The first rule of Equality Book Club


Against a backdrop of division in politics and the wider world, it felt good to hold the first meeting of the Equality Book Club to discuss and explore issues of social justice with people who are committed to learning from each other and moving forward together. 

We started by discussing why we were here, to agree that we were here to learn, but also committed to building a more equitable voluntary sector. Some shared their scepticism about top-down movements for change, and were keen to explore ways of building a grassroots movement to demand better of sector leaders.

Our first book, Angela Y Davis’ seminal work, Women, Race and Class, felt appropriate as a start point, as it traces the history of the anti-slavery and civil rights movements in the US, and it feels as though history is in danger of repeating itself with many themes feeling very resonant. We discussed the divide and rule tactics being used to pit vulnerable communities against each other, gendered behaviour being depicted as biological, and middle class white women’s racism in prioritising votes for women over abolition of slavery. These themes all have parallels today. 

Most people hadn’t read the whole book and as I made absolutely clear, the first rule of Equality Book Club is that it will never matter if you haven’t read the whole book! 

Inevitably, we moved on to share some of our experiences in the voluntary sector, and our desire for meaningful change, acknowledging that while it’s good that there are public campaigns emerging such as #charitysowhite and #aidtoo it can be difficult for some people to comment publicly because they are isolated in their roles, or can’t be too outspoken for fear of damaging future employment prospects. It’s sad that the power dynamic that infects society is so damaging to a healthy and equal voluntary sector. 

As next steps, we agreed that this group could become a useful support network beyond its Book Club and learning role.

We agreed we’d do the meetings roughly every six weeks to give people enough time to read the book. (But don’t forget the first rule of Equality Book Club).

I’m very grateful to everyone who came and everyone who’s shown support and interest. Hope to see you at the next one:

12.30 - 2pm Monday 28 October Venue: TBD

There were several votes for our next book: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

Save the date and I hope to see you there!

What's this ChangeOut all about then?

Over the past few months since I dedicated myself full-time to ChangeOut, I’ve been chatting to lots of people about what it is. This has been a huge amount of fun, but has also helped me clarify my ideas and gain valuable feedback.

So…here goes. ChangeOut is a social enterprise and consultancy working with charities, activists and campaigners, helping them on a range of projects from strategy to operations, from governance to delivery, from fundraising to communications. Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our work which draws on different experts for different projects. With direct experience in charity leadership, encompassing operations, fundraising and communications, we can help you develop your strategy and deliver operational projects.

One of the things that is central to ChangeOut is that it’s an organisation with a social purpose. We will never compromise on this. All of our clients are charities, non-profits and other social enterprises. In addition, we invest a large portion of our time on pro bono work, alongside our paid client work. This includes advising the Institute of Fundraising’s Change Collective, offering mentoring, and launching an Equality Book Club aimed at voluntary sector staff.

Get in touch if we can help!

Building understanding through reading and discussion

Over the last few years I've been doing a lot of reading and learning about social justice and equality. I've been particularly focusing on learning about the American civil rights movement, but also reading books by activists and campaigners from all over the world.

I've been learning so much and I'd really like to find some people to discuss these issues with - particularly charity sector people. I think we've got some work on our hands if we're to have an equal and just sector and building some shared understanding about these issues seems like a good start.

I thought we could read some books, listen to some podcasts, maybe even watch a few films and then discuss them. Whatever this is, it will be a safe, intersectional space.

The first meeting is on Monday 9 September. We’ll be discussing “Women, Race, and Class” by Angela Y. Davis. Sign up here.

And, do let me have your details below, if you’d like to be on the list for future events.

Name *

Remember the big idea

Photo by  Matthias Zomer  from  Pexels

Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

No one ever started a charity with a small idea.

The Red Cross was started in 1863 by Swiss businessman Henry Dunant, who was appalled by the suffering of thousands of men left to die on the battlefield after the Battle of Solferino in 1859. His work led to the Geneva Convention, which remains at the heart of international humanitarian law 150 years later.

Save the Children was founded by Eglantyne Jebb in 1919 to save the lives of children suffering after the First World War. Eglantyne’s advocacy on children’s rights inspired the current UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In the late nineteenth century, Thomas Barnardo gave up his dreams of becoming a medical missionary to China to set up homes for destitute children, having seen the effects of poverty on the streets of London. His goal: “No destitute children ever refused admission.”

These big ideas have led to enduring charities that have changed the lives of millions. More recently, the biggest appeal in European history, Oxford University’s Oxford Thinking campaign, launched in 2008 with an initial target of £1.25bn. Commentators at the time thought this was hugely ambitious, coinciding as it did with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and HBOS. They went for it anyway and, having passed that target in 2012, immediately set a new one: £3bn.

At the Institute of Fundraising Convention a few years ago I was struck by the scale of ambition outlined by Cancer Research UK’s then CEO, Harpal Kumar, in his plenary session. Their 20-year strategy, launched in May 2014, is to see the number of people surviving cancer double, to 75 per cent. Survival rates increased from 25 per cent to 50 per cent in the last 40 years, so this means not just speeding up, but doubling, the pace of progress.

They may achieve this, they may not. In some ways it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that they’ll get further than if they set out to do a little bit more of the same. Harpal’s plenary speech was invigorating and exciting. If it felt like that to a room of fundraisers from other charities, imagine the effect on Cancer Research UK’s supporters.

Donors want to feel inspired and want to be given the chance to feel like we’re part of something world changing.

At many charities, though, the ambition that caused them to be founded originally has been lost somewhere along the way. Staff can be reluctant to set challenging aims because they seem too difficult. It can feel safer to bumble along doing more of the same, rather than assessing where they can make the most difference or stretching themselves with a big idea. Maybe even deciding that they’ve achieved what they set out to do and that they could take the brave step of planning for closure.

When NSPCC set out to plan what became the Full Stop Appeal, I bet there were staff who said “we shouldn’t do this, it’s not possible”. But they went for it and several years and many millions of pounds later, the landscape for child protection has been transformed. Of course, the evils of child abuse unfortunately still exist, but more is being reported, many more children are being helped and there are more prosecutions and convictions.

So, when I hear of charities that aren’t willing to take a risk and stretch themselves, I think it’s a bit disappointing.

I get sad for the fundraisers because this lack of ambition hampers their ability to fundraise. “Please give us £10 so we can do what we’re already doing, maybe a little bit more”, is not exactly a compelling case for support. I get sad for their donors, who might want to be part of contributing to something ambitious.

But most of all, I get sad for the beneficiaries.

This article first appeared on Civil Society in January 2015

Lessons in inclusion from the corporate sector

Photo by  Helloquence  on  Unsplash

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

It is well documented that UK civil society doesn’t represent wider society. Only Barnardos, St Mungos and Victim Support featured in Stonewall’s Top 100 Workplace Equality Index 2018. Furthermore, research by Colour of Power published in October 2017 found that only two of the top 10 charities have women chief executive officers.

Charities need to do more to encourage diversity and tap into the wealth of resources available by employing staff from varied backgrounds. There is a lot the sector could learn from work already underway throughout the corporate and public sectors to increase representation at all levels within their workforces.

In November 2017, the Charity Commission published research into the demographic of charity boards and found that there were twice as many men as women. Just as worrying is that it also found that 92 per cent of trustees are white, with the average age of 55-64.

ACEVO’s Pay and Equalities Survey published in February 2018 found that a shamefully small number of civil society CEOs are from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. In publishing the report, ACEVO called for every charity CEO and individual in a position of power in the sector to ask themselves what they can do to enable the development of a more diverse sector.

Several initiatives have been announced recently to tackle these issues. In November 2018, the Institute of Fundraising launched the Change Collective with a Manifesto to create a fundraising profession where “everybody fits”. ACEVO has also announced that it will be working with the voluntary sector as a whole to prioritise action to break down the barriers and bias that exist. 

For some charitable organisations it can be hard to get diversity and inclusion initiatives to the top of the agenda. To help charities to make the business case, we have to look at what the benefits of a more diverse workforce actually are.

The case for diversity appears fairly self-evident. Increasing diversity in the charity sector tends to increase innovation, as people challenge accepted norms and proffer differing opinions, enabling them to solve problems better. Without diverse teams, organisations can be vulnerable to biases and "groupthink".

Having a more representative workforce also builds trust with the people and communities it serves. This is not altruistic; it is about getting the best out of people in the best possible environment to help beneficiaries the best we can.

It also makes sound business sense. Management consultancyMcKinsey&Company’s 2018 report Delivering through Diversity found that the companies that are in the top quartile for diversity experience above-average performance. It can also genuinely benefit the “dominant group”, as well as the minority group, as the majority are exposed to different ideas, cultures, approaches that can challenge and improve them cognitively, as well as socially.

“Real diversity and inclusion can deliver more engaged employees and customers, improved employee recruitment and retention, increase productivity and better group decision-making processes," says Stephen Frost, CEO of inclusion and diversity consultancy firm Frost Included. "Real inclusion saves money and improves efficiency in the systems of an organisation.”

Insurance giant Aviva plc conducted an assessment of companies that had achieved significant growth to see what lessons could be learned. It found that diversity and inclusive cultures are key features shared by these companies. Once this had been understood, Aviva decided that these were attributes it wanted to have and this led to Jan Gooding’s appointment in 2017 as global inclusion director to push this agenda right at the top of the organisation worldwide.

To get noticed, this work has to be connected to the organisation's core purpose. Aviva created the Inclusion Council, which is working globally to ensure that inclusion is embedded in the business rather than stuck in the “HR ghetto”.

Gooding says that it is also important that this work is led from the very top and that it appears genuine so as to gain trust and gather momentum throughout the organisation.

A good example, says Gooding, was when Aviva chief executive Mark Wilson attended London Pride and tweeted from the top of the bus in the parade. "He certainly didn’t attend quietly," she adds. "And this was something that had never happened before."

Gooding herself is chair of Stonewall. "None of this is tokenistic," she says. "It looks meaningful, which means staff are also more likely to get behind it."

Another organisation that offers some insight into how best to implement progressive programmes in this area is the Bank of England, which launched an inclusion strategy in February 2017. The programme aims to build greater diversity across the organisation in order to better reflect British society, says Simon Fillery, head of inclusion at the bank.

"The strategy creates a framework with which to engage all colleagues, and to ensure that we continue to develop a culture at the bank where everyone can contribute their best work," he says. "The strategy looks at all aspects of diversity, including gender, BAME, social mobility and this year we will begin to look at diversity of thought."

The initiatives introduced at the bank are split into three main areas:

•   Recruitment

The bank produced an Inclusive Recruitment guide to help hiring managers ensure that: the language in job adverts is gender neutral; to develop diverse candidate lists for jobs; and to understand the importance of interviewing people with diverse panels in order to avoid unconscious biases. The bank advertises on job boards specifically geared towards attracting diverse candidates and utilises specialist recruitment agencies that promote roles to women returning to work.

•   Retention

The bank has 10 diversity networks including an active gender network, Women in the Bank, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The bank offers a range of flexible working options at all levels, with 12 per cent of its staff currently working part-time. "We are encouraged that this is having an impact," says Fillery. "In our last survey of colleagues, 78 per cent said that they believe the bank takes diversity seriously, up from 73 per cent in 2015."

•   Development

Around 200 employees studied for degrees or professional qualifications in 2016 and 670 re-skilled through internal job moves across directorates. "The bank has also launched a central mentoring scheme and, since new skills can also be acquired outside the day job, we are increasing our support for community volunteering and engagement," adds Fillery. 

So, what benefits has the bank seen so far? "We are increasingly seen as an employer of choice, attracting the best into public service," says Fillery. "Last year, we were voted the most popular grad recruiter in banking, insurance and financial services at the TargetJobs awards and we were a Recruitment Programme of the Year Finalist at the UK Social Mobility Awards."

The bank has seen the diversity of its workforce improve, with female representation at senior levels increasing from 25 per cent in 2015 to 30 per cent in 2017. BAME representation across the bank has increased from 15 per cent in 2015 to 18 per cent in 2017.

Lesson learned

From these examples, there are a few key points that come to the fore. Firstly, working on these issues doesn’t necessarily cost money, but it does take thought – there is no one-size fits all approach to creating an inclusion strategy.

Secondly, it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. One thing that worked for the Bank of England was starting with measurement and data. As an analytical organisation, this seemed like the natural first step. For your organisation it may be different.

It is also important to look at the process holistically. As Aviva discovered, although it can be tempting to focus on gender to begin with, because that’s the issue that will reach the largest number of staff, it can lead to isolating other members of the organisation.

“The danger of focusing on gender is that this unintentionally creates a hierarchy," says Gooding. "Gender is not more important than anything else. People can get a kind of 'feminism fatigue', where even the women don't want to be associated with it. Plus it can also be reductive because what about black women, what about lesbian women, what about disabled women, and what about women who hadn’t had the advantages of education? So we took that feedback that we were given very seriously.”

The overriding lesson perhaps is that none of this will work, if it is not part of root and branch cultural change. "It’s not just about having an employee network; it’s how you communicate; it’s how you recruit; and it’s about your role models," says Gooding. "There are many levers you have to pull and there are no silver bullets."

Key advice to :

▪  Don’t think you have got to get your own house in order first, just get going

▪  Try different things

▪  Ensure you have got commitment to change at the most senior levels of your organisation

▪  Engage the most junior levels of your organisation as well

▪  Build the business case and make the change programme relevant to your own business

▪  Seek out free guides that available from organisations such as Opportunity Now, Race for Opportunity and Stonewall

This article was first published in Fundraising Magazine in April 2018

Sharing your platform doesn't mean giving up your power

Photo by  Miguel Bruna  on  Unsplash

On 2 July 2016, 60,000 people took part in a March for Europe from Park Lane to Parliament Square.

There were probably 60,000 different reasons for being there. Mine was to share a message of togetherness, reconciliation and tolerance.

When I was asked to speak, I immediately wanted to invite my friend Huda Jawad to speak with me. Huda and her family escaped to the UK from Saddam's Iraq and hers is an important voice to hear.

In the event, there wasn't time for us both to say everything we wanted to say. I said a few words and handed my microphone to Huda.

Here we are:

P.S. If I'd more time to speak, this is what I would have said:

I'm proud to stand before you as one of the 79% from Lambeth, the most pro-Remain borough after Gibraltar. When I was asked to speak today, I could have spoken alone but wanted to speak with my friend Huda. We were in Brussels for a meeting in European Parliament on March 22, the day of the airport and tube bombs there. To get home that evening we had to get a taxi to Lille and catch the Eurostar from there. As we crossed passport control at the station, I was in the line behind Huda, very conscious of her scarf and anxious on her behalf. I vowed that I had her back and that if she was questioned by the border official, he'd have me to reckon with too. Luckily it all went smoothly and we got on the train and came back home to London.

I wanted to be here today because I believe that we must stand as allies with our friends and with our neighbours.

I urge you all to be an ally to your friends and neighbours.

And that's what I call on our leaders to do for the UK and for Europe.

It was 100 years ago yesterday since the Battle of the Somme began. My Welsh great-grandfather was awarded the Croix de Guerre for treating French soldiers wounded by German bombs. The EU was founded so nations would work together so war would never happen again. We unravel these hard fought for alliances at our peril.

But teamwork is difficult.

Teamwork is fragile.

I've heard people say the EU is a dying project. How can something forged in the ashes of the 2nd world war as a project of peace and reconciliation ever be a dying project?

What would my great grandfather and those sleeping their last sleep in France say to us if we abandon the most successful peace and reconciliation project the world has ever known?

This project needs to go on and whether the UK is in the EU or not we need to stand with our family - like I stand with Huda

I wanted to come here today to lend my voice to a cry of hope for Europe. Whatever happens with the politics of all this we've got to live together as a country, whichever way we voted, and as Europeans. I'm incredibly angry about where we are and with our politicians. In the 7 stages of grief I'm still in the angry stage but I don't want to talk about anger I want to talk about love. Love for our friends and neighbours. We can't control what goes on around us but we can choose how we respond.

Don't choose anger choose love.