Forum Central held a session in July for our member organisations to discuss how we can collectively amplify the voices of our members from Black, Asian and other minority (BAME) communities, and consider Forum Central’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

25 people attended the session in total. Members of the staff team were joined by Board members of Forum Central partners Volition and Leeds Older People’s Forum to facilitate the discussion. 

The intention of the session was to create an opportunity for an open and honest conversation and get a steer from members around action. One of the key things we know is that words alone are not enough – action is required of all of us including within the charity sector. 

We saw this last year when #CharitySoWhite exposed the underrepresentation of people from BAME communities within the charity sector, and highlighted the discrimination that many people face. At a recent Third Sector Leeds (TSL) meeting, the BME Hub proposed the following Statement of Intent, featuring five simple actions, which formed the basis of our discussion and were fully supported, with the note added below:

In support of Black Lives Matter, Third Sector Leeds will undertake and support actions to:

  • Listen to and amplify black voices
  • Call out bigotry and hate when heard 
  • Actively become anti-racist in our practices
  • Lead on these issues, not expecting our black colleagues to do so
  • Stop asking black colleagues to repeat their experiences*

*Note: asking black people about their experiences in order to learn and educate oneself is different and absolutely welcome. Its important people can ask questions without fear. Agreed we may need to clarify this part of the Statement of Interest – people interpret it differently

Summary of discussion

In answer to the question “What I hope we can achieve, either broadly, or by the end of the session” the key points and responses are summarised below:

  • It’s important to consider the short, medium and long term impact we can have. There are a cross section of factors that we can’t change ‘overnight’ but there are things we can all be doing
  • Looking for information in order to move my organisation forward  
  • Conscious that we’re a predominately white organisation and interested in how to change that – we need to represent the communities we serve 
  • It’s about starting a conversation, but should be raised on a continual basis, with associated actions and timescales 
  • We can’t lose momentum – (an inequalities lens) must continue to be embedded in everything we do. People from BAME communities are underrepresented in our membership/service users – how do we address that? Important to consider intersectionality in terms of needs and identities (ie the way people are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression: their race, class, gender)  
  • Here to find out more information. I want to educate myself but not sure where to find the answers I need
  • Want to challenge myself and my our organisation
  • We all need to sit with difficult feelings and address resistance amongst white staff through honesty and creation of a safe space 
  • How do we translate learnings into action?
  • Hope to encourage organisations to feel free to bring out people’s knowledge and experience 
  • Important to involve different generations in discussions

Alison thanked everyone for their allyship and emphasised the intention to create an action plan to move this work forward together. Taira added that we have an opportunity to reflect on the progress we’ve made, and restart the conversation. It’s great to see so many non-black people here.  

Reflections on the Statement 0f intent and what this could mean for Forum Central

In terms of what do we need to do to amplify Black voices, we agreed that profiling BAME-led groups to ensure they are heard, at Health & Wellbeing Board, was one way, along with reverse mentoring in order to hear more directly about the lived experiences of black and BAME staff. Also asking BAME staff to lead projects or be involved in policy decisions will inevitably lead to their lived experiences infusing their contributions and everyone will learn.

Equality Impact Assessments can also give a wider perspective on decision making in organisations. If you reflect on the protected characteristic and impact on different groups of people, it will reduce negative and unintended impact.

Pip gave a brief overview of the Communities of Interest work Forum Central is undertaking, which has included a focus on amplifying least heard voices and working with organisations who reach people from marginalised communities and groups.

Action: Forum Central will be producing a specific action plan to be reviewed by Trustees 

Experiences of our Black workers and how we support ideas for members to protect staff 

  • Organisations need to be supported to deal with racist remarks/treatment directed towards staff.
    • Is there a collective place to report racism towards staff members?
    • We need a clear pathway for organisations reporting incidents of hate crime. Important to make clear what we won’t tolerate, to protect staff and take a firm stance. Do we as organisations become reporting centres and feed that information into Stop Hate UK?
    • We need to understand how to respond to clients who demonstrate racist behaviour – the nature of our services means they can’t simply be pulled from people on these grounds. 
  • Staff feeling able to report their experience is a huge consideration. Knowing where to go and feeling like they will be listened to. 

Action: Forum Central/the meeting agreed to a small working group of people to identify city-wide best practice for membership organisations, with a clear statement of intent and step by step guide to supporting staff.

Workers must feel safe in reporting experiences and confident that organisations will take necessary action. We wish to create a framework where this is possible.