We offer some advice to help charities implement anti-racism through their strategy and communications
The death of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked protests across the world, calling our attention to the horrendous racism that continues to loom in many parts of our society and our lives.
Organisations have been encouraged to reflect on their practices, policies, and commitments in order to align with an anti-racist stance. And charities have recently faced scrutiny following the #CharitySoWhite campaign that addresses institutional racism within the sector.
We look at steps charities can take to implement anti-racism through their strategy and communications.
According to a 2018 Charity Job Survey, 54% of BAME candidates said that they had experienced discrimination based on their race or ethnicity. Implementing anti-racism within your charity needs to start with consciously addressing it and committing to an anti-racist stance.
Senior team members should be encouraged to attend webinars and conferences to understand how to best implement anti-racism within their organisation.
Charities should set their stance and share that stance with all staff at their organisation. Use clear language – such as “We are an anti-racist organisation” as opposed to “We are an inclusive organisation” – and provide examples of what will not be tolerated within your charity.
It is not enough to be ‘not racist’ – charities have to actively fight against racism. By using the term ‘anti-racist’, you demonstrate a zero-tolerance stance and commit to actions that uproot racism within your organisation.
You can bring in experts or consult external parties where necessary. For example, Charity Digital took part in a Diversity and Inclusion assessment for small charities. It helped us outline the key findings on a range of recommendations and suggestions to support our organisation’s continuous improvement to fairness, respect, equality, diversity, inclusion, and engagement.
After clarifying and sharing your organisation’s stance, it is important to commit to your values. Ensure that staff know who they can contact to report racism in the workplace and that they clearly understand the process. Trust can be gained by treating all allegations of racism seriously.
You should also consider re-model your onboarding process for all new recruits to include conversations about racism to create a culture of trust from the onset.
It’s important that your team feels they have space to talk about racism. But not all employees from an ethnic minority background will want to speak openly about life experiences. Be mindful and respectful of their choices. Use anonymous questionnaires and forms to ensure your anti-racist strategy is informed by employees, including those not comfortable talking openly.
Implement anti-racism in the content that you consume and the content you produce. With external webinars, podcasts, conferences, and other events, you should aim to watch and listen to panels with diverse representation.
If you are contacting speakers to take part in events, you should do so with inclusion at the forefront of your decision-making. By consistently having white male panels, for example, we close a space that should feel open and welcoming to all.
Organisations should be mindful not to fall into the trap of tokenism. Tokenism is the practice of making only a symbolic effort to prevent criticism.
In this context, tokenism could occur should you call upon someone to take part in your event or marketing solely because they belong to an ethnic minority group. This can feel insulting and uncomfortable, so charities should ensure that all panellists – regardless of their ethnic background – are experienced within the field they are being called upon to speak about.
In the past few years, ‘voluntourism’ has been criticised as leaning into the ‘white saviour’ complex. Voluntourism can be described as the trips that volunteers from the Global North take to countries in the Global South. Such trips are often criticised because they centre the volunteer’s sense of satisfaction rather than implementing sustainable solutions for local communities.
As a result, imagery used for such trips often depicts a white person in centre frame, embracing a large group of non-white children. Some advertising continues to display stereotypes of Africans as “poor and needy victims devoid of agency”.
These images solidify the white saviour complex, a phrase coined to describe white people acting in a self-serving manner to ‘help’ non-white people.
Comic Relief’s international appeal films have been criticised in the past for falling into this narrative. In 2020, however, the charity stated that all African appeal films will now be led by local filmmakers. This progressive move empowers local leaders to share their stories and provides them with agency in terms of how stories of poverty within their communities are communicated to a wider audience.
Other charities have used social media to enable communities to regain autonomy and power in how their stories are told. In November 2017, for example, CARE France handed over their Instagram platform for seven days to seven women living in poverty in different countries for the campaign, ‘Stories from the other side of the world’.
These women were in control of what parts of their lives were documented and shared for the benefit of fundraising, regaining an identity in the relationship between donators and beneficiaries.
Addressing racism within the workplace can feel uncomfortable and at times overwhelming. But if we are to rectify the inequality in the UK charity sector, we must take clear and effective actions that commit to anti-racism.