#OperationTransparency : Hold funders and executives to account on equality, diversity and inclusion!
Have you ever tried to find out exactly what proportion of funding is being allocated to organisations led by people of colour? Or what proportion of charities are led by people with lived experience in their areas of work? How about finding out how many women-led charities exist or how many disabled trustees there are in the UK?
An interactive panel discussion on how we got to this point, the role of the regulator in these kinds of questions, and how they affect trust and accountability in the sector as a whole.
Welcome, everyone, and thank you for coming. This event is made possible by our panelists who have generously given their time and insights over the past few months, and again tonight, so I’d like to thank all of them. First of all, in 2014, I founded Money4YOU. And at that time, we focused exclusively on offering financial literacy to children and young people. But from the very beginning, it’s always been about marrying insight and intelligence with equality of opportunity. That’s something I’m really passionate about. Now, we’ve rapidly expanded in the last few years, partly forced by COVID, but always remained focused on delivering our vision of a world where disadvantaged and marginalized communities thrive because individuals and organizations that serve them have access to financial management, education, and the confidence to engage in enterprise.
#OperationTransparency is a campaign that we launched in January of this year to call on the Charity Commission to add diversity data to the open charity register, and it’s part of that vision in a number of important ways. Firstly, that confidence to engage in enterprise, including charitable and social enterprise, requires trust and accountability right across society, particularly in leadership. Secondly, our interventions and training courses are always evidence based, including the needs and the pain points of our community. That evidence is critical to making sure that what we do is effective and efficient. And thirdly, it’s all about community. We’re not just asking for this data ourselves, we need it in the public domain as a resource for everyone, however and whenever they might need it. Now, before we begin with our first question, let me introduce our panelists. Feel free at any point in time to use the Q&A because these are very experienced and passionate people with a lot of integrity.
First, I’d like to introduce Malcolm John. Malcolm is the founder of Action for Trustee Racial Diversity. He just gave you a little wave there. He was previously the external funding manager for Harrow Council, Social Policy Adviser to National Grid Transco, and he’s currently a trustee of the Association of Chairs and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Malcolm’s been a trustee, chair, and vice chair at numerous leading charities including the Young Harrow Foundation, Anti Slavery International, Nacro, Novas Scarman Group, and Path International. He was also a member of the BBC Children in Need London and South East Advisory Committee. Welcome, Malcolm, and thank you for joining us.
Secondly, I’d like to introduce Penny. Penny Wilson is the CEO of Getting On Board. She started her career at the Association of Charity Shops and Barnet Voluntary Service Council. She was later Head of Community Affairs at the University of Cambridge, Director of Partnerships at the Brilliant Club, and CEO of Styleability. Before she became CEO of Getting On Board, Penny has been a trustee of several charities and is currently a trustee of the National Migraine Center. Thank you for joining us and welcome Penny.
I’d like to also introduce Martha. Martha Awojobi is a dear friend of Money4YOU. And most people don’t know, I didn’t have any full time member of staff when the pandemic hit. And then Martha joined me. So everything you see today, honestly, I can link directly to Martha’s contribution to this charity. We are incredibly grateful to her. She is the Founder and Director of JMB Consulting. She was Senior Executive for Corporate Partnerships at Refuge before founding JMB to reimagine what leadership looks and behaves like, what professionalism is, how we generate income, and how we respond to racism. She curates the hit fundraising conference BAMEOnline and is a trustee of the international touring theatre company ComplicitÃ©. Martha, welcome and thank you for joining.
Daniel King is a Professor of Organization Studies at Nottingham Trent University. When I first moved back to the UK to live, Nottingham was my home city so this is quite special for me. His research seeks to reimagine business management to include workplace democracy and alternative forms of organizing. Daniel reviews for a number of leading journals and is an editorial board member for Work, Employment and Society. He’s also the co-series editor of Organizations and Activism for Bristol University Press. His recent textbook with Dr. Scott Lawley, Organizational Behavior, is published by Oxford University Press. He has led research projects funded by the British Academy, ESRC and the Government Equalities Office. Thank you for joining us Daniel and welcome.
Do we have Kunle? Yeah, fantastic. Okay. My screen is full of all sorts of beautiful people. I am so pleased and honored to introduce to you Kunle Olulode MBE. Kunle is a good friend and he’s the Director of Voice4Change England, a BME charity and infrastructure body. I mean, their research inspires me to want to do more. And our AVOCADO+ program is actually almost directly linked to some research they carried out in 2015, about BME nonprofits and how they are under resourced. Now he was the Creative Director of the Anglo-Spanish arts group Rebop productions and is known for his groundbreaking work on jazz and modernism in art. He also led the Camden Black Workers staff group at Camden Council, and founded the award winning Camden Black History Forum, and was a co-opted member of the Cabinet Office’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Welcome, Kunle. And thank you so much for joining.
Okay, so now we’re going to dive right into our questions. We’ve got four questions for our panelists, they’ll each tackle them. And at the end, we’re going to open up the floor for your Q&A. So if you do have them, please feel free to drop them in the Q&A section. Okay, by transparency, just to set the ground, we mean openness to public scrutiny as well as to a charity’s own particular stakeholders. So, panelists, in your experience, what role does transparency play in public confidence in charities? And I wonder if we could start with you Kunle on this. I want to start with you because you’ve seen public confidence at work from both national and local government and as the leader of a charity. How would you tackle this? What role does transparency play in public confidence in charities?
It’s interesting that you say this. Back in 2016, Voice4Change ran an event on a Saturday afternoon at Southbank looking at the issue of trust. It was raised by a young 16 year old girl from Manchester. We were in the height of looking at politics and civil society, where she floored us all by saying, But Kunle, who can you trust? And it proved to be the most difficult question of the afternoon to address. And so the question of transparency, I think is not a straightforward matter. I think it’s the case that we need more open and honest discussions within our sector. We need mechanisms of accountability, in terms of when decisions are made and carried out. But at the same time, I’m acutely aware that greater and greater calls for transparency have not engendered greater trust. In fact, if anything, it’s heightened a certain level of insecurity within the sector, to suggest that without mechanisms for transparency in place, you can’t trust anybody. And I don’t think that’s the case. I think particularly, if we’re talking about money, within the funding space, the time when funders used to fund charities and grassroots organizations because they did good work, even I think many of the funders have recognized that that’s not always the case. The framework of checks and balances, and in some instances extremely bureaucratic asks, has created almost, certainly in terms of the Black and Minority Ethnic sector, a degree of distrust, and a suggestion that there’s a lacking in terms of transparency in the way that certain sections of our, of our own charity community operates. So I think that on balance, we need to look at this issue and this word transparency in some depth and with some degree of sophistication in terms of what is it that we’re able to get out of this notion of transparency? I think if it’s better systems, in terms of accountability, more rigorous precision in the way that we’re able to report on financial dealings, etc, is one thing. But I think that the question of transparency has to be looked at, alongside the importance of also developing informal relationships and informal mechanisms of trust within our sector. Now, I have a lot more to say on this but I’m gonna leave it there and I’d be interested to see other people’s ideas and opinions on this.
Thank you so much. And you’re right: according to government statistics, public trust in charities fell by 17% between 2008 and 2018. It recovered to pre-2008 levels during or maybe because of the pandemic. But you’re right, there’s been a lot of pressure even on charities themselves to be transparent. Malcolm, let me come to you next. What do you think about this?
Yeah, it’s a very interesting question. And I think my reflection is actually that a lot of people don’t actually know about. So I suppose my feeling is that a lot of people don’t even know about charities, don’t know how they work, they don’t know about trustees, they don’t know how they operate. And actually, it’s only when something goes drastically wrong, whether it’s misconduct or financial irregularity, or money going to so-called undeserving causes, that the media et cetera start to pick up on what is the charity, and what are they doing? So actually, I think for me, there’s a whole area around raising awareness about what charities do, about who’s in them, about how they’re governed. And I think that’s incumbent on the Charity Commission, charities themselves, and the media and opinion formers to actually just raise the ante about charities, that actually the public can actually ask much more intelligent and informed questions about charities and their transparency.
Interesting. I mean, arguably, UK charities are quite heavily regulated. I’d be interested to hear what any of you has to say, anybody else, if somebody wants to speak to this? I mean, arguably given recent revelations and denials of wrongdoing at Amnesty, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, and I was in the thick of this, ActionAid, Oxfam–the current standard of transparency is not enough. But how do you balance that? Penny, I see you twitching.
Yeah, I mean, I think we don’t always have to rely on the regulator. So we don’t always have to wait for somebody to hit us with a stick to tell us we have to do something. Sometimes it’s just the right thing to do. And I’ve been really interested hearing Malcolm and Kunle speak, you know, Kunle talked about the insecurity in our sector, you know, we get heightened requirements on us, it makes us twitchy, makes us nervous, but actually it does hold us to a higher account. And Malcolm talking about, we need the public awareness so the public can ask more of us, I completely agree with those points. But I think that we, yes, we can demand things of the regulator. But actually, it’s not just about regulation, is it? It’s also about what can we do as a sector? What standards can we hold ourselves to?
And those are the principles of transformational leadership, when we all collectively hold each other to higher levels of accountability and transparency. On that note, then Penny, can I ask you who stands to benefit from closed doors in the charity sector? And who stands to benefit the most from transparency?
Yeah, I mean, I think this is a great question, Carol. Or an interesting question. I mean, I’d like to talk just about trustee recruitment, because that’s the area that I know about. So we think at the moment that only 10% of trustee roles are ever advertised. In Getting On Board research, 90% of charities said they’d filled most of their vacancies through word of mouth and existing networks. So that is behind closed doors recruitment, sometimes the door is absolutely slammed shut. Other times, it’s slightly ajar, but it’s behind closed doors. And of course, if we recruit our trustees like that, we’re essentially going to recruit more people like us, whoever ‘us’ is, because being it’s people that we’ve got something in common with that are already in our networks. And that leads us to having really hideous trustee diversity problems, and from the incomplete and poor data we do have, we know that only 36% of trustees are women, that only a third of trustees are under 50, that only 8% of trustees are people of color, that three quarters of trustees are from households above the national median per household income. And that 60% of charities say that their boards don’t reflect the people they work with, let alone the people they should be working with. So that’s where we are. Now back to your question about who stands to benefit from that, I think it’d be really easy, and perhaps some of the other panelists would say, actually, oh, that’s older white male professional trustees who are benefiting because they’re the ones who are sitting on those boards. But I might argue that they’re not benefiting either. It’s a total own goal to only recruit trustees from certain bits of society and not others. And I think actually, everybody could benefit from not doing everything behind closed doors. And from being very kind of secretive about who’s sitting on our boards, as well, as individual charities. Sometimes we notice there’s a problem and when we try and do something about it, it’s all very surreptitious, and actually be much better to say, oh, gosh, you know, we’ve actually really mucked this one up, and we want a different composition on our board.
Thank you, Penny, this is really interesting. I have my own views about recruiting, you know, trustees that you think might work with you. But I want to go to Martha and then to Daniel. And I’d like you guys to speak on this, still thinking about what role transparency plays in public confidence, but also, who stands to benefit from closed doors? And, you know, transparency? Martha?
Yeah. It’s so funny. I came in also, with like, a very strong opinion about this. But actually, a few of the things have been said, have made me think, okay, maybe I should approach this a little bit differently. I mean, maybe it’s not who stands to benefit, but like what, like the systems, right, the systems of oppression, exclusion, that you don’t necessarily attach to a particular person, but maintains this very kind of, you know, white middle class charity sector that we see today. It was so interesting, actually, you know, hearing what Kunle was saying, where things are not as black and white about transparency. And actually, I was thinking a little bit about kind of power and equity. And actually, who gets to decide what level of transparency is needed, you know, we kind of need to take into account the history of this organization, the size of it, the amount of income it has, whether it’s led by kind of white middle class people, whether they have the capacity to provide that level of data, whether they have the money to do that investigation, to find that level of data. And actually, you know, we really need to think about who has the power to demand transparency, and who should have the power to demand transparency, which is the community, the communities that we’re working with, right? The communities that we’re here for. So this made me think a little bit more about actually what does an equitable approach to demanding transparency look like? And really thinking, Okay, those who have power, those who have structural advantage, you know, they must be scrutinized to, I think, to a higher degree because they have the capacity for it. This thought is not fully formed. But actually, it’s really got my mind ticking and thinking about, yeah, even the power that is involved in asking for transparency. And more often than not, those who are able to demand louder are the ones with more structural advantage anyway.
If I could play devil’s advocate just for a moment, here’s a thought. What do you think of the fact that if charities have more control over the information about them, they can protect their interests better and thus be more effective? Daniel, would you like to respond to that?
You give me a nice tricky question. It’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because I think the things that Martha was talking about, power and representing, and I think there’s lots of issues around how charities want to portray an image as well. So they manage and edit and present things. But also even the information that’s already there. So having spoken to the Charity Commission as an example, they realize that very few people actually go on the charity register and look up organizations and find out even the information that we’ve already got there, let alone requesting more information. So I think in terms of public trust, and awareness, there are things. And of course, charities always want to try to portray their own interests or their own ways of doing things as well. So there’s massaging of the figures or other things like that. And I think we can’t get away from talking about power, can’t get away from talking about responsibility in the ways these things are portrayed. An interesting example is something like the gender pay gap, which all large organizations are forced to report, but then they wrap it up in particular ways. And at first we thought this is really revealing, it’s shining a light on something and will make a difference, but then haven’t particularly seen much difference coming from those sorts of decisions as well. So whilst transparency might be a disinfectant and show certain things and allow certain things to come out into existence, does it actually shift practice? And ultimately, this is about shifting practices. Ultimately, it’s also about shifting power relations, I think. And as a final thing, I guess, another challenge to the idea of transparency, is that some organizations, particularly those below the radar, may not want transparency. I spoke to people involved in a fund for Black-led organizations and I was saying would you be interested in brokering conversations with the government? And they were very much like, no, actually, we don’t really trust the government. And we don’t really want those types of dialogues right now. I think to get transparency, we also need a public understanding of what charities do, how they operate, and understanding what some of their statistics might prove. And at the same time, a greater degree of honest communication about what charities are. We end up with this sort of idea that things are done on a shoestring and all of those types of philanthropy traditions as well. And we actually need to challenge some of those ideas before we get transparency. So I think knowledge and transparency probably run parallel to me. And I’ll stop there.
Gosh, what I could say about capacity, but I really think it’s time to bring Kunle in on this. Kunle, do smaller nonprofits actually want transparency? I feel like if anyone would know the answer to that, that would be you.
Um, I think they do. But I think it’s confused by more recent, contemporary developments. So for example, as Daniel was speaking, across my mind crept the thought, well actually, the organizational forms now within NGOs has changed. So it’s kind of naive of us to think that the, you know, the Charity Commission’s rules apply equally to everyone. And if certainly, if you’re talking to young people setting up their first organizations, it’s highly likely that they might not go for a charitable form. They may well go for a social enterprise or a CIC. So for me, that overplays also into this discussion about what do we mean by transparency? Because we’ve developed a legal framework, which has different levels of accountability, depending upon the nature and the form of the organization that you’ve developed. So it seems to be then there is a complexity in this in terms of when we then look at transparency. What do we mean? Do we mean simply applying the rules handed down to us in terms of the frameworks as they’re set out? Or are we looking at, you know, broader forms of accountability and transparency in terms of the accountability, for example, of communities, and how the communities that we represent, that we work to, how do they get greater insight and I suppose information on our activities? And I don’t think that’s just simply, as I think Penny was indicating, a question for the regulator. That’s a question also for the ethics of the sector, and for the individual organizations.
I mean, I think I agree about, I think it’s a double edged sword as well, because it can either save charities or ruin them, depending on what their aims and missions are, and how inclusive they are. I think for the work that I’m doing around trustee racial diversity, the more Black and Asian trustees that a young person finds out, and can ask questions about how inclusive is that charity, how well governed is it, how well do they do on people’s lived experience? You can ask those questions and get answers. And actually that can then start to change the dial in terms of whether that’s a charity they want to join. And similarly, that charity can start to think itself about, What can I do to try and appeal more to that wider range of people that aren’t currently coming in within charities? So I think it is a double-edged tool, but it’s got to be transparency about the right things. So I guess in terms of what Kunle was saying, yeah, there needs to be a proper framework, in terms of information that actually charities should be putting out there. And at the moment, it varies usually because of who’s on the board and what pressure there is. There are a lot of family foundations and trusts, who actually are more or less living in another territory altogether, because actually it’s generational and they’ve got their own rules. So yeah, so I think there is work to be done in having accountable standards around charities.
Can I just ask, going back to what Martha began to say about systems and structures, if we focus our minds on charity leadership, so, specifically Charity Commission and transparency. And if we think about how, you know, the leader of that is appointed, the powers they have, how they can be contacted, you know, whether they feel obliged to respond to requests for comments, what consequences they should take for failures. What are our thoughts about that? Because we’ve had a few challenges with them and I just wonder, and it seems to be a recurring theme, what people think about this. Anyone brave enough? Yes, Penny.
I’ll go for it. I mean, I think I have some sympathy, I have to say, which is probably an unpopular view, I have some sympathy, because there are people working within the Charity Commission, who want the same things as us and who are committed to these things. And yet they are kind of hidebound by being within a wider government system. And there are some things about, you know, the appointment of their Chair, and how that went pear shaped. And actually, that, you know, that’s a public appointments problem. It’s not specific to the Charity Commission, that’s absolutely rife in government, jobs for the boys. And yeah, so I, I kind of think maybe the question should be, how can we work together to get where we need to be? Because sometimes, we should, of course, hold the Commission to high standards, but actually, sometimes they’ve got no control over it either. And we might be better taking our campaigns to the government structures in a kind of broader sense, because the Charity Commission is just a victim of them sometimes.
Yeah. No, I mean, I hear that. I just wonder how it’s possible to hold those under you to higher standards than you hold yourself. And so how can we work with them to make things better? Any ideas? Suggestions? Kunle, I saw you agreeing with Penny.
I mean, to a certain extent, we have to do that anyway. At Voice4Change we’ve just put out a call from Sport England for a whole series of small grants for organizations, which means that we have delegated authority from Sport England. But in order to achieve that delegated authority, Voice4Change has to go through a whole series of governance checks and balances, which are actually nothing to do with the Charity Commission. So we are subject to another framework. It would have been easy for us to kick off and say, Well, hang on, we’re regulated by the Charity Commission, you know, how dare you ask us all these questions about our governance arrangements and demand that we put in place an action plan to deal with anything that you’re not happy with? And certainly, you know, I’ve had those kinds of feelings and thought, Well, this is a bit overzealous. But on the other hand, I think what is happening is that within the sector, people are beginning to develop frameworks of accountability of their own and apply those rather than simply rely on the Charity Commission. So I think we similarly do it. So for example, when we’re looking at grant applications in terms of our assessment, we’re also looking at the ethnic makeup of the boards of those institutions to ensure that the money gets directed and focused on Black and minority led organizations. So there are good reasons sometimes for some of these, you know, bureaucratic practices, maybe. But I think that finding a balance between the nature of frameworks of accountability, and the flexibility to carry out the work and primary function of a charity, is a difficult balancing act. And the Charity Commission doesn’t always get it right. We at Voice4Change don’t always get it right. So for example, we have a very high threshold for the ethnic makeup, as I suggested, it’s around about 70%. But if you’re looking at migrant rights organizations, there are sometimes very good reasons why migrants who have insecure legal status, do not sit on their boards, and do not want their status being scrutinized. So one of the learnings for us was in applying that threshold, we needed to be sensitive to the nature and type of organization that we were dealing with. So that’s why I’m saying sometimes, we have to be able to think, as well as act, in terms of enforcement. So it’s not it’s not a straightforward thing. And I think that part of the tension, a lot of the time between the Charity Commission, and many of the charities is when I think the rules that govern them are applied in ways which actually do not enhance the abilities of charities to carry out their primary functions.
I hear that. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about tokenistic practices. And it’s rife, I want to move on from the conversation because this isn’t really about targeting the Charity Commission. But when we think about transparency, there are organizations that we thought would be at the forefront of this, not least because it benefits them as well. But they’ve chosen to take a different decision or no decision at all. And one would almost wonder why. So, Martha, break it down for us. What is tokenistic transparency? Where have you seen it? What effect does it have? Because you have a huge wealth of experience around this area.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a sad one to answer really, because I’m an optimist. But the charity sector is really testing that for me, at the moment I think, you know, especially what we’ve seen since 2020 and the kind of outcry and outpour of not well thought out tokenistic gestures of antiracism, that more often than not, have not been backed up with any kind of action, right? And actually, Daniel said it perfectly when he said that, you know, the charity sector is great at PR, right? Really good image rehabilitation, and Kunle said, Who can you trust, right? And I’m feeling that quite a lot at the moment because of that tokenistic transparency. It’s so much about how you can say things, what you can say, whether you can get the language quite right, so that, you know you’ve given just enough vulnerability that people stop scrutinizing you, you know, just enough humility. We’re so sorry, we did that racist thing, but actually, we’re just going to carry on being racist, you know, in our structures. So there’s been that pattern of, you know, just outright kind of tokenistic gestures. But even when we look at how data is collected, and you know, even Daniel mentioned, like, what data is chosen to be presented, you have people saying, right, we’ve got loads of people of color in our organization, it’s 50%. And actually, like, when you scrutinize the data, there’s no one at leadership level, they are all on insecure contracts. They’re all you know, all of the people of color are not getting to that management position, let alone leaders, you know, executive leadership trustee positions. The only time you hear feedback from them is in their exit interview, which just goes into the cupboard and nobody looks at it ever again. I was looking at a report that came out, I think it was yesterday or today, it was good, actually, on kind of disparities in maternity care. But there was no information about LGBTQ, people of color, or Black people, “mixed identities” was used as a catch-all category, like what does that actually really mean? And it just goes to show that we’re not really going far enough with the data, we’re not really able to kind of think about the compounding of different experiences of structural oppression. But also, it’s not like we can capture data on absolutely every single thing in the world, right? And be like, now we know absolutely everything. So what people have been saying about there needing to be different kind of, you know, ways that organizations can be accountable, I think is really important. Maybe we use the word ‘transparency’ a lot because it doesn’t actually lead to accountability. It doesn’t at all, it can lead to another PR activity. But what I see more often than not, is the organization just publicly called out, as Penny was saying, they make their statement, they vow to be transparent about their journey of change, and when you speak to staff, when you speak to people that they’re there to support, the communities that they should be accountable to, nothing’s actually changed. And then these same organizations lead work around transparency, accountability, integrity, they’re ways to avoid scrutiny and to get more funding. And that’s yeah, it’s been really concerning. And what it does, then yeah it undermines public trust in the charity sector, but it also means these organizations are not really achieving mission. They’re more focused on image and getting funding. At best, I think our sector has, especially you know, these kinds of larger organizations, have rested on the assumption that they’re already doing good work. So they don’t really need to investigate equity and accountability for that with their communities. Which isn’t great. That’s thoughtless, but at worst it’s a deliberate attempt to avoid accountability and to kind of, you know, soothe images, which, yeah, it’s really concerning. I often think organizations, more often than not, might think they’re actually doing something really important or really good or being transparent, but because they’ve had these conversations within their monolithic leadership teams, and not really engaged with the communities that they’re there to support, not really thought about what it really means to achieve mission, they actually think that what they’re doing is great. Which is something to be concerned about. I’ll leave it there.
Thank you, honestly, you hit the nail on the head. And I know I keep going back to regulators, but the reality is, ineffective measures can make things worse, because all it does is it gives the illusion that something’s been dealt with. And it doesn’t need to be addressed anymore. And that’s not really helpful, because what then happens is people move on to the next thing. Everyone’s really busy, and it’s so hard to remember or keep track of everything. Daniel, over to you.
Yeah, I agree with what Martha just said. A couple of things struck me. A lot of this is also about who makes decisions. So thinking around that as well. So, you know, I did some work a number of years ago with a really tiny little organization. Only had like, five or six people, quite a diverse group who were trying to be very flat, non hierarchical. But ultimately, who made the decision? It was the white middle class man who was the accountant. And that’s ultimately where power rests. So we actually need to think about power, decision making and how those sort of things can be done. And sometimes they’re dressed up in forms of technical expertise and things which, they do matter that stuff, but on the same basis, then we need to think about how do you democratize that? And I think the thing with data that’s really interesting, as well, that you were just alluding to, and I was talking to somebody yesterday who runs quite a large national survey. And he said, Well, when people ask the question about gender, they get a fairly good response rate. It’s like 90-95%. When he asked about ethnicity and the diversity of it, the numbers that actually respond to the question dropped to about 60-70%. And he says, Well, what does that tell you? The people filling it in just don’t know the details. So this is the interesting thing about well, then, if a regulator comes along and compels people to do that, what would happen? What’s the implications of that, will people start capturing the data, maybe things are portrayed certain ways, maybe it forces thinking and it forces processes and forces action. So that’s quite an interesting set of things. So let’s think about the consequences. But does it deal with power? And I think these are some of the tensions that are there. So data reveals, at the same time simultaneously it can hide. You may have 75% representing the group that the organization is set up for. But actually, if the 25% still hold, ultimately, the final decision making processes, all those informal, subtle things or, certainly we see a lot of it within organizational studies, it’s the people going to the pub afterwards to have the chat. It’s not even in the board, it’s afterwards. It’s these subtle, informal mechanisms of power, we need to address those, and challenge those, and they’re really ingrained and hard. So I think data can help, but it can also give us this veneer, the appearance that it’s making something happen, but not necessarily. So I think we need to think carefully around that.
So in your experience, what would you recommend? Because I don’t think it’s either or, yes, it’s both. But then where should we start? What should we be really thinking about and doing?
Yeah, I think there’s a number of things. We have to think about, well what would be the implications of this? I think, from the Charity Commission point of view, there’s always the question of what’s the burden placed on organizations, and some of this is about size, as well, and small organizations, maybe not having the capacity, and who holds the information. But equally, maybe by forcing the issue a little bit, it does then mean that organizations pay attention to something which they haven’t. But I think it also requires a desire from organizations themselves to want to make the changes. And this is the much deeper cultural issues, so I think data can help and it can reveal certain things. But maybe there are wider shifts and cultural processes that are challenging as well. But these are endemic and systemic and challenging. So I would love to be able to say it’s this. I’m not sure that there is a ‘this’, but I do think maybe this is where a regulator like the Charity Commission holds particular forms where it compels organizations to do things. But let’s think also about the unintended consequences. What might happen if this goes wrong? I’m really interested in the idea of a pre mortem. So let’s think about this and then think what, but then this went wrong, and what happened, and try to think about, because certainly some of those issues about representing, both the example given about migrant organizations, I’ve spoke to people who are involved in Gypsy Roma communities, who don’t want to be on boards, necessarily. So there’s there’s those sorts of challenges there as well. So thinking about how it might play out in practice is also important.
Penny, I see you want to respond to this, I’ll come to you and then after you, I’ll go to Martha and Kunle, because I really do want, you know, these sorts of practical perspectives.
Yeah, I completely agree with everything that’s being said here. And I guess, I wanted to talk through what I see all the time, which is tokenistic board recruitment. And the journey goes something like, Oh, we’ve just noticed we’re not diverse, bugger, what are we going to do about that? Board really rushes straight to trustee recruitment with absolutely no thought as to why they might not have the right people around the table in the first place, and/or why they’ve had a succession of people coming and going. And it’s all about what they look like. It’s all about, as Martha was saying, you know, it’s profile, not substance, it’s all about getting funding, looking right. That person starts on the board, there’s been no examination of whether they’ve got the skills, knowledge and experience that are actually useful to the organization, which is just as important to the person stepping on the board as it is to the organization. And when they get there, they’re not heard. The organization doesn’t want to hear different perspectives. And you know, the results of that are the board gets zero benefit from that new trustee. That’s obviously not good, but much worse than that, the individual is subjected to real personal harm. And we get we hear this all the time, this is really common, and on the whole, I think the board around them, the board members around that person, are oblivious to what’s happening. They don’t realize what’s happening. And then the person stops coming, sits quietly, resigns, and then their whole community gets blamed for that. I mean, that’s a whole other conversation, isn’t it? “Oh, they never stay.” And I think this is back to Daniel’s point about, you know, the stats might show that that board has become diverse, but it’s hiding all of this stuff about what actually matters, which is, you know, recruitment is just a tool for what happens in the boardroom. And what matters is what happens when people get there, that they actually have equal power, and the stats mask all of that. So I thought that was a really well made point, Daniel.
Thank you, Penny, just on the point that Daniel made, you know, just thinking about it, the reality is that all good diversity data collection processes include the right not to respond, including our proposal. So that would also even specifically address your migrant example, Kunle. Because I think it’s very easy to see, well, yeah, why it shouldn’t be done, but the reality is, until it is, we can then deal with the issues, if any, that come up. And I think the good outweighs the, you know, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of not having it. Okay, Martha over to you, and then Kunle.
Yeah, no, it’s actually good timing because I was also about to address that thing that Daniel said about people being less likely to submit data based on kind of race and ethnicity. And I have yet to see a data collection form that understands what race and ethnicity are. More often than not, there are huge swathes of people that are not actually represented at all, apart from by the word ‘Other’. Right? Um, and actually, you know, there’s a big question here about who is designing these kinds of data processes? Like, what data do they think is useful? Do they have a really good understanding of like, actual identities and those kinds of, that power? I mean, I worked in fundraising for a long time, all of our kind of database people were all of a very particular kind of type of person. It has to be done holistically, we have to interrogate absolutely everything, right. So I’m thinking a lot about, you know, the way that we collect data, the way that we measure things, looking at KPIs a lot, and I’m always thinking about the Audre Lorde quote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Who is designing these datasets in order to dismantle oppression? More often than not, it’s the people who are, you know, doing the oppressing at the same time, who have all the good intentions in the world, but actually aren’t really able to even think about gathering data in a way that is meaningful. And I see people who are grassroots activists who are some of the more marginalized, and some more excluded groups who are, you know, asking these organizations about their data and being really critical in a way that I could never be because I haven’t kind of lived that experience. And it’s yeah, it’s just made me think a little bit about just replicating the same structures as our way out of these structures. Yeah, so I think maybe that might answer your question a little bit, is that like, actually, so many people do not see themselves in ethnicity tick boxes. I definitely know plenty of people that I work with who are like, well, you know, I’m Latin American, and I’m “Other”, I’m no one. Or, you know, I’m either “Asian”, or, you know, it doesn’t make sense, the categories, at all. That’s a bugbear that I have, and I’m gonna stop rambling on about it now.
Thank you. Kunle, and then I’d like to go to Malcolm before we start drawing this to a close.
Yeah, I’m less fixated on the issue of categories. I think some categorizations are bad, some are more precise. We did a project called Home Truths at Voice4Change, a document, which interviewed around about 500 people from the sector, in relation to their experiences of race, within our sector. And that’s not just people of color, but also senior white managers, and looking at getting a better snapshot of where our sector was at. And I think that document itself when it was published in June of 2020, was very well received. We’re now working on Home Truths 2, which is to look at the knotty issue of organizations and the transformation of organizations into spaces of equality. But my my kind of point in drawing on that work is, you know, data is both quantitative and qualitative. And the thing that really grips people is not necessarily the figures, although that’s important. But it’s the quality of data, where we look at the experiences and hear directly from the voices of people, and what they’ve gone through, and how they see themselves within the sector. So, for me, the methodology behind research in these areas is always important. And it’s interesting going back to Daniel’s points about, you know, a lot of this stuff in terms of change is done in informal spaces, from golf courses to kitchens to pubs. Does it therefore follow that we then have to regulate the informal spaces? I would say no. Because trust me, particularly for people of color, the informal spaces are often more important than the others, because they’re the only spaces that we have access to. Getting into the formal spaces and those informal cultural spaces, it’s almost like I think as Carol’s indicated, it’s both things at the same time that needs to be addressed rather than one or the other. So for me, in terms of transparency, and privacy, if you like, what I don’t want is a situation where people are demanding more and more measures of transparency. So that, in fact, it’s the informal spaces become more important for where actually, the real decisions get made. And people are just doing a tick box exercise in terms of the rest of the stuff. And unfortunately, I think all too readily today, there are many examples that I’m sure people can quote, in terms of where those decisions that are being made in those informal spaces are becoming increasingly more and more important, actually. So for me, I would just say that it’s not just data that we need. It’s also, dare I say it, and I’m getting increasingly more and more uncomfortable with this phrase, the lived experiences of people, that also play a role in how we make judgments. And without that kind of coupling of both data and lived experience, I don’t think we can really understand or appreciate the depth of the nature of change that we are kind of trying to achieve.
How do you measure lived experience? Anybody? And you don’t even have to answer that. But what you said, I mean, it was inevitable that we would come to this, you know? So just to draw this to a close, can I ask you each to kind of think about how you would know that a charity is making the world better, making a difference? So what is good practice, or maybe imagine the world we want to see? Penny, and first of all, after Malcolm has a shot at this, I’d like to come to you, because you have a lot of experience.
I think you’ve built on what Kunle has just said about lived experience, I mean, who says the world has been made better? So who makes a decision about, The charity is doing good, because we are doing a, b, c, and d? And unless you have people who tell you that it is making their life better, that they’re involved in the decision making process, actively and positively in all levels, particularly the top level, then actually, that question hardly means anything at all. So for me, I think that’s the starting point. And then, of course, everything else about where is it governed? Does it include people on governance, is governance actually being taken seriously, is there risk management, there’s a whole host of things, but I think I will stop at just those few things. Well I’ll perhaps just mention the whole thing around equality, diversity and inclusion. And again, it’s not just lip service. It’s hard work. And it doesn’t just happen by putting out a statement and recruiting a single trustee. It’s ongoing, and you were talking about measurement earlier Carol, yes, measure and monitor the work you’re doing in that area, but again, against people that you’re there to support. So I’ll stop there and I’ll leave space for other people, I’m sure I’m sure to add other things onto that list.
I’m sure Penny wouldn’t mind picking up on the governance piece. But anyway, please over to you.
Yeah, sure. I mean, I agree with Malcolm. So there’s the kind of impact data piece. And there’s some caveats there. There’s the well run governance piece isn’t there? And then I think I would add, I want to see an organization being honest and asking itself really difficult questions. To me, that’s part of seeing a well run organization that’s making the world better, because actually, if they’re saying to themselves, are we reaching the right people? Are we asking, you know, are they involved throughout our governance structures? Who aren’t we reaching? Who actually, you know, it’s all very well to just have a good comms department and produce some nice stats about who you are helping, what about people you’re not helping? What about differing outcomes for different communities, and that kind of public airing of, We could do better? We’re looking at this, we’ve done an alright job, but we’re asking ourselves some hard questions and we could do better. To me, that’s a sign of a really well run organization that’s making a difference, that’s holding itself up to very high standards.
That’s a very long list now. Lived experience, governance, EDI, impact and outcomes, honesty, integrity. Dare I add one? I think that part of that honesty is really having an exit strategy. The truth is, if you’re in the business of just staying in the business, I question exactly whether you believe your mission. I just want to see plans on how people intend to reach their goals. But Martha, please take over from here, because I’m sure you can really say this more eloquently than I can.
I feel like I’m actually verbatim gonna say what you’ve just said, that actually, all of this comes down to achieving mission, it doesn’t mean supporting the most structurally advantaged. And yeah, achieving mission means that you have an end strategy. Yeah, I think, you know, really being accountable to the community that you’re there to support. I think that’s how you know that you’re doing a good job. But making the world better is, yeah, existing to end. Working to end. And really focusing on the most structurally impacted by the issue that you’re working on, because then everybody is going to benefit from that.
That introduces the concept of equity. So taking Daniel’s equality a bit further. Kunle and Daniel, contributions? Oh, I see that Malcolm would like to jump back on this. Okay. Very quickly.
There’s the theory of change, which some people use, some people don’t, which is about essentially, yeah, the work you’re doing, what are the outcomes? So it’s not about you. It’s about society, it’s about the wider world. So that’s theory of change and as you say, when we’re not there, there’s a difference that we’ll make to society. And so I just want to throw that one in.
Thank you, and Kunle and Daniel, if you just want to throw yours in and also seize the opportunity to talk about the work that you’re doing. That would be great as we finish this.
Well, I think I’ve covered really, most of the things I’d like to cover, but I think in terms of the variation in forms of organization as we go forward, and particularly in addressing the kind of, I suppose the vision and aspirations of our young people, we need to think more about the acountable forms that we develop, whether formally or informally, to hold people to account. I mean, much has been said about, for example, the networks and formations that exist in America that are open to people of color that are not open to people over here, and how advanced they are. But I think there is something which is very particular about the experience of being a racialized minority in this country, which is very distinct. And we have not yet, I think, developed the appropriate checks and balances in terms of how we, in a sense, regulate ourselves. Forget about the Charity Commission for a moment. But I think that’s coming, as levels of sophistication in our organizational development occur. I’m far from pessimistic, I’m optimistic that we are going towards situations where more and more networks are beginning to develop. And I believe even a new network was launched this morning, across the nation’s TV screens. It may, you know, go very well, it may not. But what I’m saying is, people are beginning to think about these things in terms of how we informally and formally can bring about greater regulatory structures in order to ensure that the processes of accountability are put in place. So I’m very optimistic about that. And I don’t think there is a need for greater control by the Charity Commission or indeed, greater state intervention to bring that about. If anything, you know, the Downing Street parties has revealed to us that when it comes to regulation, sometimes we are much better at it ourselves than even the state.
Thank you so much. Martha is saying, we need to have the grace for projects like the one launched today to fail, without being an indictment on Black or people of color leadership. I agree completely, it’s really interesting what we’re talking about now. So Daniel, I’ll hand over to you, but just on the subject of self regulation, which Kunle very optimistically believes is common. It may be so, but at the moment, the regulator, who are supposed to ensure that charities are doing good in the world, only measure using financial indicators. And that’s like trying to measure someone’s intelligence with a maths exam. Is it time to change that model? Until our self regulation happens? Daniel.
I would just echo the conversations, particularly around mission. And actually COVID was very interesting, did some research on the impact of COVID on the sector, and for number of organizations, mission became much more critical, having spent years often chasing funding and things like that. And then suddenly, you get a global pandemic, and it makes you think, why are we here? What are we here for? Who are the most vulnerable people or the people that we most need to serve or work with, but also the role of data as well. So one of the things that we’re working on, we’ve just launched a national observatory for data and insights in the voluntary sector, very much trying to think around some of these very sort of tricky questions, realizing there’s lots of bits of fragmented data in different places, but it also can end up rather disjointed. And we also overlook certain things. I was very taken with what, Martha, you were saying around the issues with identity and how people categorize themselves. But there is a challenge that also comes with that if we end up with very small datasets, that you end up with not being able to say anything meaningful in any particular way. And I think there’s something about coming together and sharing information in such a way that you, without getting too technical, but you end up with rather large datasets that you can then begin to break things down and begin to get that understanding as well. And I think whilst one of our ambitions is to think that through, to think about the way in which data is infused with issues about power, and I spoke to somebody last week talking about the idea of decolonizing data, which I thought was a really fascinating set of ideas that needs quite a lot of unpacking about how our current forms of data are forms of representation, right, and they represent certain ways of seeing the world, like you say, finances maybe speak to a certain agenda and not others as well. So we’re really keen to connect with anybody involved in this area who’s really interested in that type of space, and maybe where we can come together and share things as well. But I guess the final thing, I think to say, like you said the exit plan. Charities should exist for purpose, but not for their own survival, but often do. So trying to think very clearly about well, what would that mean, and what sort of world might that lead us to? So I’ll stop there.
Thank you. Oh, my goodness, we could literally have another whole webinar. There’s a question in the Q&A from Natsai. Hello Natsai. She asks, Is it time to admit that the charity model does not work? For example, social justice oriented organizations and organizations working towards true systems change. I have watched and been part of organizations trying to work in truly accountable ways. And seeing how the regulator stifles those attempts and how, for example, the law gets in the way of doing better for groups subject to marginalization. Are we tweaking around the edges of a framework that is not fit for purpose by design? Martha, did you want to take this one?
Yeah, I can briefly take it. It’s a great question. I mean, my mum asked me why I didn’t set up JMB as a charity. And I was like, because then I wouldn’t be able to do my work, right, actually. And there was a kind of a huge conversation happening about the depoliticization of the charity sector. And, you know, you see organizations like, you know, doing radical–I won’t say radical because antiracist work is not radical, doing antiracist work should be at the heart of every organization’s mission, because we live in a deeply racist society. And they are there to support, you know, all aspects of that. And we saw what happened with the National Trust when they just acknowledged the links to kind of slavery and colonization. I wouldn’t say I know the ins and outs of how the regulations work. But I will say that the people that I see and the organizations that I see who can really do incredible work to really challenge this and change are not registered as charities. And that comes with a whole host of problems. And actually, there’s some, you know, I’m thinking a lot about how can charities who have that, you know, status, work with organizations who are not able to access those, those funds? Because they, you know, don’t have a registered charity number? How can we start doing kind of more partnership work that like draws on each other’s expertise, but also draws on each other’s kind of safety, within a status, to really work in coalition a lot more? So yeah, I’m disappointed by the fact that actually, if you really do want to kind of, I think, I don’t know if this is, you know, if you really do want to kind of change systems, and do it in a way that isn’t like giving you constant headaches, as well, then yeah, it might be worth setting up outside of the charity model. It seems like more often than not, you know, organizations are getting told off constantly, it’s distracting from their mission, because they’re having to prove like this, that and the other, they’re having to then fight off kind of, you know, PR disasters as well, that really distracts them from their mission. So yeah, I, you know, there’s a reason I set up as a business, let’s say.
Thank you so much. And as much as I’d love to keep this on, I really do need to let the panelists go and enjoy the rest of their evenings. But before I do that, I’d like to take a few minutes just to ask each of them what they’re working on at the moment and how you can support it, starting with you, Penny.
Yep. So we have free guidance and webinars for anybody who’s an aspiring trustee, who’s a serving trustee, and who’s a charity leader interested in how to diversify their board and how to recruit trustees, and interested in trustee inclusion. So that’s all I’m going to say, Carol, I’ll be short and sweet. Please go to our website, which is gettingonboard.org.
Fantastic. Thank you so much. Daniel.
I’ve just given a brief plug a moment ago, but yeah, we’ve set up a new observatory for data and insights in the voluntary sector, which is launched by Nottingham Trent but we really want to make this open, collaborative, participatory, involving lots of different people in conversations around this and seeing where we can also try through academic lenses to put pressure and conversations around this type of stuff as well. So really keen to connect with people.
Just very briefly, yeah, Action for Trustee Racial Diversity, we set up about three years ago, we’re working with Penny around increasing racial diversity on charity trustee boards. And we’re supported by the Co-op Foundation for the next two years, which is brilliant. And we see that actually charities are taking up the challenge. And for us, it’s about the practical solutions. It’s providing the know how to people who want to do it, but don’t know how, which is not surprising given that most charities are white and male and older. We’ve got a guide which we introduced last year on how to recruit, and we’ve got a network of Black and Asian network organizations, a database of over 500 organizations with skills and experience from which charities can recruit trustees. So it’s a key resource that we provide now to charities. And again, our website hopefully will say it all. Thank you for that.
At Voice4Change we are, as I mentioned, proceeding with Home Truths 2 as a project. And that will be looking at the other side of the equation, no longer the experience of people, but looking at organizations themselves, and how they change. And looking at doing some in depth work with organizations to bring about organizational changes, and the kind of systemic changes that people have touched on. We’ve also now got the go-ahead for the further development of our longer term fund called Pathway, which is a Â£30 million development fund, which we’re going to be working on over the next two years. And we’ll be launching probably in September. So it’s quite an exciting development for us. But alongside that, we’ll continue with the usual governance stuff that we’ve been doing in terms of making sure that organizations under our own membership umbrella are also up to date with all the kind of different aspects of governance from what you need to have in place to meet the requirements of the Charity Commission. But also, I think, to improve our own understanding, as I think Martha has indicated, that not all, particularly younger people are interested in becoming full blown charitable entities. And there are other alternatives now on the table that we need to familiarize ourselves with, and also be able to have proper discussions about it.
Yes, so I have the BAMEOnline conference that is coming up in July, I almost forgot when it was. This year, we’re moving a little bit further away from fundraising, and moving a little bit closer to talking about liberation, systems change, and antiracism. The main theme for this year is really thinking about how do we do antiracist work without replicating colonial frameworks, without using the same Eurocentric measurements and impact reporting that is part of a system of colonialism and a legacy of imperialism. So really thinking about what does a life without the master’s tools really look like? And what does the charity sector without the master’s tools look like? So come to that. We also have an awesome YouTube channel where we share antiracism resources, we’re kind of trying to build racial literacy in the charity sector, so we have academics come and talk to us about race, racism, decolonizing wealth, philanthropy, power sharing, all the really cool stuff.
Excellent. Thank you so much everybody for joining us. It just remains to say another big, big thank you to our panelists. Malcolm John, Penny Wilson, Kunle Olulode MBE, Martha Awojobi and Daniel King, we’ve really appreciated your joining us. If you’re part of the Money4YOU #WorldChangers family, expect to receive more information about events like this and other things like our Brunch Briefings and Bootcamps. But the big one to note is our Dragons’ Den. This year, it’s our 10th anniversary and we’re doing something different, something special, look out for it. It’s going to be hybrid. So in person, but we’ll also have people joining us from around the country online. We’re going to have a huge amount of money to give out this year. And we’re going to be giving awards to ten of the UK’s finest BAMER-led nonprofits as chosen by you. Thank you everybody for joining and good night.