Home Truths: case studies

In this section we look at the kind of action that is already being taken by some charities to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces.

This does not mean that these charities are getting everything right or that continued work isn’t necessary – this report has demonstrated that learning on race equity is life-long, rather than something that can be ticked off as ‘done’. However, these examples do show the importance and impact of turning intentions into action.

Click to read the report Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector

Case study 1: BAME staff networks

Cancer Research UK

The BAME network is based in the main office of Cancer Research (CR) UK, where around 1,200 staff members are based. It was first launched in 2018, but activities wound down when several key members of staff left the organisation.

The network was relaunched in April 2019. It aims to support and empower BAME staff to discuss issues that concern them, by providing a safe space where they can speak freely on their experiences and network with other BAME staff they may not have met before. The network is also open to non-BAME staff and aims to engage and educate all staff across the organisation and at all levels of leadership on issues of race and diversity. The aims are met by running a variety of meetings, events and discussions, and the network is also currently developing training on ‘how to talk about race’. The popularity of the network has grown in recent years, with over 150 members from across the organisation.

There are various agenda items at network events, covering topical, timely issues like publishing ethnicity pay gaps or organisational training. Talking about ‘race’ and why it matters is challenging, particularly when the discussion is with people who are less invested or have limited understanding of racism. It requires constantly being in an advocacy and education role – which can take its toll.

The main practical challenge of running a staff network is time. Staff organise events and networking on top of their other organisational roles. Other challenges involve making the network seem relevant to both BAME and non-BAME staff.

In order to succeed it is helpful to have a small group of colleagues responsible for organising, rather than an individual working alone. Initial buy-in from leadership is a key foundation for starting to roll activities out across the organisation. At CR UK, vocal support from the CEO and board – both within the organisation and in public-facing communications – has been very helpful and encouraging. Support from senior staff does not mean that everyone is on board, but it does create the right conditions for engagement and is a positive form of ‘peer pressure’ necessary for culture change in the future.

For more information contact Curtis Asante, Senior Research Funding Manager (Centres and Institutes) and BAME Network Co-Chair, Cancer Research UK.

Case study 2: training/learning about racism, recruitment and targets

Greenwich Students’ Unions

As an organisation, Greenwich Students’ Union (GSU) is aware that unconscious bias exists, so it has provided staff with unconscious bias training. GSU has committed to rolling this out every couple of years as the staff team develops. It actively encourages staff to be part of the University’s BAME staff network and the National Union of Students’ (NUS) Black Staff Network.16 GSU has also committed to the NUS RISE leadership programme for BAME staff who want to move into leadership.17 This programme works with future BAME leaders, putting together development plans and building advocates at GSU, and also invites white line managers of participants to attend and learn how to create an inclusive environment.

John Schless, GSU’s chief executive, has taken part in the RISE programme and attended race equity training, led by NUS for all CEO and senior managers across the SU sector. GSU has developed its recruitment practices to remove barriers to entry – for instance, any identifying information is redacted from applications. This has led to a higher proportion of BAME applicants and appointed candidates. 

As a membership organisation, GSU has democracy at its core. Annual student leaders are elected by the 20,000-strong membership to represent their needs at the University of Greenwich. GSU had seen a pattern of increasing numbers of BAME candidates standing for leadership positions but all-white teams being elected into the full-time paid roles, and committed to undertake a full democratic review. The Big Plan (GSU, 2017) took two years and looked at the structural barriers. This review was followed by a large-scale member consultation and vote.

Over the last three years, the GSU staff team has developed. The majority of the senior leadership team is now BAME and women, which means that it is now one of the most reflective of its membership across the SU sector, with 50% BAME career staff.

GSU has developed an environment in which staff can have positive discussions about race, ethnicity and identity. In its 2019 staff survey, 98% of staff said that they feel they are treated equally irrespective of gender, disability, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or religion. 

For more information contact John Schless, CEO, Greenwich Students’ Union.

Case Study 3: equality impact assessments

Devon Air Ambulance Trust

Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) introduced equality impact assessments (EIAs) when developing several new policies ahead of completing their registration as an independent health provider with the Care Quality Commission.

Each new policy was reviewed through an equality and diversity lens, so that the policy developer and reviewers would have to think about whether there was anything within it that might unfairly disadvantage any person or group of people protected by existing equality legislation (so called ‘protected characteristics’ under The Equality Act 2010).

So far, the EIAs have not identified any inherent risks. Had they done so, this would have been raised with the policy writer and sign-off would have been delayed until the risk had been reviewed and ameliorated. We have had one question over our chaplaincy policy, which is a small part of our support programme: the individual raising this question thought that the policy could potentially put atheists at a disadvantage. The policy was intended to reflect the fact that the service was non-denominational and open to all; however, in response to the feedback and in order to be more inclusive, the wording was revised to refer to “chaplaincy and pastoral care”. DAAT also recruited a volunteer psychotherapist and retired pilot to work alongside the chaplain.

For more information contact Helena Holt, CEO, Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

Concluding thoughts

One of the themes arising from conversations with white leaders and white system-shapers during this project was that the fear of ‘getting it wrong’ stood in the way of action being taken. These examples are included to demonstrate that new initiatives and programmes can be introduced and can create change. Not all initiatives will be successful, but the more intentionally they are created and designed with BAME people the more likely they will help in the aim of building significant and sustained change and more equitable and inclusive charities that work for BAME people.

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