Meeting 11 – 25/6/21


1. Welcome and updates.

2. Session:

  • How we can try to influence the advancement of racial justice outside of our own organisations?
  • What is the message we want to communicate? Who do we want to communicate to?

3. What next.

4. Next meeting.

5. AOB.

1. Welcome and Updates:

Stew and Celia as co-facilitators welcomed everyone to the meeting and highlighted that the focus of the meeting was about how we can try to influence the advancement of racial justice outside of our own organisations.  They had also suggested in advance that the check in be condensed to hear in more depth from fewer people.

Members shared updates on work they are undertaking within their organisations.

2. Session: How we can try to influence the advancement of racial justice outside of our own organisations?

Stew and Celia introduced the discussion topic in relation to what message we as a group want to communicate.  Have we moved on from what is currently on the website?  What do we want to say to the outside world about this group and its aspirations?  We have been trying to make changes in an open and honest way, but also acknowledge that we will make mistakes.  What is the conversation we want to have with others?

James had shared a blog that had been published the day before our meeting by Charity So White

He observed that we have personal power and opportunities to influence, as well as power and opportunities that come through our role in our organisations and in this group. An important principle is to be aware of when we use the power we have to make space or leave space for others who don’t look like us – rather than take up that space for ourselves.  If we’re planning to convey messages about racial justice as a group, do we need to ensure we have a common definition of racial justice?  And we need to be clear that we are only saying the things that we need to say as white leaders, rather than saying things on behalf of others.  Stew wondered whether we may need to take a step back and look at this as we may not all interpret these kinds of questions the same way?

Clare suggested that we do not take too many steps back, but rather that we move to some action.  For example, as a group, can we offer actively to support addressing the questions in the Charity So White blog?  This might broaden the conversation and encourage others to take action.

Stew identified that individual positions may be different from the collective of this group, or from those of the Boards of our organisations, and that this is not necessarily a problem as it may enable others outside the group to recognise in that difference where they are. We have signed up to be here as individuals – not talking on behalf of grant making trusts, but as concerned individuals.  Does that impact on the nuancing of our messaging?  

Mark reinforced that, as a group, we did not commit to achieving a set of targets but rather to being on a journey.  We are seeking to be antiracist, both personally and at work.  We have committed to learning, making mistakes, being accountable and being prepared to be publicly vulnerable.   Maybe we should have more intent about being public and accountable on this journey?

Paul had found it interesting that the blog from Charity So White identifies that there is a group of CEOs of mental health charities meeting to address becoming more antiracist.  The number of CEOs in the VCS addressing antiracism could encourage other Trust and Foundation CEOs.  Celia suggested that we should take responsibility for responding to calls from Charity So White and the Future Foundations UK: we need to be accountable to them and to the constituency of people of colour.

Stew asked whether we reach out to grantees, or to Trusts and Foundations or to the people of colour whom we have relationships with?  There is the potential for practical action with each of these constituencies.

At this point we broke into two groups to discuss in one group how we could connect with other Trusts and Foundations around racial justice issues, and in the second group how as funders we could influence change with grantees.

In the feedback, the first group identified that there was a lot going on and that they had discussed how this group could add value.  There are three constellations:

  1. We, as individuals in our networks, who could encourage and support others.
  2. Other organisations that we have connected with or are part of.
  3. ACF: could we align ourselves with them and work more collaboratively?

There was a consensus in the group that we should approach ACF to share what we are doing, the journey we are on, and to see how we could do some of this work together.

There was, not surprisingly, a sense of distrust from people of colour: we need to earn that trust and make appropriate apologies for past behaviours – our own and others’ over generations.  It was suggested that we should expand our thinking on our accountability and how we make apology.  We could potentially reach out to Yvonne Field of the Ubele Initiative, but perhaps it was good for us to stay in our discomfort, and not to jump to solutions.

Group 2 considered how we could use what influence we have as funders to influence our grantees to address DEI and increase their commitment to racial justice.  Whilst we acknowledged that we did not feel we had legitimacy to do this, it is important that we use our power as funders.  We could stimulate conversation with grantees, asking them where they are on their journey towards racial justice and what support they need in that, creating an expectation of openness about the issue.  Funders could provide financial support for example in relation to training organisations may need.  Funders could also convene grantees around specific topics such as white supremacy in the climate justice sector for example, focusing on who may not be being heard.

We recognised that a ‘sledge-hammer’ approach is not desirable but rather one of encouragement.   We could ask grant applicants/grantees the kinds of questions we are asking ourselves.  This would need different conversations in different places.  We have a responsibility to ask even if we do not feel we are far along this road ourselves. We could also be transparent about what we are grappling with ourselves.

Mark shared that UnLtd is developing an EDI baseline tool for social investees: not just asking them questions but giving them a practical tool to monitor and then progress their work.

3. Actions – where do we go from here?

On the basis of these discussions we agreed the following actions:

  1. Mark will follow up with a conversation with Carol Mack at ACF but wants to clarify the brief for that conversation first and get that agreed by this group and then approach Carol Mack.
  2. Paul offered to talk to Donal Watkins at ACO, based on the brief for the conversation with ACF.
  3. Mark offered to do a first draft to discuss at the next meeting about accountability and apology.
  4. Celia offered to lead the development of a guidance note for foundation staff about how to have conversations about enhance DEI practice with funding applicants. Sally agreed to have conversations with her team to feed into this work.
  5. We agreed to share updates about the discussions and next steps agreed at today’s meeting as follows:
    • James will update the foundation Chief Exec who is considering joining the JFI group
    • Mark will inform Julia
    • Paul will inform Joe

4. Next Meeting

We agreed that the next meeting will be on Friday 23rd July at 1.00 p.m.

The main session will focus on feeding back on all the actions agreed at this meeting.

Sally will facilitate and send out a zoom link.

Mark offered to take notes.

5. AOB

There were no AOBs from the group.

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