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Every October for over 30 years, Black History Month (BHM) has taken place in the UK to celebrate all aspects of Black life, to educate and teach others about the important contributions of Black people throughout history, and learn from the history of Black oppression.  This year, BHM came at a time when there was already an increased amount of focus and attention attributed to the struggles and discrimination that the Black community face in the UK; the wave of international activism against structural racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement, had demanded reform and accountability.

At such a crucial time in history, we, at Careers4Change, wanted to capture the different efforts by a selection of social impact organisations who covered BHM, and who are working to be more diverse and inclusive in their approach. At Careers4Change we make a conscious, real effort to provide our clients with a more diverse pool of candidates, by liaising with BAME Recruitment, attending BYP Network and Diversity Forum events and guiding BAME candidates towards their ultimate ambitions.

As we reel from the extended presidential election day in the USA, and as the Democratic President and first female, Black and South Asian Vice President Elect prepare to take office, we are reminded of the divisions within the global international community and how there is still so much to do for transformational change to take place. Before this news, the Third Sector in the UK reflected on its shortcomings in achieving diversity and, during BHM, acknowledged a need to promote, showcase and celebrate the contribution of Black-run businesses to the UK economy.

These are some of the many social sector organisations which celebrated Black figures, culture and heritage and engaged in dialogue about ethnic minority representation at all levels of seniority:

  • Social Enterprise UK celebrated the achievements and contributions of Black British entrepreneurs each week during October; those aspiring Black CEOs, Founders and “heroes” who run social enterprises and ventures, encouraging the next generations of leaders. One of their tweets stated: “This is more than a month. Black history is British history”. Therefore, by recognising and respecting the experiences of those impacted by racism and, with a commitment to disarming institutional racism within the sector, they decided to continue that celebration of Black figures past the month of October.

  • UnLtd adopted a similar approach to celebrate Black social entrepreneurs on Twitter. Also, on the 30 October, they released an article with a list of their highlighted Black-led social ventures including; Built By US, Rose Tinted Financial Services, Feed My Creative, Women with Wings and Cracked It, among others. They also indicated how to better support the Black British community by encouraging people to buy from Black-owned businesses on #BlackPoundDay – the first Saturday of every month. Furthermore, they provided resources on how to dismantle anti-blackness through books, podcasts, YouTube videos, Netflix series etc.
  • Social Investment Business (SIB) released a blog article by Ebru Buyukgul, Diversity Coordinator. She discussed why we should take this opportunity to think about “fairness and representation within the social investment sector and how we can continue to drive sector change”. She listed several of their ongoing initiatives: to have transparent internal and external reporting about the diversity pay gap etc, offer safe spaces and mental health support for Black colleagues,  make sure the recruitment process removes unconscious bias, strive for a more inclusive social investment sector through strategic partnerships and engage with educational resources.
  • Diversity Forum, with SIB as their Secretariat and current host, highlighted a number of funds and support available to BAME-led and BAME-supporting organisations including; The Community Business Renewal Fund from Power to Change, Nesta’s Rapid Recovery challenge & Smallwood Trust’s Women’s Sector Resilience Fund, among others. They also hold Breakfast Talks about how social sector organisations can adopt a more equitable and just approach by bringing to light the “norms and practices that lock out BAME communities from social investment” and the “inherent power dynamics within organisations that perpetuate discrimination”.

  • Social Investment Forum relaunched in October with an updated governance structure and new Secretariat, SIB, aspiring to embed principles of  diversity, equality and inclusion into the leadership of the forum.  The election process of the Inaugural Chair & Steering Committee was carried out in partnership with Diversity Forum, who saw this updated structure as a “proactive approach” to tackle “issues of diversity in the social sector”.
  • The School for Social Entrepreneurs created a BHM spotlight on a range of different Black social entrepreneurs, discussing topics such as overcoming imposter syndrome and creating equal access and opportunities for a fairer world. Also, acknowledging that Black communities have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, they are offering a programme “aimed at Black social entrepreneurs based in the West Midlands who want to increase their impact and trading income”.

  • CharitySoWhite adopted three approaches to cover BHM; Black Joy, Black Heroes and Black Imagination. They recognised the grief that the Black community had suffered in 2020 and wanted to “create a space for black joy” by sharing positive stories about how leaders in the sector were celebrating BHM with calls to action such as, “Indulge in the abundance of Black Excellence”. They signalled that the Third Sector is “overwhelmingly white” and that the innovative and creative projects of Black people are often overlooked. Therefore, they highlighted some of their heroes such as, Amicky Carol, CEO of Money4YOU. They also had a collection of articles or visionaries to reimagine the future of the social sector.
  • POCIMPACT and Charity So White joined forces to launch a listening survey over October to reach out to BAME individuals working in social impact. They encouraged them to share their experiences and perspectives on how the sector needs to make change:We hope to develop the approach to our campaign so that BAME and white people can work together to build an anti-racist charity sector.”

  • Nesta released a long article about the Black pioneers often left out of the “mainstream innovation narrative” and how Black-owned businesses face setbacks with “higher interest rates and lack of access to overdrafts from lenders”. They also celebrated a range of Black-led initiatives and what they are doing to challenge white-dominated sectors. For example, they spoke about social impact projects for Black communities such as Do It Now Now and fair access to finance through Lendoe for Black, early-stage entrepreneurs.
  • The National Lottery Community Fund celebrated the charitable work and projects supporting Afro Caribbean & BAME communities, that they had funded, and shared the positive impact of these projects’ work.

    The Social Sector has recognised the importance of diverse teams to achieve better outcomes in terms of productivity, resilience and mitigating risk and , as we saw that the social impact investment market now has a net worth of more than £5 billion, more organisations are working to harness social and impact investing to tackle inequality too.