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It has taken me longer than I wanted to figure out what I wanted to say about this situation so awfully affecting the black population globally. My first draft was incendiary, my second draft was incomprehensible and this, my third attempt, I hope conveys the difficulty we face, acknowledges the preventability of some of the impact we are noticing and provides some thoughts on what we can do moving forward.
The black community globally is not one without issue. I recently saw a photograph of the rapper Andre3000 wearing a bomber jacket purporting a slogan that read, “Across cultures, darker people suffer most. Why?” It ignited a thought-spiral that begun with this statement and follow-up question:
“The Black population is systematically oppressed by social policy decisions that negatively and disproportionately affect our wellbeing and financial stability. What is the potential long-term effect of this reality if it continues to go unchecked?”
In this post, I’m exploring that question in light of the expected outcomes of the coronavirus in the UK.
For context, I’d like to introduce you to the reality of Blackness in the UK:
The above figures are all according to the most recent reports by the Office of National Statistics who also state that 45% of the Black African population in the UK is living in poverty and 53% is on some form of government support. For comparison, 56% of the white population is in receipt of government support while 20% are living in poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. In that final comparison, the disparity may be accounted for by “No Recourse to Public Funds” cases; Black African immigrants are living below the poverty line but are unable to claim any government support due to their immigration status.
Finally, according to the British Heart Foundation, Black people are more likely to be living with co-morbidities that are worsened by the contraction of Coronavirus such as High blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
At the time of writing this post, data has not been released about the specific racial breakdown of the disproportionate amount of deaths of people of colour in the outbreak. However, we do know that, according to the BBC, despite making up only 14% of the population, people of colour represent 33% of Coronavirus in-patients.
With that information as a backdrop to the current global pandemic we’re living through, a severe impact on the Black community is to be expected. We are at risk and we are dying. Yet we continue to be ineffectively supported. Unconscious bias is rife within the system that we have to rely on to save our lives. The people in the Black community in the UK have been repeatedly “gaslit” by the health system that in aggregate, won’t believe our pain is real. We are reliant on a system in which even our service is unwelcome.
We don’t yet know what the overall figures look like, and we won’t be able to tell for a few years the extent of the long-term effect on our personhood as individuals or as a society. These are very tough times for everyone across all races and spheres of life. Despite the difficulty, it is time to press into change and innovation, to address challenges in real-time and curb disturbing trends before they can be described as willful negligence.
Here are two possibilities:
Address Unconscious Bias within the UK’s healthcare industry. A short term solution could make an incredible amount of difference in the immediate circumstances. I’m not suggesting the NHS shuts down for a 24 hour period to re-train staff, as Starbucks did when a member of their US staff was caught on video displaying extreme bias against a couple of black patrons. I am however suggesting that something can be done to help both medical and non-medical staff address and avoid occurrences like the one described in this The Independent newspaper article.
Raise unemployed and self-employed support, to reflect full-time minimum wage across the country. Black people are typically financially unstable with a high rate of unemployment. The recession brought on by Coronavirus has led to hiring freezes and lay-offs across the country. Without the expectation of a somewhat immediate return to normalcy, even a short-term boost similar to that being provided for furloughed and self-employed workers could be an effective way to support groups, like the Black population, who are more likely at risk of financial ruin.
With all of that said, I recognise the privilege I have in writing this post, speaking into the void without any responsibility or ability to affect change in these circumstances. I wholeheartedly applaud everyone working day in and day out on providing solutions to the problems they perceive and prioritise.
It is my hope that as more people use their platforms to voice their concerns about the trajectory of this goings-on, we may collectively affect the direction of the discussions in the rooms where power is wielded.
Bayo Adelaja | Chief Do-er at Do it Now Now | This is how I got here
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If we keep going at the pace and in the way we have been, we won’t meet the sustainable Development Goals until 2094. With that in mind we have joined a global movement called Catalyst 2030 to galvanise the collaboration and infrastructure that is necessary among social innovators worldwide to reach the Goals by 2030 as intended.
We’re proud to be a Founding Member of this fantastic organization that was launched in Davos with the active support of the leading social innovation organisations in the world; Echoing Green, Ashoka, Schwab Foundation and Skoll Foundation. I was given the opportunity to present the introduction of the Catalyst 2030 movement at the 2020 Skoll Forum alongside two other Founding Members; Kristine Pearson, founder of Lifeline Energy and Colin McElwee, co-Founder of Worldreader.
Our global membership group spent months deep diving into the methodology that would support widespread collaboration within the cohort and to ensure the sustainability of this volunteer movement. In February, the founding members met in Northampton (UK), hosted by Spencer family in their stately home, Althrop, and there we decided on engaging members in working groups.
The majority of our members utilise the connections made within the network to further their own work and find new qualified partners for their endeavours, while also engaging in the organisation and development of one of the following aspects of our work.
WG1 - Governance - as you can imagine, this working group is focused on ensuring we are effectively working together to meet our collective goal as a movement.
WG2 - Communication - in this working group, we ensure that the Catalyst movement is effectively portrayed at all times, and devise methods to ensure more people get to know about the work we are doing.
WG3 - Collaboration - this working group is at the core of the Catalyst movement. Through the use of technology and other key components, members are given the opportunity to effectively communicate their needs, offer support and gain new insights to help them catalyse their own individual work.
WG4 - Impact measuring and visibility - for those of us that are passionate about impact measurement, the democratisation of impact information, usability of that data and transparency within the social sector, working group 4, impact measuring and visibility has been a great opportunity to explore ideas and methodologies with like minded people.
WG5 - Financing - this group’s mission is to catalyse the development of powerful systemic change to the financing infrastructure that supports social entrepreneurs. It’s all about embracing complexity from the funder side of things.
WG6 - Country and UN interactions - to ensure that we achieve the SDGs we have to work more effectively with governments and the UN. The aim of this group is to create an ecosystem in which all governments, UN & multilateral funding bodies recognise, respect & enable social entrepreneurs/social innovators to take action to implement solutions in their nations and organisations
WG7 - Private sector interactions - their aim is to represent the rest of the world that engages with the ecosystem in which we all operate. They work to engage and mobilise corporations, communities, civil society, and young people as catalysts to bring about systemic change.
WG8 - Convergence - in this working group, members are focused on designing the architecture for a systems highway that will allow us to share data and information easily to help build capacity for non-profits.
The Secretariat offers varying levels of support. In some initiatives it is a guiding force, whereas in others it is hands on. Its role is to coordinate, support and facilitate engagements, projects and opportunities with Catalyst 2030 members and working group members. As we worked to develop the governance structure of Catalyst 2030 it was important to us that this volunteer run organisation adopted a bottom up approach and that is reflected in the modality of the Secretariat which acts primarily as a Backbone structure, the core of that backbone being One Family Foundation, led by Catalyst 2030 founder, Jeroo Billimoria.
We have 10 years to achieve the goals. So over the next decade we are going to have to evolve our approach to meet the challenges that arise and to continue catalysing the impact of the status quo at the time. Right now, we’re in the Preparation phase. We’re building the movement’s foundation, performing scoping activities and determining what our key actions are to be.
In the Incubation phase, over an 18 month period, working groups will initiate pilot programs that will foster learning, and produce effective iterations.
In the Expansion phase, we’ll spend these 4 years scaling the proven models developed within our working groups, with the scope of the projects reaching across geographies and sectors.
In the five years following, what we have named the Maturity phase, we’ll further scale our interventions. By this time, we intend to have created new structures, policies, practices, and norms that can be embraced by system actors.
We know that we’ll have to be adaptable and that, as we are currently experiencing, focus can shift and change. Thankfully, the model itself, from the start, was built to absorb shifts and changes well. I’m excited about how well all of this has come together in such a short space of time, and how well we are collaborating and developing across our working groups, as an entire body.
Catalyst 2030 is made up of many fantastic organisations around the world that have decided to work together and make a concerted unified effort towards the meeting of the SDGs in 2030. Surely if the entire world can change in a matter of weeks, as it recently has, the entire world can change again for the better, and faster through efforts such as these.
If you would like to find out more about what we’re building, head over to the Catalyst 2030 website for frequent updates on our activities.
Bayo Adelaja | Chief Do-er at Do it Now Now | This is how I got here