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My personal commitment to addressing systemic racism

4 min read
11 March 2021

Our Chief Executive, Emma Thomas, reflects on conversations with others in the sector and joins in sharing further personal commitments for racial justice.

There is no doubt there is much more that could and should have been done to tackle both structural and institutional racism by us as individuals and leaders working across civil society. The #BlackLivesMatter and #CharitySoWhite movements have been instrumental in truly waking many of us up to the systemic inequalities that remain alive in our sector and in society.

This blog is the result of conversations many social sector leaders have been having about racial justice. Loose collections of us have come together in various ways to discuss, share and learn together. We have been taking a long hard look at ourselves, our organisations, our sector and the power and responsibility we have to address racism within the various different roles we hold in professional and personal spaces.

Those conversations have held two things in common: racial justice and a commitment to change.

They have centred on a determination to understand the everyday impact of structural racism wherever and however it manifests itself, and how we can get better at disrupting the status quo, using our power and privilege for racial justice and demonstrating strong allyship.

Allyship is constant action that challenges inequality, oppression and discrimination. It is about using our personal and positional power and privilege to amplify voices, to step aside and to step back. It is about asking who is sat at the table, who isn’t, why not and how we get them there, as well as making sure the voices of people with a wide range of lived experiences are heard.

It is about asking who is sat at the table, who isn’t, why not and how we get them there, as well as making sure the voices of people with a wide range of lived experiences are heard.

We have spent time reflecting on how to be conscious and intentional in our actions, how we walk the talk in everything we do, how we make sure our personal racial justice work is embedded in our organisations and how we can influence both structural and organisational change wherever we can.

Most of us involved in these conversations have signed up to different standards, including the Business in the Community Race at Work Charter, the ACEVO diversity principles and led on organisational action plans.  

At YoungMinds, I have signed up to the ACEVO Diversity Principles and we have also adopted the Halo Code. We have produced an organisational action plan we are working to and will be reviewing this in collaboration with critical friends and external consultants Diverse Matters, who are leading our Inclusion and Diversity Audits.

We have produced an organisational action plan we are working to and will be reviewing this in collaboration with critical friends and external consultants Diverse Matters, who are leading our Inclusion and Diversity Audits.

Through the conversations we have reflected how much time we spend on panels, events, committees and working groups contributing to the production of knowledge and policy. Many of us are offered platforms so regularly we forget this is a privilege. It is not an opportunity everyone is afforded; diverse voices and perspectives are often excluded, and consequently privilege, inequality and the status quo are perpetuated. Those with the opportunity to be heard get to influence outcomes, as well as develop personally and strengthen their careers.

This led us to think about the small but nonetheless significant steps we can take to ensure panels, events, committees, boards and working groups seeking to influence change better reflect the rich diversity of lived experiences and voices.

As a result, I am committing to:

  • be part of groups and committees that are actively inclusive, and to ask myself who isn’t at the table, who should be and how we can get them there.
  • be part of panels where at least 50% of the panel are women and 20% of the panel are Black or Minoritised people.
  • take part in conferences where speakers and representatives with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences are heard across all parts of the conference, including the main stage.
  • always be asking myself, my teams and other organisers if we are making sure a wide range of voices and lived experiences are heard in our own events and those we participate in.

I am also:

  • encouraging others to make these commitments.
  • making this an organisation-wide approach, whereby we encourage everyone to do the same.
  • talking to event organisers about amplifying diverse voices.
  • encouraging event organisers to think about any barriers – financial or otherwise - to attendance at their events and consider subsidies and other mechanisms that enable people from diverse communities to participate.

I – along with many others in the sector - have already been using these commitments to drive conversations about more inclusive spaces. We are keeping track of them so we can learn as we go. We know we won’t always get it right. When we don’t, we will reflect on why and what we can learn.

In making these commitments public, I am naming and owning the power I hold to create space for more diverse voices to be heard.

In making these commitments public, I am naming and owning the power I hold to create space for more diverse voices to be heard, and for meaningful and inclusive conversations to take place in policymaking and practice development. The more of us that make these commitments, the faster we will make change.

They are part of a process of learning and unlearning. We know from experience that having the conversations works and will make sure the spaces we occupy are more diverse, more representative and more impactful as we work together for a racially just society.

There is no badge, no club to join, no fee to pay, just an ask: please join us in committing to do all you can to ensure diverse voices and lived experiences are heard. Will you?

This blog is being published on multiple organisational and individual channels and we would like to encourage anyone who wants to join us in these commitments to use and adapt the text and publish on your own channels. If you are struggling to access the text, please email [email protected] and we will send it to you.

Thanks for sharing your story Emmat Thomas, CEO of YoungMinds

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