Policy departments among mainstream charities are among the least diverse areas of the voluntary sector, according to the head of policy at the charity leaders body Acevo.
In a blog post for the equality campaign group #CharitySoWhite, Kristiana Wrixon said that in her experience, “policy departments in ‘mainstream’ charities are one of the whitest, middle-class, non-disabled, heteronormative parts of the voluntary sector workforce”.
She said she believed this was the case because a high value was placed on candidates who had inside knowledge and/or contacts with national or local government when charities were recruiting or promoting people.
“This means that the charity sector is hiring a significant number of people to policy and lobbying job roles using the same experience, educational attainment and knowledge criteria that are used in the systems of power that many are trying to change,” she wrote.
Wrixon said there was a small group of people who considered policy work was a career option before they had been employed by or volunteered for a charity: those that had studied politics at university, people who had worked in local or national government, and people with experience in party politics.
“This is a relatively small group of people, who, because of the racism and inequality endemic in all our institutions, including education and politics, are significantly more likely to be white,” she wrote.
Wrixon also said huge emphasis was placed on building relationships with policymakers that did not make them feel uncomfortable, meaning charities ended up replicating the language and value base of those already holding positions of power.
“Surely the best people for policy jobs are the people that genuinely and unashamedly believe that radical change is possible and want to persuade others of that too,” she said.
“We need people in policy positions that will not be hypnotised by the complexity and scale of the challenge ahead.
“If charities continue to place the highest value on people who know how to play the system, they will never change the game.”