Three and a half years after the murder of George Floyd, and despite considerable attention in civil society to racism and anti-racism, too little has changed in day-to-day experience for Black and Minoritised Ethnic people in mainstream civil society according to the findings of a new report, ‘Warm Words, Cold Comfort: UK civil society’s ongoing racism problem’ released today by ACEVO and Voice4Change England and authored
by Dr. Sanjiv Lingayah, co creator of the Home Truths 2 programme.
This report is informed by a survey of over 130 Black and Minoritised Ethnic people working in mainstream civil society and is the first major output of the Home Truths 2 programme, designed to challenge and support mainstream UK civil society to take serious practical action on anti-racism and race equity. The insights and experiences reflected in this report will guide the programme’s work to build a sector that takes meaningful action on anti-racism and race equity.
The report shows that while there are some signs that organisations are signalling that they are against racism, they are not taking practical steps to change experiences. Key findings shed light on urgent challenges and hope for progress. The report reveals some alarming realities:
● 77% of respondents have experienced or witnessed racism within civil society within the last five years;
● 59% doubt the commitment of civil society leaders to combat racism effectively;
● 68% of respondents have felt the need to ‘tone down’ their behaviour or to be on their ‘best behaviour’ in order to fit into mainstream civil society.
Amid these negative experiences and perspectives, the report also highlights that there is hope.
● 46% of contributors feel that anti-racism/race equity is taken seriously in their organisation; and
● 65% are hopeful that progress will be made on anti-racism/race equity in the organisation in which they work.
Whether this hope is well founded will largely depend on the courage and commitment of mainstream civil society leaders and organisations to undertake the hard emotional and practical labour that of moving towards anti-racism and race equity. If there is enough willingness, transformation is possible. If not, then mainstream civil society will be deemed to have offered warm words on racism, but these words will offer cold comfort and count for little.
A call for transformative change
The full report offers comprehensive insights and offers a textured account of the realities of working towards race equity and anti-racism in mainstream UK civil society more than three years on from the murder of George Floyd and the publication of the first Home Truths
The report kicks off a programme of wider activities for The Home Truths 2 over the next 18 months . The “Further, Faster” programme designed to support chief executives and senior leaders already active in anti-racism and race equity practice within their organisations to make rapid and meaningful progress, will open for applications in the new year. For those ready to make anti-racism and race equity core to their organisation’s mission and take action, register your interest to be kept informed and be the first to know when applications are open.
About the survey
The survey ran online from 17 July 2023 to 12 October 2023 and was open to Black and Minoritised Ethnic people with recent or current experience of working in UK mainstream civil society. It gathered a total of 139 valid responses. At the time of survey completion, 129 out of the 139 contributors were working in civil society – the vast majority as employees. The largest representation in the survey was of people
working in organisations with annual income of between £1 million and £5 million. Other respondents were fairly evenly distributed, including between organisations with annual income of £100,000 or less and £50 million or more. It is noted that discrimination faced by Black and Minoritised Ethnic people may be compounded by multiple factors in addition to their ‘race.’ Most survey respondents fell into
intersectional categories, as a result of which they may be subject to discrimination on multiple grounds.
About Home Truths 2
Home Truths 2 is a programme of work from ACEVO and Voice4Change England designed to challenge and support mainstream UK civil society to take serious practical action on anti-racism and race equity. Over the course of the next 18 months, Home Truths 2 will engage stakeholders from across civil society, including senior leaders, staff and those working within and alongside civil society organisations in a targeted practical programme of activity. Home Truths 2 will offer practical resources and guidance to mainstream civil society in general. The work includes
approaches to calculating and remedying ethnic pay disparities, integrating race equity into the core mission and bringing senior leaders together to drive forward their anti-racist and race equity practice.
The elements of the programme will contribute to converting the positive words from mainstream civil society on anti-racism and race equity into practical and powerful change.