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It’s certainly not the most exciting industry, but as a friend and known veteran if the third sector reminded me a couple of weeks ago, the UK’s third sector, made up of civil society organisations like social enterprises and charities, is responsible for more of the country’s GDP than its agriculture output. They both stand at under 1% with agriculture representing 0.61% and the third sector representing 0.9%, but that reframing of my awareness of the sector helped me come to terms with something else I have been reckoning with as we worked to redesign our strategy in light of COVID to ensure we could continue making a significant impact while ostensibly scaling down our operations until our organisation returned to its normal capacity. The conclusion was, the third sector matters; under 1% of the country’s GDP is responsible for bridging the gaps drastic government cuts to local services have made over the past 10 years. So what happens when the sector that is responsible for doing such transformative and necessary work is not itself representative of the population at every level? The least represented groups suffer from misrepresentation, inadequate and insufficient support and inappropriate methodologies (chicken boxes anyone?).
We’ve spent the past few months reworking a picture of the future of the UK’s Black community. Factoring in things like the effect of COVID and continued cuts to social services funding in low resourced areas where most people of colour and especially Black people live in the UK, we decided one thing we could do to help redress the balance is to create a fund. Hence Common Call. It is the UK’s first grant fund dedicated to Black-led social enterprises and charities. We are providing grants between £1K and £3K in addition to strategic support and access to experts for the further development of organisations that are also committed to the development of Black communities in the UK. The second thing to do, in recognition of the diversity and even more particularly, the inclusion problem that is rampant within the third sector, is support organisations to build spaces that support the entry and retention of Black talent into the third sector.
It remains true that Black people are the most willing of any racial group to engage in volunteering within their local community when surveyed according to the Office of National Statistics, yet in practice, Black people are highly underrepresented within the third sector, in volunteering roles but also in mid-level and senior-level leadership positions. Retention is very low as many Black staff leave organisations within the first three years. Racism is deeply entrenched within the third sector with 70% of the sectors racialised population reporting to have either experienced racism directly or have been privy to a colleague’s experience of racism within the third sector. The problem is well documented with extensive research detailing problems such as microaggressions in the workplace, inability to secure promotions even when comparable work has led to promotions of non-racialized staff in a similar time frame, as well as a preeminence of piecemeal and light touch solutions that aim to mask, rather than seek to solve, the deeply entrenched race problems within charitable organisations.
As we settle back into life in a pandemic and re-engage with the status quo in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, we are now more than ever in search of tangible, effective and long-lasting methodology to either avoid the outcome of business-as-usual, that is the outcry of the disenfranchised masses that took to the streets, or better yet, solve the underlying problems that, for many organisations, have previously been masked by half-baked diversity and inclusion strategies like changing the pictures on the public-facing aspects of organisations, such as their websites and social media platforms to “reflect the society in which we operate”.
For those of us that choose to lean into a belief that the old days must be done and a new day must come, a new policy and practice must also be put into place. That, of course, is anti-racism. Engaging in the discussion and practice of anti-racism is a transformative experience for those that have been subject to racism and those that have perpetuated or benefited from the subjugation of people of colour within a system or sphere of life and experience. As Ibrahim X Kendi, the author of the seminal text How to be Anti-Racist writes, “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it.”
The dismantling of racism within an organisation is dependent on every member of the organisation to do their part. Organisational culture, like any other formal society, is underpinned by a clear set of rules and a less clear set of acceptable behaviours that are governed by each individual stakeholder within the organisation. When all is said and done, each individual, through their interaction with others within the organisation weaves a tangled web that takes up space and constricts the movement of people that would seek to create new patterns and shapes for the benefit of themselves and by virtue of that, the whole. To dismantle racism within an organisation each individual must recognise the tangled web they have woven, meaning the part they have had to play in forming, propping up or perpetuating a culture that is not anti-racist.
Anti-racism is everybody’s business. It is active and must live and breathe within the organisation as clear cut as, and impenetrable as, the exclusive culture that has been allowed to permeate in your business landscape whether that masked itself as a Boy’s Club, Upper-Class Club, White Club or any other demographic exclusivity that could, by virtue of its very being, dissuade a hopeful beneficiary from seeking help, or a great applicant from submitting their cover letter and CV in hopes of making your organisation better.
Anti-racism is about power and policies. From the individual and interpersonal, we move to the institutional and structural aspects of racists ideology that underpins the working of much of our society. These are some actions that can be undertaken within any third sector organisation within the next year:
We are doing what we can and will continue to do so as an organisation that is committed to ensuring Black people are supported to achieve and empowered to succeed across the UK.
Bayo Adelaja | Chief Do-er | This is how I got here
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Do it Now Now (DINN) is an open innovation organisation driven by the desire to bring social empowerment to Black communities across the globe. We bring charities, social entrepreneurs, startup teams, social innovators, investors, and philanthropists together to address social challenges, solve problems and support the development of Black communities specifically. We do this through entrepreneurship training and support in 6 African countries and in the UK.
When we launched DINN 4 years ago, we were piecing together an ecosystem to support Black people who are systematically removed from the existing entrepreneurship ecosystem of support globally. We sought to design the experience of entrepreneurship anew for Black and mixed with Black people around the world. To do that, we have had to work closely with our community to understand their needs. By identifying and engaging with key stakeholders across the entire business support landscape we can design programs that truly meet the needs of our beneficiaries.
We have an established track record, financed largely by consultancy work we have done with organisations like Google, Goldsmiths University, the British Council and others. This gives us the opportunity to continue supporting Black entrepreneurs who are unable to access paid services elsewhere. We have run 54 entrepreneurship training programs supporting over 8000 Black entrepreneurs in the UK and in Africa; 80% of our work has been with Black entrepreneurs in the UK. After a qualitative research study, we discovered that 78% of our beneficiaries identify as social enterprises and are primarily working on solutions to support Black people in the following areas:
As an organisation, Do it Now Now is poised to redress the deprivation of resources, skills and tools that inequality of resource allocation metes upon the Black community in the UK. Through the provision of training in leadership, activism and entrepreneurship, we empower Black people to engage actively and beneficially in the communities in which we live.
The Black community has been very hard hit financially by COVID and that has had a very strong knock-on effect on the social enterprises and charities that are run by Black people in the UK. With the majority of the organisations, we support relying on grant funding, personal savings and in some cases pay-day loans to help them bridge the financial gap to deliver on their charitable objectives and social aims, the difficulty to access funding and the significant reduction in wages all of the population faces means that the Black community could potentially be irrevocably harmed by the current circumstances.
The financial instability has left a significant support gap for the beneficiaries of our beneficiaries. We support enterprises that bridge the deeply felt gap of provision Black people experience across the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics, 19.6% of the Black population lives in the most deprived parts of the country, the highest of any racial group to be concentrated in deprived areas. There is an urgent need. If we don’t step in and intentionally support Black-led social enterprises and charities now, within the next 18 months, we will see a significant decrease in the community initiatives and projects run by Black-led social enterprises and charities that work to bridge the resource and support gap that Black people and other people of colour living in deprived areas in the UK experience.
If you, like us, are concerned for the future of Black-led enterprises creating beneficial impact in local communities across the UK, please head to our donation page where you or your company can contribute to their support.
Bayo Adelaja | Chief Do-er at Do it Now Now | This is how I got here
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We want to dedicate this post to those fighting for equality and justice by sharing helpful books, resources, and articles.
Throughout history, there have been moments that can be said to have been inflexion points in race relations. These moments shock our core beliefs as a society and force each of us to redefine who we are and who we want to be. The recent killings of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in America, are such moments.
Like Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech" and his subsequent assassination, the election of Barack Obama and the subsequent election of Donald Trump, we are faced with a series of momentous occurrences that have sent shockwaves through global and local communities forcing each individual to come to terms with the society in which they exist, and perhaps for some, for the first time truly question the values, and belief systems their position in that society depends on.
Bayo Adelaja shares our position.
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Growing up, I found it difficult to understand why Blackness was considered to be some sort of cultural monolith. The experience of an African immigrant to the UK, being different from those of a 3rd generation Black British person, similarly the African immigrant to the US, being different from those of a 3rd generation Black American person. It seemed odd that the Black American experience should stand as a cultural proxy for all things Black, yet it does. That’s because, despite the nuances between the geographical and cultural experiences of Blackness globally, there are many more similarities that exist between us. I’m referring to the oppression; the subjugation, manipulation, corruption and exploitation of Black communities, bodies, futures and minds.
The common denominator of the Black experience around the world is efficiently described in the Langston Hughes poem, “I, too”. The poem is set in the realities of the Southern slave plantations whose masters were known to habitually rape their slaves resulting in mixed-race children. The children were afforded certain privileges while continuing to be significantly deprived of any of the rights associated with being an heir of the master’s household. In the poem, Hughes meekly argues for equal treatment between the subject of the poem, “the darker brother” and his siblings, completely unexpectant of a positive resolution despite his protests.
Throughout history, there have been moments that can be said to have been inflexion points in race relations. These moments shock our core beliefs as a society and force each of us to redefine who we are and who we want to be. The recent killings of Ahmaud Arbrey, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in America, are such moments. Like Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his subsequent assassination, the election of Barack Obama and the subsequent election of Donald Trump, we are faced with a series of momentous occurrences that have sent shockwaves through global and local communities forcing each individual to come to terms with the society in which they exist, and perhaps for some, for the first time truly question the values, and belief systems their position in that society depends on.
We are living through unprecedented times in which the gruesome death of a person can be shared with billions of people around the world. The disgusting, tyrannical and violent behaviour that led to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbrey and Breonna Taylor have ignited a level of empathy across the world Black people do not usually receive. These are not the first deaths, these are not the first people that have been reduced to the incident in which they died. There have been a lot of hashtags and every time one of them trends, we instinctively consider the hundreds or thousands that didn’t. These unprecedented times have rightly re-ignited conversations concerning proper and effective allyship. However, allyship needs to extend beyond the marching of the masses into seats of power. Until people in power can effectively display their allyship with minority groups, beyond thoughts, prayers and condolences, all efforts to work within the framework that is provided to us by those people will fail to bring transformative change to nations and the globe.
I often think about the murder of 14-year-old Mississippi boy, Emmett Till, who was lynched by an angry mob in 1955 because he was accused of touching a white woman. Emmett was innocent. 1955 wasn’t a long time ago. My mum was born in 1955. 8 years later, Martin Luther King Jr, gave his defining speech and was assassinated in 1969. The 60s saw many African countries gaining independence from their colonisers, the final country gaining independence in 1993. In the 70s, while other American racial groups were feeling “groovy baby”, Black Americans were fighting and dying for the rights to be seen, heard and valued as members of society. The end of South Africa’s Apartheid only began in 1994, before that, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. In 2017, we were reminded that Africans are still being sold into slavery around the world. Black people are currently experiencing extremely harsh discrimination in China, with many of them being forcibly evicted from their homes amid the COVID-19 crisis. Only a few weeks ago, I wrote about the systemic discrimination that significantly reduces opportunities for Black people in the UK to live healthy and satisfying lives. On every front, we are being collectively oppressed. For as long as this history has played out, our society has applauded the verbalisation of allyship without reaping the rewards of action associated with it. Beyond allyship, we need Black activists, entrepreneurs and leaders; Black people who will utilise their resources, access, tools, creativity, skills and lived experiences to fight off the oppression, and succeed through the trials and tribulations so that they can usher other Black people safely to the other side.
Like the main character in the Langston Hughes poem, some individuals and innovators seek to redress the balance and aim to create a world in which the detrimental outcomes of racism no longer exist. Unlike the main character, our meekness has been replaced by righteous fury and passion for the development and empowerment of Black people globally. Until now, we have lived in a world in which the people with the power to change things have been complicit in the continued subjugation of our community by refusing to take opportunities to establish programs that will lead to transformative change and equality in our society. The people that are most in need of key solutions to aid social mobility should be the ones designing, and delivering them. However, with so few Black people being able to access the information, tools and resources needed to create authentic solutions to lived experiences, our future will continue to be held ransom by people who do not have a vested interest in our power and equality.
Bayo Adelaja | Chief Do-er at Do it Now Now | This is how I got here