Diversity, equity and inclusion have always been critical, but they haven’t always been recognised as such. The shocking murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police, and subsequent events across the world rightly forced these issues to the fore – especially issues around race. In the UK this includes how our history of colonialism has contributed to institutional racism across society. It has made all of us think about what we do and how we work, and NPC has been no exception.
At NPC we’ve been conscious of the lack of diversity in our work for a long time. Over the past two years we’ve been actively trying to apply these skills to diversity, internally and externally. Through our Walking the Talk initiative we worked in collaboration with others to get the sector talking more about how charities ‘do’ diversity, equity and inclusion and what might be holding the sector back. We’ve considered our brand; how we recruit, select and induct new staff; our professional development, training and employee wellbeing programme; and the opportunities presented by our public resources, training and events. And yet, when it comes to our own staff, our own diversity (especially ethnic diversity) still lags slightly behind the wider charity sector and further still behind Britain as a whole.
We felt it wasn’t our place to make a public statement in response to recent events until we had thought through what we might want to do. Other charities and movements, notably Black Lives Matter UK and #CharitySoWhite, had far greater authority to speak on the issue and shed light on how some of the systemic injustices it revealed are also present in our own charity sector here in Britain. Rather than weighing in, we believed we should first take the time to educate ourselves and consider how we as a charity think tank and consultancy that knows the social sector very well could make a meaningful, rather than performative, contribution to the fight for racial justice and for diversity, equity and inclusion more broadly.
So we’ve spent a lot of time listening and learning – to our staff, to our trustees, to our peers, to our networks, and to experts on diversity, equity and inclusion – to try to better understand what role NPC can play in supporting the sector and how we can step-up our internal activity to create a working environment where everyone knows they are valued and feels able to achieve their full potential. And that listening and learning cannot stop.
At NPC, our goal is to transform the social sector through our research, guidance and debates to increase the positive impact for the people and communities who need it. What would it mean to apply a diversity, equity and inclusion lens such as racial justice to this mission? And we’re up for challenging and inspiring ourselves and the sector, doing what we do best: bringing our research, insights and expertise to the key issues the sector faces, highlighting best practice, being agile and thoughtful, and bringing people together to find solutions.
We recognise there is no easy answer, and we certainly won’t pretend to be able to offer one. But we are making a long-term commitment to a continuous process centred around four themes that encompass all aspects of our work:
- Embedding diversity, equity and inclusion into our consulting work: We want to broaden the conversation beyond charity HR. What would it mean to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into a theory of change, grant making advice, effective philanthropy, charity analysis, or impact evaluation? We want to work with charities, philanthropists and funders to consider the diversity, equity & inclusion lens of what they are trying to achieve — either at the proposal stage or during the work — and to reflect this in our project planning, execution, and recommendations.
- Using our influence in the charity sector: Since our founding we have earned the respect of funders and philanthropists who value our advice, commitment to evidence, and willingness to challenge. We hope to make the most of these networks to amplify this debate, by challenging where power lies, offering practical insights and facilitating conversations about best practice among those with power and resources.
- Embracing a listening and learning culture: We’re going to continue educating ourselves, starting with our senior leadership team and trustees, and listening to colleagues from under-represented communities and their allies across NPC and the wider sector who are willing to share their lived experience to inform how we work.
- Transparency: We intend to publish our employee diversity statistics each year, including pay gaps, and improve the visibility of our working practices so staff, clients, donors, and others can hold us accountable.
Each of these themes builds upon the improvement initiatives championed by our internal diversity, equity and inclusion group over the last two years. Each is underpinned by a plan which will be reported against at each trustee meeting and adjusted as we learn and grow.
We want to do what we can ourselves and to support others who are better placed than we are to be leaders of anti-racism efforts in the charity sector. Success for us will be when applying a diversity, equity and inclusion lens is just what we do, in every aspect of our work, every day.
Note on language: We recognise that any one term will not resonate with everyone. We generally follow the Race Disparity Audit’s recommendation, referring to ‘ethnic minorities’. BME and BAME are terms are widely used by government departments, public bodies, the media and other groups when referring to ethnic minority groups in the UK. People of Colour (PoC) is a term prevalent in the USA and gaining popularity in the UK.
Walking the Talk is our cross-sector partnership to help charities improve their diversity
Our research captures our sector in the final few months of calm before the storm, offering insight into its strengths, weaknesses, challenges and risks, so that philanthropists, funders and policy makers can best support charities to help those who rely on them now more than ever.
The future will be determined by our appetite for real change and progress. Will we be cautious and shelter in our respective safe spaces? Or will we be bold, and take risks?