#AntiRacismInAction: voluntary, community and social enterprise

By BFELG: #AntiRacismInAction: The voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, includes Chine McDonald, Director Theos, Catherine Witherington, Managing Director, Voluntary Action Doncaster, and Maddy Desforges OBE, CEO, NAVCA. The episode is co-produced by BFELG and FE News, and co-anchored by Gavin O’Meara (CEO and Head of Digital, FE News) and Stella Ngozi Mbubaegbu CBE, Director of BFELG.

The BFELG uses *“Black” as an inclusive definition to refer to people of diverse ethnic backgrounds who share lived experience of the effects of racism.

Today’s Live Stream Season 2 Episode 5 #AntiRacismInAction focuses on the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. Presenting the episode, Chine McDonald, Director of Theos, shares what anti-racism means to her: it’s about 3 things – watching, listening and learning – being aware of behaviors and practices that oppress people of certain races , don’t make assumptions (assumptions are the enemy of diversity and inclusion), don’t be passive, be brave and be comfortable with discomfort. It’s also about getting out of our comfort zone and recognizing that anti-racism is a journey.

There are around 169,000 charities in the UK and over 80% (over 136,000) are small, with an income of less than £1million. Many of these charities have difficulty attracting trustees. It has been reported that there are over 100,000 administrator vacancies in the UK.

Drawing on a range of data sources, Racial Diversity in the Charitable Sector: Recruitment Principles and Practices (2018), a publication by ACEVO, (the Charity Leaders Network) and the Institute of Fundraising, reports that the charitable sector as a whole “fails to reflect the racial diversity of the individuals, communities and geographic areas it serves “:

  • Less than one in 10 employees in the voluntary sector (9%) come from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (a lower proportion than in the public and private sectors (11%) and a lower proportion than in the UK in as a whole (14%)
  • There is less racial diversity at the executive and non-executive leadership level in charities
  • Of the top 500 charities by revenue, only 5.3% of leadership team members were from an ethnic minority background
  • Chinese and other Asian ethnocultural backgrounds are virtually non-existent, making up just 0.3% of charity leaders in the top 100 charities by income
  • ACEVO’s 2018 Compensation and Equality Survey found that only 3% of charity CEOs were *Black
  • When it comes to boards, the Charity Commission’s 2017 research into board effectiveness found that 92% of all charity directors were white.
  • Only 9.6% of directors of the top 100 charities by revenue are of *black descent.

The ACEVO report highlights that despite repeated attention to the issue, numbers on racial diversity in the charitable sector have remained relatively stable for several years.

Today’s guests, Cath Witherington and Maddy Desforges, explored the unique opportunities and challenges facing this vast sector with respect to ethnic diversity, and the success factors in trying to address them, their responses organizations to ethnic diversity and the steps taken to move forward on this agenda. As custodians of their community heritage, they also offered their personal thoughts on how best to harness a shared commitment to anti-racism in the sector.

Cath Witherington is the first Chief Executive of Voluntary Action Doncaster, a relatively new voluntary, community and faith-based (VCF) sector co-operative that gives a strong voice and representation to the VCF sector. It provides infrastructure support and an entry point for commissioning and partnering with a diverse group of organizations serving the needs of local residents. Voluntary Action Doncaster also supports and connects corporate and resident volunteers with opportunities across Doncaster. Voluntary Action Doncaster is the first voluntary sector, affiliate organization of the BFELG.

Cath has worked in the public, private and third sectors with experience as a freelancer, working in SMEs and large public sector organizations as well as a governor of an FE institution. Most of Cath’s career has focused on FE and skills. She was the Department of Education representative on the steering committee of the Black Leadership Initiative (BLI) which won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Maddy Desforges is the CEO of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), the only national membership body specifically for local sector (local infrastructure) support and development organizations in England. Local infrastructure organizations help ensure that the place is a place where everyone wants to live, work and visit.

NAVCA members (Voluntary Action Doncaster is a member) support approximately 200,000 local charities and volunteer groups across the country, helping them to thrive and provide essential services within their communities. NAVCA speaks to the value and contribution of local infrastructure to policy makers and decision makers, emphasizing the impact of their members and the vital role they play in building and sustaining strong communities, resilient and prosperous. Alongside its members, NAVCA is part of the local social action movement.

NAVCA considers racism a pandemic. The organization is committed to fighting oppression and prejudice and aims to promote both diversity and full access to opportunity in all areas of its work and structure. Addressing the challenge of persistent structural inequalities and racism in our society and within our organizations and institutions that have been highlighted in 2020, and also recognizing its unique voice and role within the local voluntary sector, NAVCA has undertaken to solve these problems – to be overt Anti-racist; and to work closely with members to be actively anti-racist.

With deductible NAVCA Statement of Intent on Equality and Anti-Racism recognized that as an organization they have not been as active as they could and should have been in addressing systemic issues of inequality in their own structures and work, and as part of the movement local social action organizations have little to no data or understanding of how effectively NAVCA members promote diversity or support inclusion at the local level.

Thus, in 2021, NAVCA created a Anti-Racism Group whose aim is to create space to raise, discuss and challenge racism where they see it – whether in central and local government, the public sector, the media and the voluntary sector – including in their own organizations , other local infrastructure organizations and those they support. The group is made up of members, staff and directors and provides insight, support and challenge to help develop the approach and action plan to become an actively anti-racist organization.

the Declaration of Intent includes the development and implementation of an equity and anti-racism action plan. This will be led by Maddy as CEO and will support NAVCA’s business plan, will be integrated into business processes, with progress reports at each Board meeting, which will retain overall accountability.

NAVCA also plans to conduct a racial disparity audit led by its network members and will develop a framework for action by working with its members to address issues identified during the race audit. This ambitious member-led, system-wide approach has enormous potential to transform the sector.

Watch Episode 5 for the full discussion and to hear guests Catherine Witherington, Maddy Desforges and co-hosts share their dream scenarios for #AntiRacismInAction.

Stella Ngozi Mbubaegbu CBE, Black Higher Education Leadership Group

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