Meeting 15 – 5/11/21

Agenda:

  1. Sharing updates.
  2. Developing an action plan for JFI’s next phase.
  3. Agreeing actions.
  4. Arrangements for the next meeting.

Notes:

1. Updates:

Reflection on Board meetings: Can be challenging to get the balance right between paperwork (number of papers, length/level of detail) and ensuring there is space for discussion in board meetings, rather than using up time to summarise the contents of papers or for trustees to ask questions about the papers which they should have done before the meeting.

A rule of thumb could be 50% of board meetings should be checking on progress and 50% should be on planning for the future.

Trustee recruitment:  Joe said that Buttle UK is currently recruiting for new trustees.  He is leading the process and is reaching out to organisations that Buttle UK would not previously have engaged with.  So many organisations are keen to share the opportunity and Joe has been reflecting on why Buttle UK has not used this approach before.   Joe is working with Malcolm John (Action for Trustee Racial Diversity) to check the inclusiveness of the process.  ATRD has a ‘BAMO’ database of organisations led by people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities.  Joe has contacted 25 organisations from the database and has spoken to 10 of them.

Having a real-life process to focus on has helped Buttle UK’s trustees to come to an understanding that practical steps need to be taken in order for change to happen to make an organisation more diverse and inclusive. 

Joe thanked Paul for his leadership in developing and sharing the board shadowing initiative and mentioned the online event being organised by the Smallwood Trust to showcase the initiative [25 November 2021 – 12noon to 1pm].  Buttle UK wants to adopt this initiative and its chair and vice chair will be attending the event.

Stew said that WSNT is in the process of appointing 2 new young trustees, and has found 2 strong candidates.  WSNT is hoping this will have a positive impact on the organisation and change the way the Board works.

Other updates:

Celia reported that, as part of its broader internal work on power and privilege, JRCT is working towards integrating a racial justice lens across all its funding programmes.  It has begun work on this with its grant committees, and is grappling with how to do so in an intersectional way – eg how to take a funding priority like climate justice and integrate racial justice in an intersectional way. 

JRCT has established its 6-month long internal Critical Accompaniment for its grant committees and board.  The original intention was to ensure that people of colour would feel safe when participating in committees.  It seems likely that it will surface lots of issues beyond the original issues anticipated – and it will be a challenging and important process for the organisation. 

JRCT, Buttle UK and UnLtd are part of the Woburn Place Collaborative which is a group of foundations committed to social justice.  It has been going for around 15 years and the chief execs meet 3 times per year.  At the last meeting there was a discussion about racial justice and what foundations have and have not been doing on this issue.  There will be a follow-up conversation about it on Monday (8/11/21), chaired by Celia.  There is a potential for some connection between what might emerge from that discussion and what JFI might do.

James reported that, following an introduction by Celia, he had attended a recent Family Foundations Roundtable convened by the European Foundation Centre (EFC).  In the session he raised the issue of DEI and racial justice, and the next meeting of the Roundtable (in December) is due to focus on this topic.  James is also speaking to the EFC about how its Chief Executives Network might engage with the topic of racial justice – possibly using the JFI as an example of action that can be taken.  

2. Developing an Action Plan for JFI’s Next Phase:

Pre-work in pairs:

After the last meeting we had all met in pairs (and one trio) to consider how JFI might develop and what our action plan might be.

James (who was in a trio with Mark and Clare) said he thought Celia’s idea for discussions in pairs had worked really well, as had Clare’s idea for the Googledocs document to which each pair could add its suggestions.

Sally said she and Paul had met in person for the first time and it was delightful.  They talked for 2½ hours and discussed points which may not have come up if they had not met in person.  It increased their understanding of each other’s organisations and they shared learning.  The Googledocs idea was really helpful. 

Joe said he and Celia had a very useful conversation, and a key issue was the value of the JFI having a collective plan which each of us can take forward in our own ways as we each work for very different organisations.  We can set some common themes that we can all report back on – using some of the challenges from the organisations we have started to engage with, like #CharitySoWhite.

Group Discussion:

The Googledocs document contained some suggested categories for where JFI, and each of us as individuals, may be able to take action on racial justice – recognising there is cross-over between the categories.  Specific points raised during the discussion, have been added to the table below:

IdentityArea of InfluenceActivityWhoWhen
As an individual:My peers.  I need to be prepared to be influenced, to listen to others’ whose experience is different to mine (as #CharitySoWhite and Grant Givers Movement told us).Using personal social media, blogs and articles to try to influence others.  
As a CEO: Leading by example (eg sharing the work on trustee recruitment and board shadowing mentioned earlier in the meeting).  
Within my foundation: How do we apply a racial justice lens to our endowment and our investment strategy?How do we create the ambition and implement a plan to award more funding to more black-led organisations?How to provide more sustainable, longer-term funding for black-led organisations, which is being called for by the sector.How do we use data better?  We may have data to show that our funding is not going to black-led groups, but how do we move beyond that knowledge to take action to change it?How to use a racial justice lens in the “back office” functions (see discussion above).We can use other attributes, beyond just our funding, to advance racial justice.  We can influence others (eg networks of funders, or in a locality) where we engaged in policy work.  How do we leverage our networks?Those of us who use Funder Plus:  how do we use those additional activities “beyond the grant” to advance racial justice (eg ensuring we are targeting organisations led by black people and people from other racialised communities)?How can we use our ‘buying power’ to support businesses led by black people and people from other racialised communities – and signposting people and organisations in our networks to those businesses?  
Through the Just Foundations Initiative: Being opportunity-driven, as well as intentional – eg using opportunities that arise to put racial justice on the agenda (eg with the European Foundation Centre discussed above).How to engage with other infrastructure bodies – eg:the Diversity Forum in the social investment sector.non-foundation infrastructure bodies – eg ACEVO and NCVO.UK Community Foundations Network.How do we engage with our other networks (eg place-based groups like Gloucestershire Funders)?  
As part of the  sector: both the  foundation sector and the wider charitable sector    
Other:      

Mark said we shouldn’t worry too much about sticking too closely to the categories.  An important thing is to capture what we bring to this work (whether personally, organisationally or in the sector more widely) in order to communicate what we’re doing and the difference we are trying to make – our ambition and progress – and being accountable for it.  We cannot solve the problem of racial injustice ourselves, but we can make a contribution to that end.

Sally said that Mark has been helping the group to focus on the issue of accountability, and that had helped her to think about how she could use her position and her role to actively be accountable to people who had helped educate her.  How can we as individuals and as a group be accountable to others?

Clare echoed that view, and has been thinking about what Marcia from Grant Givers Movement said about our role in “activating voice”. 

Nick said it was important for us to be aware of, and take, opportunities to make a practical difference – eg changing our approach to trustee recruitment, as Buttle UK and Smallwood Trust have done.

Mark said the JFI contains a diverse range of foundations (corporate, family, place-based, etc), which potentially gives us a range of audiences to engage with – which is both an opportunity and a responsibility – ie we should be active and intentional in seeking to influence them.

Paul said the Smallwood Trust is recruiting a learning partner and is being more intentional in making sure the opportunity is available across a more diverse range of organisations and individual consultants.  The Trust will also take this approach when recruiting any new freelance grant assessors.  Paul felt it is important to bring the racial justice lens across all areas of the Trust’s work in addition to the actual funding of organisations and to help tackle any of the structures that remain hidden from view.

Paul and Joe are involved with the Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO), and Sally’s trust has recently joined.  Together they plan to approach the CEO of ACO to offer any learning from JFI to their membership network.

Stew said that WSNT’s chair is involved with the UK Community Foundation’s Network and there is the possibility of JFI engaging with that network. 

Celia reflected on the framing of “getting DEI on the agenda” and how that relates to racial justice and the focus of the JFI.  The wider DEI focus can be useful, but in the JFI context, our responsibility as CEOs is to integrate a racial justice lens into all aspects of our organisation’s work, and to have a vision and plan for that.  That could be part of a broader DEI approach, but it is not necessarily interchangeable with it.

Clare asked how we might be accountable to the different constituencies we have identified as part of developing our action plan.

Celia would like us to be accountable to the people who have educated us, but also to racialised communities more broadly. 

Mark said he is developing a framework to think about where he as an individual, and as part of the JFI, could make a contribution.  He would be up for sharing that with the group and seeing if that could help us to create something which we could share publicly as a way of being more accountable.  

Celia suggested we each develop our own plan for how we are going to advance racial justice, each of which could be published on the JFI website.  We should also develop an overall plan for JFI which is also published on the website.  We can then invite people to critique those plans and potentially engage with us at different parts of the process.

Mark suggested we develop our individual plans through using the pair discussions, as that had been helpful.

Joe supported Celia’s suggestion for both the individual plans and the JFI plan, as a way of encouraging others to take action, including possibly setting up their own versions of JFI.

James said that the group’s recent contact with ACF is raising the profile of the group – eg the JFI website has had 7 referrals from the recent listing that appeared on the Funder Collaborative Hub website on Tuesday (2/11/21).  We need to consider what we might need to do to be ready to engage with the greater level of publicity about the group – eg what we say about the group on the website, the resources we list, how we deal with any enquiries.

Nick said we need to define our call to action.  We can use our influence to encourage and support the replication of JFI-type groups.  But beyond that, what is this group asking for, and of whom?  Do we have a vision of a funding sector which is anti-racist?  Are we principally a self-help group (with the associated benefits of support and challenge) or are we an activist group – or both?  This is a question that he and Stew had explored in their pair.

Stew said that he and Nick had reflected on the value of the JFI, as a diverse group in which things can be shared openly, confidentially and with trust.  That may not be something that can be easily replicated elsewhere, particularly if new JFI-type groups came from existing networks where there might be existing channels of communication that would allow information to leak out. 

Clare asked whether we should review/amend/update JFI’s original Agenda for Action?

Joe said that when he first heard about this group it was a no-brainer for him to join, even though the group did not have a specific call to action at that time, as he recognised the potential the group could have as an opportunity to explore and learn, and what it could do for him and the organisation he is chief executive of.  He wonders why there are not more chief executives wanting to join this group or create groups like it.  Other organisations are working on the issue of DEI, some with a racial justice focus.  Is it a barrier that we are an all-white group?  At what point do we reflect on why more chief executives are not interested in joining this group?  Perhaps we should ask them?

Sally said the Gloucestershire Funders network is forming a learning group on DEI, drawing on some recent learning from the Grant Givers Programme.  The group is formed from a group of people that knows each other well and that has helped it feel like a safe thing to do.  Perhaps a barrier to entry to the JFI is that it may feel unsafe for some people to join a group of strangers.

Clare said that might be overcome if we are more explicit about the value of the JFI to us.  It might encourage people to join or set up their own.

Mark said he cannot distinguish between his own development and learning on the issue of racial justice and its impact, and the demand, “calling”, that comes with that learning to take action.  If you are aware of racial injustice, you have to take action.  Both GGM and #CharitySoWhite called on us not to be too introspective – but to take action.  Mark’s view is that what JFI does will be just part of what each of us will do on anti-racism.  We can offer the JFI model to others, and support others to develop similar groups.  We can also prioritise action with infrastructure bodies so that they register the urgency of the anti-racism issue and take action.  There are probably other things we could do.  If we truly understand the nature of anti-racism then JFI should be both a self-help group and an advocacy group.

Celia’s view on our call for action is that it should contain our individual commitments to action and change (personally and within our organisations) – to encourage others to make this commitment and to act – and part of that should be leveraging our power to support our grantees and others to take action on racial justice.  Our call to action should also contain something on being in solidarity with black-led initiatives (eg the Baobab Foundation, Phoenix Fund) and encouraging others to do so – and we need to talk to those black-led initiatives to see how best to do that.  Also, our call for action should push infrastructure bodies to take action on racial justice.

Paul said his conversations with infrastructure bodies has suggested they are engaging with DEI issues, although he was disappointed with one response which led to a question:  How do we empower ourselves to influence infrastructure bodies (and others) to take (more) action on racial justice? 

Nick said that the boards of infrastructure bodies are elected, and we could use our voting power and promote candidates to alter the priorities of those organisations to include a focus on racial justice.  We can also seek to have conversations with members of their boards if our conversations with executive staff are not productive.

The group agreed Mark’s suggestion that a small group of us could come together to draft an action plan for our engagement with infrastructure bodies, drawing on the contact we have recently had with ACF.  The draft will be circulated to the whole group for comment/approval and we can then move it forward before the next meeting.  James and Joe volunteered to work with Mark on this.

Stew said that London Funders (a membership group which includes foundations, statutory funders and corporates) might be receptive to a discussion with this group.  It initiated the London Community Response, which in later rounds, had a strong DEI focus.  It is co-located with ACF and ACO. 

Clare offered to take all the points raised today and use them to create a draft call to action and draft action plan for JFI. 

3. ACTIONS:

Clare will update the Googledocs ‘JFI action plan’ document to incorporate the points raised today.

Mark, James and Joe will work on the plan for engaging with infrastructure organisations and circulate to the group for comment and approval.

Sally will set up the Zoom call for the next meeting.

Sally, Joe and Paul to discuss how to engage with ACO in the new year.

4. Next meeting:

The focus will be reviewing and approving the revised call to action and action plan for the group.

Friday 10 December 2021.  1pm to 2.30pm on Zoom. 

Chair and note taker – to be agreed. 

Joe gave his apologies.

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