One of the things that prevents meaningful action on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is to treat it as just a theoretical concept. For as long as it remains just a principle, something to be discussed and debated, or something to be avoided as difficult, or something which can only be done by experts, little or nothing will change.
A shift from theory to practice – from talk to effective action – is overdue in our sector. The “Eight Leadership Principles” published by ACEVO and the Institute of Fundraising (www.acevo.org.uk/2018-publications-and-reports/racial-diversity-charity-sector) will hopefully be part of the start of such a shift. One of the principles is “Commit to setting permanent and minimum targets for diversity that reflects the participants, donors, beneficiaries and the population of the area that my charity operates in”.
For trusts and foundations, beginning to address the problem of lack of diversity in our sector, this would include putting numbers to the following:
- What proportion of your grants or social investments goes to BAME-led organisations or organisations led by disabled people (the specific metric will depend in part on your trust’s grants strategy)?
- What evidence do you have for how the “mainstream” organisations you fund promote DEI? What are the results of this in numbers?
- What is the Diversity breakdown of your staff including any volunteers?
- What is the Diversity breakdown of your Board of Trustees/Directors?
- How do these breakdowns compare with the profile of the communities your organisation is seeking to serve (and there is a key difference between the concepts of “support” and “serve” – for example, see ncrp.org/initiatives/philamplify/power-moves-philanthropy)?
- What proportion of your investments or the companies/governments you support through your investment portfolio take active steps to promote DEI and what are the results of this in numbers?
- For each of these indicators, what is the target you will set for change over the next 3 years?
Putting a number to it is the start. Once you have a baseline you can develop an action plan for each key area (employment, trustees, funding, investments, etc), including targets for how the numbers are going to change within a specified timeframe during the 3 year period. You can then develop an action plan for how you are going to achieve that change and how you are going to account for whether or not you are successful in achieving it.
For trust and foundation leaders (CEOs/Directors, chairs, senior managers) this is likely to involve:
- Improving our knowledge about DEI issues and practice (reading, listening to podcasts, going to talks) particularly from “of” perspectives not just “for” perspectives (for an explanation of the difference see below). Some suggestions are available here: https://newreciprocity.com/resources/
- Re-tuning our social media so you hear and see perspectives from outside your current bubble;
- Looking for allies, from within and outside your organisation, to support you in the change you are seeking to make. Use your formal networks (eg the membership organisations you belong to) and any informal networks you may have – eg place an ad on http://www.fundernetwork.org.uk/ or LinkedIn or similar notice-boards.
- Create our own peer/support group of others seeking to make similar changes.
- Learning by being an ally for the issues and communities that relate to your organisation’s cause (for help on how to be an ally see: Guide to Allyship: http://www.guidetoallyship.com/;
- Getting trained on DEI issues – including unconscious bias – but understand and acting on the fact that training isn’t enough. See: “Seriously, I can’t be racist”: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/21wxrfj5S79pz6CMCdHmVL3/what-you-can-do-to-spot-and-stop-unconscious-bias
- Putting DEI on our Board meeting agendas – even if it means having difficult conversations with some of your trustees (and if it results in difficult conversations that is exactly why you must do it).
- Regularly reflecting on our own values, belief and practice. Some resources for this are available here: https://newreciprocity.com/values-resources/
- Holding ourselves accountable for the change each of us will achieve on DEI in the next 3 years – even if no-one else does.
“Of not For”:
“Of” organisations are those which are run by the community they are aiming to serve. “For” organisations are run by others on behalf of the community they seek to serve.
“Of” perspectives are the direct voices of individuals and particular communities. “For” perspectives are the voices of others talking about particular communities.
Recognising that “Of” perspectives are expert perspectives is a key step – and that “For” perspectives can be valuable but should not be preferenced over the perspectives of those with lived experience.