta Fusco  48:42

Absolutely. And I kind of think that comes back to the comfort point, like, I want to do all of this but I don’t want to feel too uncomfortable. And it’s also kind of coming up against those structural issues that, oh yeah, we want to do this, but you know, it’s got to go through this process, this form needs to be filled out and it needs to be approved by this thing and needs to go there. So, it’s building in all those structural barriers, I think, as well.

Frances Brown  49:13

And just to add to that, because, you know, I’m a governance person. So I’ve seen people always talk about processes, what’s the process, what’s the system. But processes are all driven by people. So the process isn’t the most important thing, it’s always the people.

Roberta Fusco  49:29

I completely agree with you. It’s about more than diversity. Diversity is like the first, maybe the first step, or it’s a step in the journey, but then it’s what you do with it and how then that the people that are there driving processes. That’s where the magic happens, I think.

Sanjiv Lingayah  49:46

Yeah, I think we also need to recognise that we as a society is, you know, kind of human, certainly in kind of, for the past few centuries, we have lived in a world with misogyny, homophobia, racism, the kind of visceral hatred of the poor. So all of these things are very kind of normalised. And so what we’re asking people to do is to build new kinds of institutions, new ways of thinking. It’s very messy, it’s very scary, we’re largely operating in fog, because we haven’t really got the blueprint of how to do this. And I think that calls for brave and bold leadership. Leadership, that is, okay we’re getting things wrong and fessing up when you get things wrong, because, you know, we don’t really know how to do this. And I think it’s really important that we’re honest about that, and we’re kind of making the path as we walk it. The other thing I would say, is just to give a little mention, for the work of our colleague and friend, Lena Bheeroo at Bond, and they’re the kind of umbrella organisation for the development sector, which is, I’m sure people can imagine, has its own kind of like entrenched issues about racism, colonialism, you know, kind of human hierarchy, and all of those kinds of problems. But I think some of the work they’ve done there, it’s kind of really interesting, not only thinking about leadership, but thinking about what else needs to be in place around leadership. So obviously, it’s kind of governance, it’s how do we think about kind of programme and programme design, it’s thinking about kind of values and culture. So there’s a whole array of things. I was at a meeting not so long ago, someone said an interesting point, which was, leaders can do a lot, they can’t do everything. So because you know, a whole kind of system, you know, needs to come with them. And there can be a lot of kind of dead weight resistance, further down the organisation, if we want to think of that kind of hierarchy, which, really does get in the way. So I think kind of leadership and kind of the various kind of systems and features and processes around that, that are also required in order to really move on these kind of issues.

Roberta Fusco  52:30

Thinking about kind of the next step, thinking about the practical action that we want to see from our leaders, or we want to see our leaders really promote and create a movement around in their organisations, have you come across in your practice, Frances, any kind of, you know, really good practical examples of like, you know what, this thing over here is a really good example of how this organisation or how you can tackle these issues. Have you seen some examples in your practice that can give us hope that it can be done?

Frances Brown  53:04

I mean, you know, there’s lots of organisations who are working on it. And it’s quite interesting, because oftentimes, that’s like, who’s who’s got this right? I’m always asked who’s got this right, who can we who can we go to and get some get some tips from and, and even those who are, you know, doing relatively well are still struggling. So certainly, there’s a few organisations who’ve decided that they want to, they need to have an anti racism programme or strategy. And that’s what they’ve developed. Mind is one of the organisations I worked with. I think that sometimes in doing those things, we have to also exercise, particularly as leaders, some patience, because it’s one of the resistance points, that sometimes it’s not, it’s not tidy, and it doesn’t look comfortable or feel comfortable, because sometimes it can get worse before it gets better, because you’re unearthing things and you’re trying to have authentic conversations, which might be seen or experienced by an organisation as being divisive, but sometimes you’ve got to dismantle what you’ve got in order to build something new. So that would be one of the practical things that I would say to people is, you know, recognise that it might look a bit messy, it might look a bit chaotic, but it’s about getting rid of something to make space for something else. And also allowing people who’ve felt voiceless before to have a voice and express how they how they feel. And that’s also responding to the, I suppose for one of a better word resistance that we experienced from black and minority ethnic communities in wanting to be part of this conversation. I see a lot of organisations who get frustrated by that, well, I’m trying to do this for you and you don’t even seem to want it. So there has to be some understanding and some sensitivity around some of those things. And reporting, reporting on what you’re doing, reporting on what you do, and you do well, and report on what didn’t go very well, those organisations who are doing that are doing a great service for the, for the sector, because that’s information that others can can learn by.

Roberta Fusco  55:16

And so I think for me that kind of speaks to that sense, you know, that sense of hope that there is action we can take, there are things you can do. And yeah, it’s going to be hard and kind of get it wrong, and many are risk averse. And you know, in the sector, risk is a big issue. And many are risk averse for kind of reputational reasons and so, but that’s not a good enough reason not to embark on doing the right thing, and making those statements about wanting to move forward. So I want to come to you, Sanjiv and ask, ask your kind of reflections on hope, really, what are the what are your points of hope for the for the future?

Sanjiv Lingayah  55:53

I feel like in doing this work I have, I don’t have a choice but to have hope because it’s hard to get out of bed every day and kind of think and write and talk to people about race and racism, if you don’t have hope. While I have said that, clearly, we are trying to walk a new path and that is difficult. It’s really interesting, isn’t it, because 300 or 400 years ago, people kind of invented this nonsense of racial science and kind of, like, organised quite a lot of human life around around that kind of idea. So that you know, so if people can invest that energy, in oppression and so on, I think we have to find ways to kind of invest similar energy and kind of truth and you know, our kind of collective kind of freedom and liberation and you know, affirming our common and shared humanity. So I think philosophically, I’m kind of hopeful. I think it’s kind of interesting in the survey as well. Even though lots of people talked about, you know, kind of we’re up and 70% of people feeling like they have to hide themselves or that civil society has a racism problem and so on. Just to name a couple of stats, 46% of the survey respondents felt that anti racism, race equity is taken seriously in their organisations. 47% agree that they’ve already seen real progress. 65% are hopeful that progress will be made in the organisation in which they work. So they might not be that hopeful about wider civil society, but you know, kind of in their organisation, there is a kind of sense of hope. What is interesting, though, and kind of the other side of that is that when you kind of drill down into what’s your organisation doing, you know, does it positive action to kind of help black or minoritized ethnic people to thrive in the organisation? Is it changing mission so that organisations are better serving the purposes, the cause of anti racism, race equity out in the real world, because a lot of the conversation gets focused on workforce and changing workforce, but we are seeing to take the work that the sector does because you know, kind of most black minoritized ethnic people are not in the sector, they’re in the world. So if we’re, if we’re serious about anti racism, we need to change the work as well. I don’t know all of those kinds of measures, actually, the organisations don’t seem to be doing very much. So there is a bit of a disconnect, I think what’s happened, I think it might be to do with, you know, leaders signalling that this is a priority. Sometimes there is a lag effect of actually implementing the measures. But then there is always a danger that what we have in civil society organisation is a mood that something needs to happen without the measures. And I think, you know, you need both, don’t you? Absolutely the culture, the values and so on. But without the practical measures, often things will default back to how they were. Hierarchies, you know, kind of not taking these issues seriously as well, because I think one of my colleagues used to talk about how the tide goes in and out. So Stephen Lawrence is a moment. George Floyd and COVID is a moment. But often those moments pass and you have something about to ensure that the moment becomes a movement, a lasting movement for change, and I think we don’t know whether this will be a lasting change. But I think that’s the work that we tried to do in Home Truths 2 and lots of other people are doing and kind of, you know, Frances and her work and many of us are trying to entrench this moment and kind of convert it into something bigger.

Roberta Fusco  1:00:00

And I think we can’t afford not to do not to do that, as a sector, we absolutely have to, to push forward. And that’s what we’re trying to do with home truths 2. And you’ll be hearing more about our next steps for Home Truths 2 soon. We’re about to launch our race equity learning sessions, and also our applications for leaders to take part in a facilitated cohorts. It’s called Further, Faster, and it’s about exactly everything we’ve spoken about today, supporting leaders to take practical action. I’m going to bring our podcast to a close but just any last remarks, Frances. We’re so pleased to have had you with us and thank you for your time and reflecting on these findings and sharing your expertise. What kind of final words do you want to leave us with?

Frances Brown  1:00:46

Thank you for inviting me. We have to maintain hope. It’s the thing that gets any EDI person, anti-racism person out of bed in the morning because withou it, we just wouldn’t have the energy. But I’ve lived long enough on the planet to have seen movement, even if it’s not as much as we’d like it’s movement. And I bank that and hope that we can continue to build on it.

Roberta Fusco  1:01:14

Thanks, Frances. Sanjiv?

Sanjiv Lingayah  1:01:17

Yes. I mean, I certainly kind of echo Frances’ words about hope. And so you know, your thanks to her for, you know, sharing her insights, which I always find so kind of powerful and uplifting. The final thing I’d say really is about this is purpose work. So if we find our kind of society is kind of fragmented, disconnected, I think civil society is really about restorative work and bringing people back together and creating wholeness, affirming humanity. So I think this work is very much tied to what civil society says it’s about. And so I suppose we have to offer the challenge and, you know, to encourage civil society, to show us that those kind of warm words actually carry weight.

Roberta Fusco  1:02:16

And lead to action. Thank you both. And thanks everyone for listening to our podcast on Warms Words, Cold Comfort from Home Truths 2

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