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Booska Paper: Exposing structural racism in the third sector

April 21st, 2021
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National funders urged by Black and minoritised community organisations to address structural racism and demonstrate commitment in their long-term strategies

Although funders are now acknowledging the importance of addressing entrenched inequalities, it remains to be seen whether tackling systemic racism will feature in their long-term strategies this year.

For over ten years, The Ubele Initiative has built sustainable communities without receiving adequate support and recognition. Now, in a convening role, they lead crucial research on behalf of local, regional and national Black and minoritised infrastructure organisations in the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector. The findings based on experiences of Black and minoritised community leaders in the sector have just been published.

The Booska Paper exposes structural racism in the third sector and explores the impact of the pandemic on funding attitudes in the UK. It highlights the crisis of confidence in the sector accompanied with the feeling of not deserving of funding; culture of competition being bred; diversity and inclusion efforts being confused with demonstrating anti-racism; and lack of transparency about which applications are being turned down and for what reasons. These are only some of the issues that, according to the Booska Paper, need to be addressed by the funders and policy makers to help us create a more just and racially equitable society where all communities can flourish.

“Just because governments have pulled out, it does not eradicate the basic needs of Black and minoritised people that are not being met. Whilst people are arguing over whose role it is to plug that gap - we are dying.” - said one of the grassroot groups involved in the research. 

Yvonne Field, Founder and CEO of The Ubele Initiative said: “Our national voice, articulated and captured by ourselves concerning our long term funding needs has been missing from the Covid-19 recovery planning period. This position paper will not be an easy read for some, but we know facilitating transformational change is not really for the fainthearted! We hope that funders will dig deep, commit to the Calls to Action and collaborate with our sector to ensure that more racially just funding practices including designs and decision-making become mainstream practice over the next few years.”

Although, the Booska Paper reinforces the main messages coming from the recently released review from the Funders for Race Equality Alliance and research from Baobab Foundation that highlighted how institutional racism in funding systems needs to be faced, it also provides concrete and tangible steps that funders can work towards to address structural racism in the funding landscape. The Booska Paper: Calls to Action have been signed by #CharitySoWhite, Runnymede Trust, Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, Imkaan, Coalition of Race Equality, Race on the Agenda amongst others- who urge funders and policy makers to transition to anti-racism by confronting entrenched inequalities and systemic racism in their practice and long-term strategies.

Maurice McLeod CEO of Race on the Agenda said: “The horrific tragedy of George Floyd’s murder caused a noticeable shift in the interest funders are paying to anti-racist work and the work of Black led organisations. This is of course, extremely welcome- but funders need to realise that the very same structural racism they are looking to fund has meant these organisations have endured decades of being underfunded and overworked. The sector needs long term support and trust and then together we can work towards ending racism in Britain. The Booska Paper is for that.” 

#CharitySoWhite said: “The Booska Paper sets out a clear vision for the funding sector that prioritises racial equity and justice. We echo their calls to action, and urge funders to adopt them in line with their commitments to anti-racism over the past year. We have a vision for a charity sector that takes the lead in rooting out racism. We have a long way to go; we have just scratched the surface. We look forward to seeing the sector embrace these calls to action, centre and value racialised communities and create cultures where staff of colour are safe and supported.” 

Halima Begum, CEO of Runnymede Trust said: “In 2021, we must ask our supporters and funders to invest in the black-led and minoritised civil society, without which we cannot push back on the very real forces of racism and the un-intended racialised inequalities that blight our communities. If there is little investment in the core of black-led organisations, allyship is also diminished. It is very easy to spread out the funding thinly to support islands of excellence in organisations that do great work on the ground – but islands of excellence will not sustain the longevity of black and brown-led organisations at a systemic level over the long-term to withstand the challenges of COVID, Black Lives Matter and more.”

The resurgence of Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd propelled the discussion of institutional racism in a way we have never seen before. Now is the time to come together to unlearn the competitive culture bred, share all the lessons from the past year and work together to reach people that have been left out of funding opportunities and for too long.

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