#BlackLivesMatter: How UnLtd needs to show up to tackle racism and create equity in social enterprise

Mark Norbury

Chief Executive

19th June 2020



The murder of George Floyd, and the heightened focus on the powerful systemic racism in the UK, have made us reassess where UnLtd is in its efforts to be as equitable, inclusive and diverse as it can be. We realise that we have fallen short of where we need to be in tackling racism. We now need to correct that, and with real urgency. Our plans are outlined below.  

UnLtd’s board, executive team and I know that as an organisation we have contributed to both racial and other inequity with our systems and actions. We recognise we need to change significantly.

This is not the beginning of that journey. UnLtd was set up to unlock potential from across the UK, with the belief that people who have experienced a social issue play a vital role in developing solutions to address that issue. While back in 2002 we didn’t use the term ‘leader with lived experience’, this principle has underpinned our mission and our support offer.

Two years ago we reviewed our support and found that we needed to do more to embed our commitment to inclusion. 2017 data showed that there were still many social entrepreneurs, including from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds, missing out on our support due to systemic barriers we had put in their way (or failed to remove). A disproportionate amount of our higher levels of funding and investment was distributed to people identifying as white. This had to change, so we ran a pilot project to co-develop a manifesto for change with a group of these leaders.

We made designing for inclusion training mandatory for all our staff and board.  We dug deep into the root causes of inequality including white supremacy and patriarchy. This led us to begin redesigning our application process and our support offer, while committing to ensuring 30% of our awards would go to leaders with lived experience. We actively reached out to leaders and social entrepreneurs from Black Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to be part of our board and staff team across the UK. We committed to our values of being brave, inclusive and accountable.

Looking back, we know we have made some progress. This was highlighted by a former trustee, Stephen Bediako, recently when he commented that we were among the organisations who had worked hard to put a mirror up to ourselves and put inclusion at our heart.

But we know we have not done enough. We have made mistakes. We conflated lived experience and inclusion in a way that did not give enough focus and investment to either. The deep dive of inclusion training was good, but we haven’t done enough to keep that conversation, energy and action alive. Our Director of Social Entrepreneur Support was chair of the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion working group, but we have yet to implement all the nine pillars of action from that. I know we can do more to retain and progress Black talent in our organisation. We’re committing to improving diversity and inclusion at all levels across the organisation, particularly at Heads of, Director and Board where power and decision making is influential and agreed. We will also embed a leadership model which will find, support, retain and progress Black talent within UnLtd.

So what more will we do? Firstly, we have reviewed our 2018 Diversity & Inclusion strategy and identified gaps which we will fill, guided by the ACF recommendations and inspired by the work of grassroots movements like #CharitySoWhite.

Secondly, we are appointing an independent consultant to undertake an equity audit to address unconscious inequalities within our organisation, starting immediately.

Thirdly, we will set up an equity taskforce to build our collective understanding, accountability and develop solutions to systemic issues. This will run across our staff, board and social entrepreneurs, and will begin work in the next 8 weeks.

We will publish our commitments and changes to reinforce our accountability and transparency in a monthly public blog.

Finally, we are making more ambitious commitments for our own funding and support. Our goal is to have 50% of our awards from Q2-Q4 go to social entrepreneurs who identify as Black, Asian, minority ethnic and/ or disabled people. As we shape our 2025 strategy, we will also include funding goals for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We will publicly share our progress annually.

We know we cannot address systemic racism and inequity alone. We will respectfully challenge partners and funders who shy away from committing to equity and hope they will join us in not remaining silent.  We do believe that by being a better ally we can help break down barriers, create lasting change and ensure that we lead with equity (a step beyond equality), so every social entrepreneur has the same opportunity to thrive.

Further reading

For further reading on why this matters, we recommend:

This blog was updated on 26th June 2020 following feedback from social entrepreneurs and UnLtd staff. You can revisit the original blog here.

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