10 Hypotheses on (Anti-)Racism, Feminism and Belonging in the Sustainability and Social Impact Sector

We have spent some time reflecting on what we need to change and improve in our own organisation and how we can change the systems and sector around us.

by Naomi & Hedda, tbd*, July 15, 2020
Woman stands in front of Wall

Header: Alvin Balemesa via Unsplash

As you may know, we are on a journey #tobelonging, towards becoming not just a feminist but also an anti-racist organisation, and hopefully in time, an organisation that is a safe space and a brave space for anyone who may have experienced marginalisation. These are ten hypotheses with which we are currently working, sharing and discussing with others and putting here for you, our community, as a starting point for discussion with us, in your own organisation and in the sector as a whole. Our hypotheses focus on bringing the ideas of purpose, wellbeing and belonging together so that you cannot have one without the others. We have also spent some time reflecting on what we need to change and improve in our own organisation and developing ideas for how we can change the systems and sector around us. And be sure, we are constantly learning. 

  1. There is something about the systems, structures and culture in the environmental, sustainable, and social impact sectors which makes it more comfortable for some people than others to join, to feel safe, and then to progress. See #charitysowhite, fairshare.
  2. There is individual and structural discrimination in the recruiting, funding and organisational development at social and sustainable organisations but we do not know enough about it to react and counteract. There is a clear need for more data and visibility for the experience of marginalised people in this sector, especially in Germany. See studies in the UK and USA
  3. There is systemic discrimination at play in the social and sustainable sector, which means that white, cis men are more likely to be managers, get funding and to earn more. See fairshare and the tbd* Salary Report.
  4. Radical disruption of the current model of recruiting is necessary to make it people-centric and anti-racist. This may involve borrowing some of the “old-school” ways of recruiting, and instrumentalising them with different intentions, e.g. networking, scrapping the job description, and what you could call “tokenism plus” (recruiting/promoting at least three people with a specific marginalisation identity rather than just one or even two). 
  5. Recruiting people with diverse backgrounds is not enough. If you don’t have the culture and mindset and do the work on yourself (as a founder and/or manager) to examine and scrutinize your own biases, and to help your current team to do so (if possible before the recruitment), there will be no meaningful shift and minorities are likely to leave and/or withdraw.
  6. Feminist leadership is a chance for patriarchal and white supremacist structures to be deconstructed. Note that “feminist leadership” is not the same as female leadership; not all women practice feminist leadership but everybody can, regardless of gender. See ActionAid
  7. Introversion in leadership, and when celebrated as a company value i.e. seeing introversion as a strength, not as a weakness, can be a good indicator that the organisation at least has the potential to be highly inclusive.
  8. Vulnerability, humility and a commitment to learning are important leadership and company values on the way to belonging, e.g. admitting when you are wrong and that you don’t have all the answers.
  9. If you sign up to the idea that there is structural racism in our society, as a white person, you are responsible for ensuring that your own organisation is anti-racist as a priority and you will probably need to redirect some funding and internal resources towards this work.
  10. If you want to become an inclusive, anti-racist and feminist organization which is not only comfortable for white, middle-class people (and particularly men) you will need to make room for others and fundamentally change the structure of the organization, the ownership structure, and some, if not all, fundamental processes.

You may know that we are hosting an event on (anti-)racism in the sustainability and social impact sector. Although the event is full, we encourage you to join the waiting list and stay informed about upcoming events and activities.