Hold yourselves accountable for tackling discrimination, open letter urges charities

More than two dozen leaders from minoritised communities have signed the letter, which has been sent to the NCVO and Acevo

More than two dozen charity sector leaders from minoritised communities have signed an open letter calling for charities to hold themselves accountable for tackling discrimination by publishing three-year equality, diversity and inclusion targets. 

The letter, which has been shared with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the charity leaders body Acevo, has also been signed collectively by the anti-racism campaign group CharitySoWhite

The full text of the letter, along with the list of signatories, can be found below.

It comes after Third Sector revealed details of a damning EDI report into NCVO, the result of a review carried out last year that found staff members from all marginalised groups experienced “overt oppression” across all levels of the organisation. 

The report prompted hundreds of charity workers to share their own experiences of bullying, harassment and discrimination in the sector on Twitter, under the hashtag #NotJustNCVO. 

The letter calls on the sector to “recognise that minoritised people have spoken out to share experiences of racism, homo/bi/transphobia, disablism, ableism and misogyny, and offered solutions; their bravery requires us to listen, learn and act and create a record of the state of our sector in 2021”.

The signatories of the letter – who include Wanda Wyporska, executive director of the Equality Trust, Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, and Gracie Bradley, director of Liberty – describe themselves as having “personally experienced the flaws of a system that continues to marginalise minoritised groups”.

Kiran Kaur, chief executive of GirlDreamer, which supports the personal and professional development of young women of colour to tackle social inequality, also signed the letter.

Kaur is a former trustee of the NCVO, but shortly after the details of the EDI report were published, she announced that she had stepped down because she could not effect the change she wanted to in that role

The letter says: “We need to start by building an understanding of systems of power and privilege within our sector, and therefore how oppression manifests within it.”

It calls for the sector to recognise the need to “pass power to exec and non-exec leaders who have the motivation, lived experience and expertise to build a new anti-oppressive system and culture across our sector, and crucially are representative of the people we seek to serve”. 

It says organisations within the sector should “engage experts and centre the voices of minoritised people to create and publish bold three-year EDI commitments” and calls for those organisations to “publish organisational plans and commitments in Third Sector or relevant sector press” so that they can be held accountable for achieving those commitments. 

The sector must recognise “the urgency of a clear accountability process when bullying and oppression occurs”, the letter says. 

It concludes: “We also stand together in hope and belief that the allies in our sector’s leadership will step forward and join us in delivering on our commitments to build social justice into the fabric of our sector.”

The full text of the letter reads: 

Dear voluntary sector colleagues 

We have worked alongside and amongst you for the cause of social justice through our careers. We have personally experienced the flaws of a system that continues to marginalise minoritised groups.

The recent #NotJustNCVO movement has yet again highlighted the continued concerns that the sector perpetuates racism, homo/bi/transphobia, classism, disablism, ableism and misogyny.  

Today, we as a collective of leaders from minoritised communities come together to be clear on how we can resolve these issues and create a sector actively dismantling and standing up to oppression.

We seek to work with individuals and organisations that are open to change, recognise their role within the system and understand that they must think, act and behave differently if we are to truly tackle these issues.

We need to:

  • start by building an understanding of systems of power and privilege within our sector, and therefore how oppression manifests within it 

  • apply this social justice lens to our organisations and then to honestly explore our individual power and motivation to change a system that oppresses or benefits us

  • recognise the need to create space and pass power to exec and non-exec leaders who have the motivation, lived experience and expertise to build a new anti-oppressive system and culture across our sector, and crucially are representative of the people we seek to serve 

  • engage experts and centre the voices of minoritised people to create and publish bold three-year EDI commitments at organisational level; built from a place of shared understanding of power, privilege and manifestations of oppression

  • publish organisational plans and commitments in Third Sector or relevant sector press to be held accountable by one another and by those we seek to serve 

  • recognise the urgency of a clear accountability process when bullying and oppression occurs and the need for due diligence in the appointment of all leaders to tackle the movement of oppressive behaviours through our sector

  • acknowledge our inability to create justice and fairness in society until we can do so in our own organisations and sector

  • recognise that minoritised people have spoken out to share experiences of racism, homo/bi/transphobia, disablism, ableism and misogyny, and offered solutions; their bravery requires us to listen, learn and act and create a record of the state of our sector in 2021

  • support and platform allies in leadership who speak up as part of taking action not as virtue signalling 

We, the undersigned, stand together against racism, homo/bi/transphobia, disablism, ableism and misogyny in the charity sector.

We stand in solidarity with all those that have come forward with courage to share the trauma experienced within this sector, one that we believe should be the beacon for social justice.

We offer the power and privilege afforded by our positions as leaders of the sector to amplify your voices and your recommended solutions. We also stand together in hope and belief that the allies in our sector’s leadership will step forward and join us in delivering on our commitments to build social justice into the fabric of our sector. 

Beyond this open letter, which has been written in solidarity with #NotJustNCVO, we commit our time and influence to creating the change you, this movement and this sector demands.

Asif Afridi, deputy chief executive, BRAP

Tracey Agyeman, programmes manager, Equally Ours

Shameem Ahmad, an anti-oppression activist 

Halima Begum, chief executive, Runnymede Trust

Gracie Bradley, director, Liberty 

Minda Burgos-Lukes, a consultant in social justice, social change and anti-oppression

#charitysowhite 

Aanchal Clare, trustee of the Association of Charitable Foundations and the Peter Minet Trust

Tiger de Souza 

Pari Dhillon, director, Social Justice Collective

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, vice president higher education, National Union of Students 

Ali Harris, chief executive, Equally Ours

Ruth Ibegbuna, founder, Reclaim & Roots Programme

Ugo Ikokwu

Thomas Lawson, chief executive, Turn2Us

Kiran Kaur, chief executive, Girldreamer 

Nancy Kelly, chief executive, Stonewall

Anjana Khatwa

Sophia Moreau, deputy chief executive/public affairs and policy manager, Small Charities Coalition

Maurice McLeod, chief executive, Race on the Agenda and councillor for Queenstown, Wandsworth 

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, executive director, UK Black Pride

Sonya Ruparel, director of programmes and partnerships, Turn2Us

Akima Thomas, clinical director, WGN

Zara Todd

Gurpreet Virdee, WGN director of operations and development

Wanda Wyporska, executive director, The Equality Trust

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