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Race Equity at the Youth Endowment Fund: Reflections from our Race Equity Diversity and Inclusion group

In October 2022, we published our race equity action plan, which was informed by an audit by Justice Studio. The plan sets out clear and actionable race equity commitments across five areas of our work: our funding, our research and change, our partnerships, our leadership and our team.

A year on, we’re pleased to share our first progress report. It highlights what we’ve done, where we’ve taken significant steps forward and where there’s still work to do. You can read this year’s report here.

We will continue being transparent about the work we’re doing externally and internally towards race equity. As part of our reflections, I wanted to bring to the forefront the voices of a few of our Race Equity Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) members.

Our REDI group is focused on the well-being of Black, Asian and minority ethnic team members. It creates a space where team members can support each other on issues which may be affecting them because of their ethnicity. Having a space to connect with others at work is important for all team members. Our mission is to prevent children and young people being involved in violence. We know that children of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are disproportionally represented in the criminal justice system and affected by violence. As we work within that remit, it’s important that team members from these backgrounds have a space where they can connect on these issues and support each other.

I spoke to a few REDI team members to get their reflections on their involvement in the group and YEF’s wider race equity commitments.

Thoughts from Chanel Hayre, Senior Evaluation Manager

‘We’re in a completely different space now where race equity is something that’s just brought up – and not just by minority ethnic staff. It’s brought up in general, and I think much of that is due to team members now having individual race equity goals.

‘Because it’s now part of our core work, it’s difficult to shy away from getting involved in the conversation when there’s something always happening. We’ve had some great virtual learning cafes – I recall Chanelle Myrie’s discussion on whether access to psychological therapies and mental health support for young people is racially equitable, being insightful. Within the Evaluation team, we review different aspects of our technical work – for example, examining the evaluation study plan protocol and identifying how racially equitable approaches are. I think the increased number of conversations across the organisation helps people to become more comfortable talking about race equity. Whereas before I think people were scared because they didn’t want to say the wrong thing. Now people are asking questions.

‘One of the questions I’m asking as an Evaluation Manager is how do we make more progress with organisations that primarily service minority ethnic children and young people? Many of these organisations are small and this makes it difficult for them to progress within our robust evaluation framework. We’ve started doing multi-site trials, bringing together smaller organisations to enable them to have the size we need for evaluation.  But there were organisations we were already funding before the multi-site trials began. How can we support them? We will have to deviate from our approach and our processes. And how do we best do that?’

Thoughts from Daniel Acquah – Assistant Director of Evaluation and Race Equity Lead on Research and Evaluation

‘I think it’s important for us to always keep sight of what’s happening in our society and who we’ve been set up to serve. We’ve made some strides in our race equity work over the last year, but it’s a lifetime journey of work to be done. I am, however, proud of the work we’ve done on the diversity of our staff team.  Organisations have to ask themselves – how can you do work well with a team set up from a single demographic?  It makes a difference to the people you’re serving. There is a history of racism which has impacted who has been funded and not funded. There is a risk that we continue to underfund organisations that are serving communities disproportionally affected by racism and by violence. We need to ensure there is continuous reflection to ensure YEF funding has a positive impact on those communities.

‘Having a diverse team also adds to your sense of belonging. It’s great to walk around YEF and interact with people from lots of different backgrounds and with different experiences. I also love hearing accents from across the country. We have a richer set of conversations, as it’s informed by who we are as people. I have a deep pride in my rich part heritage, with grandparents from Manchester and Ghana. Pride in that heritage, coupled with anger at the inequalities that exist between children from different backgrounds is a real motivator for me – and I’m glad to work somewhere where I can apply that.

I want our team to continue to grow our understanding of the role race and racism plays and what we need to do about it.  That will mean living with discomfort and always prioritising where progress still has to be made.’

Read our Race Equity Progress report