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BAME network reflections on our equity, diversity and inclusion work

The BAME network at NCVO reflect on the first phase of our equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work, and their hopes for creating a more inclusive working culture at NCVO.

Following the release of the Voice4Change and ACEVO report into racism in the sector, we as a BAME network were not surprised, as outlined in our response blog to the ACEVO report. This report was published just as NCVO was beginning to share findings from our internal equity, diversity and inclusion project.

Our internal findings mirrored those of the Voice4Change and ACEVO report. While we understand the findings may challenge the perception held by those external to NCVO, we are grateful to see our experiences reflected so clearly in these findings.

The work uncovered instances of oppression targeted at people with protected characteristics including, but not limited to, race. Staff have been subjected to overt forms of oppression, such as disrespectful questions or remarks about individuals’ ethnicity or cultural background, and more covert forms such as BAME staff being talked over or side-lined in meetings by more senior staff. We know that this will have come as a surprise to some of our colleagues. It absolutely was not to us.

NCVO must change. What we have been through has been deeply painful. But we are glad that it has now been recognised, and hopeful that the process of making NCVO more inclusive can now begin in earnest. For that, we would like to thank the EDI working group. This has been mostly comprised of staff with lived experience of a range of oppressions within and outside NCVO, including several members of this network.   

It is their labour that has driven this work. We hope that the leadership they have displayed is recognised, and that they have further opportunities to develop as future sector leaders. It must be noted that a disproportionate burden has fallen on them to have the difficult conversations that have been necessary to fully communicate the extent and gravity of these findings. It’s crucial that the next steps of this process are fully facilitated by external experts and that the spending committed to this is used well.  

We’d also like to thank Pari Dhillon, the lead consultant of this phase of the work. We would not have got to this point without her work to create the safe/uncertain spaces needed for staff to discuss their experiences.

It’s too easy to say that as racism exists in society, it follows that it exists at NCVO. We did not need an internal EDI project to tell us that. The findings of this project are specific to NCVO and need to be recognised as such.

For there to be accountability, NCVO must share with unflinching clarity the mistakes that have been made, and how they will be made right. Oppressive behaviour at NCVO is not an inevitability, and it is now the responsibility of NCVO’s leadership to root this out.

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