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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

SCVO's work to become an anti-racist organisation

It’s that time of year when we’re reflecting on what we’ve achieved and working out what we want to achieve in the coming year. I thought I’d share my reflections on our work to become an anti-racist organisation.

Like many organisations, we were jolted into action when Black Lives Matter hit the headlines. We’ve long been an organisation that supports equality and diversity and is committed to preventing discrimination. But that’s not enough. Across our whole staff and trustee team, we agreed we had to do more than prevent bad things happening but rather to be more proactive in enabling good things and actively challenging injustice. I was determined this would be more than making a public statement on social media; we must be anti-racist, not just non-racist in all we do. And I knew that, to act with any real purpose, we needed a reality check on where we were.

But what do we mean by being an anti-racist organisation? We live in a country and society where the status quo is stacked in favour of white people, we work in a sector which isn’t as diverse as it should be. We need to be actively challenging the status quo and doing what we can to dismantle the current system and address the harms it’s caused.

Our journey so far hasn’t been easy. It’s hard and emotional work. We’ve focused on removing barriers to diversity and inclusion, and on embedding anti-racism across our work. We have an anti-racism working group, which was originally led by then trustee, Manish Joshi. The exploratory work Manish led set the tone for what we’ve done since.

Over the last year and a half, we’ve made some good progress, starting with our active learning programme. We worked with Viana Maya of pRESPECT in 2022/23 providing awareness-raising with trustees and three mandatory learning sessions for all staff. We’re in the process of doing something similar for new trustees and new staff. The sessions were a full day each and were backed up by reading and other resources, with homework in between.

In 2023/24, teams across SCVO included anti-racism activities in our workplans and anti-racism objectives in our appraisals. We’re evaluating that now and looking at how to take it forward in 2024/25. All our HR policies have been reviewed through an EDI lens, with expert help from CEMVO, and our People Strategy sets out a range of actions we’ll take. That includes establishing good baseline information about our board and workforce (11 trustees and 85 staff), and about applicants for jobs. In 2023, around 11% of interviewed candidates were from an ethnic minority background, an increase on previous years. We’ve also reviewed our recruitment “tools” from adverts to interview questions and trained our managers on inclusive recruitment practices. We advertise beyond our own site, Goodmoves, have a partnership with Black Professionals Scotland and work closely with CEMVO. We share interview questions with candidates in advance.

At the Gathering in November 2023, we co-hosted an event with CEMVO, Cyrenians and Flexibility Works on inclusive recruitment, involving our internal and external HR services and Goodmoves.

Our teams work with organisations and issues across the whole voluntary sector in Scotland and we’re conscious that we need to model good practice. So the anti-racism working group focused on 4 themes: team workplans; sharing how we’re getting on; measuring impact and Black History Month. We also recognise that we’re not experts in this field but there are many in the sector, including our own members, who are. Thanks to member organisations who shared their time and expertise with us in Black History Month 2023.

We’ve been mainly sharing how we’re getting on internally, but felt it was time to share more externally.

Here is a sample of things we’ve been doing:

  • Reviewing Scotland’s Third Sector Governance Code to cover EDI in much more depth.
  • Actively promoting more diversity in the Charity Awards; in 2023 12% of applicants were from ethnic minority-led organisations. Read about diversity at the Charity Awards in this article.
  • Actively promoting diversity at the Gathering, including looking for commitments from sponsors and partners. In 2023, 10% of participants identified as being from an ethnic minority community.
  • Making sure our case studies for influencing work reflect the diversity of the sector.
  • Including a question about board/leadership diversity in the Third Sector Tracker research.
  • Updating photo library and brand guidelines.
  • Developing inclusive recruitment resources for Goodmoves.
  • Highlighting diversity in seeking new trustees.
  • Providing shadowing opportunities for DataKirk’s Black Talent on Board initiative.
  • Along with colleagues from organisations who share our buildings, joining walking tours in Edinburgh and Glasgow in Black History Month and learning lots about our cities’ histories – the good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s not always been easy to know what is best to do, and it’s taken some time to build up momentum. We need to work at a pace that feels manageable and sustainable and that allows learning from both what has gone well, and what has not been so great.

It’s been fantastic to see the engagement and challenge from staff and those conversations, contributions and discussions have progressed our learning and change. There’s still a lot more to do but we’re building on a good foundation. In the coming year, for example we will embed a consistent approach to equality impact assessments across all our work and introduce more comprehensive annual reporting to the Board.

I look forward to sharing more reflections over the coming months, and would welcome any feedback. Drop me an email, I'd love to hear from you.

Last modified on 26 March 2024