NCVO sets up committee to tackle its ‘structurally racist organisation’

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has created a board-level diversity committee to address its lack of diversity and “deep-rooted cultural traits”.

The creation of the board subcommittee, which is dedicated to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), follows in-depth work by the NCVO looking at its culture and behaviours.

The full and permanent subcommittee will be embedded into the NCVO’s governance structure to hold it to account, according to NCVO interim trustees’ chair Anne Heal.

It will also be chaired by an independent chair and involve external experts. An open recruitment for the chair will launch shortly.

“This sounds bureaucratic, but it is critical that EDI is embedded into our governance structure if we are to hold the organisation to account for this work,” said Heal.

“It is a full and permanent subcommittee of the board, not simply a working group. As well as ultimately being chaired by an independent chair, the subcommittee is drawing on external experts.

“This is in order to help us create the necessary safe spaces to further understand and respond to some of the weaknesses we understand we have as an organisation, and to guide our future work supporting the whole sector in this area.”

The organisation’s diversity review “challenged us to focus on the essential culture change we want to create at NCVO”, said Heal.

Inequity and injustice

“The findings include some reflections on us as an organisation that have been painfully difficult to hear – and even more importantly – especially painful for those concerned to describe. The work has revealed deep-rooted cultural traits, negative behaviours and practices that are limiting the ability of NCVO to be inclusive, socially just and relevant.

“We heard about incidents of inequity and injustice that have had a real-life impact on people at NCVO, as well as inequitable power dynamics and a lack of shared knowledge on EDI. Our internal and external research also found that NCVO sometimes ends up ‘doing to’ or ‘doing for’ the organisations and people we seek to support, rather than amplifying their voices.”

NCVO chief executive Karl Wilding added that “its clear from our work on equity, diversity and inclusion that NCVO needs to change”.

He said that includes being “open and honest and where we’ve got things wrong”.

This has included its decision-making, language it uses, how meetings are run and how it recognises strengths and skills of colleagues.

“That we are a structurally racist organisation is now clearer than ever,” he said adding that its organisation had a “predominance of white, straight, able-bodied people in our leadership positions”.

In March the NCVO found that just 9% of charity staff are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, compared to 12% in the public and private sectors.

In addition, fewer than 6% of senior leaders in charities are from BAME backgrounds, compared to 14% of the population.

Last month the Chartered Institute of Fundraising published a series of recruitment guides to encourage diversity and equality in the charity sector.

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