Meeting 13 – 3/9/21: with #CharitySoWhite

1. Updates from the group:

Stew – Not much to update since our last meeting. The Trust has not distributed grants for the last 18 months in light of Wembley Stadium not bringing in any income. Stew posed a question for the group for future thought/discussion – How far can you press the point of enquiry into what grantees are doing themselves concerning anti-racism?

Nick – Working on refreshing the Co-op Foundation’s strategy. Anti-racism will be key to this and finding ways in which the foundation can bring this to life in grant making programmes and through the partners they work with. The team have discussed the merits and de-merits of having a focused fund to support people of colour or to have some kind of quota or preferment in scoring for organisations led by people of colour. Stew added that he had some useful stats that he has found on this and will send these on to Nick.

Nick has been recruiting at the Co-op Foundation – of the seven new recruits to the team, four are people of colour which has been a great result.

Paul – 66% of grants awarded from Smallwood and Rosa’s Women Thrive Fund were to organisations led by women of colour. These grants are for one year and externally funded – as part of Smallwood’s funding from the endowment, we are looking to increase the number of orgs on multi-year grant agreements. The Trust has taken an iterative approach on how they have reached out to organisations as part of this grant. This has been to ensure that they’ve not gone out to the same organisations every time, which can easily happen. Smallwood’s network has undoubtedly improved because of this, but can still get better. Smallwood are also about to launch a place-based initiative in the next few months.

Celia – JRCT have contracted consultants to provide a year-long anti-racist training programme for trustees. Celia and the team have also done some thinking and work with trustees about how to make board meetings and grant meetings safer. An external observer will participate in Board and Grant meetings throughout the next year and provide feedback to the Board to support board and wider organisational awareness and learning.

JRCT are also going to trial a similar idea to the Shadow trustees that Smallwood have started working with, but within their Grants Committees. One grant committee has recruited “intern” co-opted members from within the student movement who will work alongside grantmaking experts on the committees.

Celia also highly recommended the book – ‘My grandmother’s hands’ – to the group –

Sally – There is lots of work going on at Barnwood Trust and lots of ideas and potential, but Sally has found it has been difficult in some of these cases to think through the best path ahead. Sally is trying to create conditions for conversations about racial justice within the Board, given some complex dynamics between Trustees. A big win for Sally has been a major change to the constitution at Barnwood, removing a two-tiered governance structure which made trustee recruitment very complex and therefore created even more barriers to recruiting more diverse trustees. It has taken 11 years in the process. In regards to a shift in anti-racism, the learning and work is going on in the organisation but it will still take time.

Sally has been seeking how to use the agency of the organisation and personally in progressing racial justice across the county. A group of Black adults has approached Sally to create a structure to support their reverse mentoring programme with the leadership of public sector bodies.

James – JLF’s board has agreed to appoint two independent trustees and to undertake DEI training.  The implementation of this has been deferred while the Board works through some broader governance issues.  He will be moving on from the foundation at the end of December and this will provide an opportunity for the Board to decide how they would like to move forward on these issues.

Mark – UnLtd is publishing its equity audit report next week – it will be challenging and very honest and Mark is really interested in what kind of a response it gets. Progress has been positive on UnLtd’s inclusion investment fund with fundraising progressing well. Over half of the fund will be focused on people of colour who are entrepreneurs and disabled entrepreneurs. The rest will be organisations progressing their EDI efforts.

UnLtd is reviewing behaviours related to its values with staff and the board, with a particular inclusion and diversity lens.

Sector efforts UnLtd is involved in to progress racial justice have stalled a little. Mark reflected that it is always harder when working alongside other organisations and has had to acknowledge that it will take its time.

2. Collective Work Updates:

ACO/360Giving – Paul and Joe met with Tania Cohen, CEO of 360Giving. We discussed how 360Giving could begin to work with grantmaking organisations for individuals. Tania was keen to see how this could be done and the resource needs to make this happen. Paul and Joe will update the Grantmakers’ Alliance (GMA) and ACO to gauge their support in September. Joe pointed out that it will take a long time to make this work. Even collectively sharing data on money spent against geographic location can be complex, leave alone sharing the diversity of this grantmaking. The beginning of the journey must start somewhere and could lead to much stronger collective understanding and challenge to support racial justice.

3. Main Session – Discussion with Emeka Forbes of #CharitySoWhite

Mark welcomed Emeka Forbes to the meeting and all JFI members introduced ourselves and the organisations we work for.

A brief biog of Emeka is below:

Emeka Forbes – @emekaforbes

Emeka is an organiser at #CharitySoWhite, a grassroots organisation aiming to tackle institutional racism in the charity sector, and pushing for a sector that is brave, challenges itself and sees the communities it works with as equal partners. He is also a political consultant and charity trustee.

Below is also a link to an article Emeka wrote for The House on the charitable sector’s enduring challenge with racism:

Emeka introduced himself and his work with #Charitysowhite. He highlighted that there is no quick fix to racism in the charity sector. There is always going to be working needed on this, there isn’t a set finishing point and we will always need to challenge ourselves. There is a long-term vision but there is no completion of this. Emeka hopes that this group continues to meet because it is needed with this in mind.

Emeka asked the group – What have been the main barriers in your organisation to supporting anti-racism?

Responses from the group:

Mark – The main challenge for UnLtd was that we got it wrong when the organisation originally focused on EDI in 2017. UnLtd focused very much on its offer to those it supported and did not not look at itself as an employer. It did not have a specific focus on anti-racism. It was a false start and UnLtd is only now getting to where it wanted to be a few years ago. We bear the bumps and bruises of this false start. Emeka asked how UnLtd identified this. Mark replied that we noticed, anecdotally.

Stew – There are traditionalists on boards who are not against what we are trying to do but do not see it as something that needs constant focus eg they will say, ‘we’ve had that discussion, why are we having it again this year?’ When you want to keep momentum going, it often feels like this hurdle has to be taken on again and again.

Celia – It’s a really good question and will be ongoing as there will be constant barriers that come up. These are rooted in white supremacy and how it shows up within an organisation. At JRCT the work to address this has not yet been done in a wide, systematic way, across every aspect of the organisation. This is the journey that the organisation needs to go on over the long-term, with an aim to build collective self-awareness.

Paul – Historically, there was a gap in knowledge of the systems that caused gendered poverty and also racial inequality, which meant that our funding wasn’t allocated as effectively, including accumulation of unspent funds. This has and is being rectified and corrected over the past 4-5 years by a new Board and executive.

Nick – Feels fortunate about the board that he has – no traditionalists. Intensely supportive and ambitious to focus on this work. The challenge that Nick has is the question – what does this actually mean in relation to our work? In a sense, this is great as it allows for experimentation. How do we bring this to life in what we do every day?

Sally – In the county we work there is not a realisation for all that racism exists, it’s a very white area. A useful starting point with our Board has been that, given we are about disability and mental health as a Trust, we provided the evidence on the impact of race and racism of disability and mental health as a way in to making the case that we have to pay attention to the impact of racism and consider racial justice

James – History/tradition have influenced priorities.  Leadership from both trustees and management is needed on this issue. Best intentions and goodwill aren’t enough to create change. 

Emeka then asked the group, How do you, your senior people and your board see the scope of change concerning anti-racism?

Celia – it’s about everything – our history, the origins of our money, our present and future. It is about integrating a racial justice lens to all of this.

James – Many foundations will look to ACF, as our trade body, to guide them on good practice.  ACF has produced the Stronger Foundations framework which includes a DEI strand – rather than something specific on racial justice.  There is a danger that racial justice will be lost or diluted within a broader DEI focus, and will therefore not be prioritised by some foundations.

Emeka highlighted the typical themes that came up from our conversation:

Leadership – we are always going to encounter traditionalists – but as leaders it is up to us to educate these leaders. We need to create really clear visions of purpose. An anti-racist stance is integral to the organisation’s mission. It’s about setting the vision and being ready and willing to be bold and brave. Recognising that there is more to be done shows bravery and the hope is that this continuously pushes this on.

Awareness and understanding – it is impossible for any of us to be an expert on the experiences of anyone else. We are all inflicted with bias and we can’t escape this and get away from it. There is a lack of understanding and awareness in all of us. We see things through a very specific lens and that alters the way in which we interpret data and this can create blindspots. We need to work with a range of others to close some of these blindspots.

Celia asked Emeka a final question – Are there any reflections or ideas that you think we can think through to increase our accountability as a group? We don’t want to sit in isolation talking to each other.

Emeka responded that it’s about engaging with groups and talking with them to understand how people are experiencing the organisation you work in and the sector. We need to be vulnerable in this. You cannot be accountable unless you are vulnerable.

The group thanked Emeka for joining them and agreed to organise a session to invite him back soon.

4. Next Meeting Date – 1st October 2021.

Chair – James

Note taker – tbc

We plan to invite someone from the Grant Givers Movement (GGM) to join the meeting to engage with us.  We said we would ask them to come towards the beginning of the meeting so that we would then have time to consider what they, and Emeka, have said in relation to us, our organisations, and the JFI itself.  James will liaise with Ciorsdan at GGM about the arrangements for the meeting. 

A draft structure for the meeting has been suggested by James below:  

  • 1pm to 1.15pm:  Welcome and one or two updates. 
  • 1.15pm to 2pm:  Grant Givers’ Movement. 
  • 2pm to 2.30pm:  Discussion of implications of #CharitySoWhite and Grant Givers’ Movement’s inputs.  

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