Anti-racism update

Restless Development has strived to push the boundaries on how we go about changing the world.  We aim to restore the power, providing an alternative to traditional development and power structures. We aim to strengthen youth leadership, especially from the majority world and from the most marginalised communities. 

In June 2020, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery in the US and the surge in Black Lives Matter protests brought about an overdue reckoning: we weren’t doing enough to explicitly tackle systemic racism and white supremacy through our work and in our agency.

In June, we published a statement in support of Black Lives Matter and other movements actively fighting racism. Since then we have developed an anti-racism vision statement to guide our work:

Restless Development strives to be an agency that proactively tackles white supremacy culture and offers a safe space – free from the negative impact of structural racism and bias – for our staff, trustees and volunteers to thrive. We will continue to push ourselves to restore power to young leaders and communities of colour so that they can lead the fight for a just and sustainable world. 

We will build alliances, common bonds and be a positive and challenging example of how organisations in the international development sector can and should tackle pervasive racist policies and practices.

We are sharing updates on our progress and priorities as part of our commitment to be publicly accountable for our actions.  We’ve embarked on a process to unlock long-term transformational change and know that this will take time and on-going commitment. 

Here are some of the updates on our progress, as well as areas where we need to do more and are prioritising. 

Anti-racism group. We formed an Anti-Racism Working Group in July made up of Directors. Following feedback from staff, this group quickly grew its membership to include staff from across the global agency working at different seniority levels. This group hopes to create a safe and collaborative learning space where staff openly and critically reflect on our progress or raise concerns where we are failing. They have taken a lead in defining and organising our anti-racism work and met our global board member – a DEI specialist – to consolidate and summarise our anti-racism action plan. 

Global staff listening exercise. We held listening exercises in our Hubs to understand racism in and between the different countries in which we work, and different parts of our agency. From this we were able gain better insights into areas that need to be reviewed with an anti-racist lens. Our Anti-Racism Working Group, a global team set up in June to define and lead our anti-racism work, used the information to create a comprehensive anti-racism action plan, which is being reviewed by staff across the agency.

Changes in Leadership. We have changed our leadership teams.

  • We’ve changed our global board of trustees from having to be London-based to meeting virtually, and have now opened up recruitment for trustees from the majority world. Our Hubs continue to be governed by their own national boards. More information here.
  • We have changed from a predominantly white UK based senior leadership team to a global Restless Leadership Team with at least 50% people of colour. 
  • Three young people from Peru, India and Zambia have joined our Restless Leadership team. They join existing global representation from three Directors in Zambia, Zimbabwe and India.
  • Two of our Hubs are led by Directors who are not nationals of their Hub country. We are proactively working on our succession plans so that in future we recruit from national and regional talent to fill our leadership roles, and this also applies to roles at any level. 

Pathways to positions. Leadership pathways for young people at Restless Development is an on-going priority. We currently have two Hub Directors, (and several others in the past) who started their journey as a young Restless volunteer in their community.  However until recently this progression failed to make it onto the international Senior Leadership Team (which was until recently predominately white). 

  • We have launched a Restless Leaders initiative to make our pathways in leadership stronger, more consistent, and more accessible and attainable to young leaders across our agency. A cohort of staff, recruited from every Hub, are designing a learning tool that sets out this pathway, and that will support all staff, volunteers and our youth network to develop and grow as leaders and boost attainment of leadership roles.

Diversifying our international team and London Office. We have reduced our London office head count and will continue to do so in favour of hiring roles in the majority world.  If we do recruit UK-based staff, we have adapted our hiring policies in the UK to help us counter in-built biases:

  • Ensuring that all interview panels are diverse and representative of those who we serve (people from the majority world and young people).
  • Advertising in spaces such as The Other Box and the Black Young People’s Network to attract a diverse pool of candidates. 
  • Provide workshops to staff on a quarterly basis on unconscious bias and anti-racism.
  • Ask a mandatory question on Diversity and Inclusion in interviews to find out how candidates can contribute to our anti-racism agenda.
  • Previously we had moved personal details to the bottom of our application forms but have now removed them completely.

Diversifying our US Hub. In our US Hub, we continued working with our Board Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, through which we have been holding D&I sessions at all Board meetings and hired an expert facilitator to provide anti-bias training. 

  • Through new recruitment, we are making the US Board more diverse. We developed a two-year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan for the US Hub, including supporting staff development and leadership opportunities, broadening our reach for job postings, a commitment to diverse interview panels, and a commitment to prioritizing DEI in director succession planning.

Fair pay.

  • We removed a historical distinction between national and international remits in our salary scale, which was structurally racist in how it was applied. This means by September 2021, we will have one global role type.

Speaking up and offering platforms.

  • In June we spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter movements in the US and UK, and sought out more representation on our blog and website from people of colour living in these countries.
  • In our series of Global Solidarity Meet Ups (initially set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic) we organised an event on racism – an open discussion  about racism and how to tackle it between young people from more than 40 countries and guests from Black Youth Project 100, and Africans Rising.
  • In late 2020, five volunteers in the UK organised a Black Lives Matter Youth Hack to bring people together to tackle racism and unconscious bias, and develop authentic allyship and self-care for resilience.
  • We have also pledged not to send staff or volunteers to all-white event panels and to put pressure on event organisers when this happens. 

Decolonising development. We want to help dismantle the development sector’s neo-colonial and white supremacist culture.

  • More and more of our programmes are focused on the restoration of power to young people, communities and youth civil society – is one example- but we want to go further. We are applying for funding to create programmes specifically focused on creating a long-term, anti-colonial and anti-racist alternative to development as usual. 

Above are some steps we have taken to advance our anti-racism work, but there is lots more still to be done. As well delivering on our global and Hub level DEI strategy, using our anti-racism action plan we are prioritising some areas in particular. 

  • White privilege internally. Ensuring staff who work outside of their home countries, many of whom are white, do not receive preferential treatment over their national colleagues.
  • UK staff diversity. If we do recruit roles in the UK, explore and apply methods of Affirmative Action in our recruitment process to diversify future hires in our UK and US offices.
  • Programme design. We will review our programme design tools to review whether they are actively anti-racist and capable of removing the opression of white supremecy in our work – as well as designing new programmes to specifically focus on decolonising development and making sure these are co-designed with young people.
  • Funding and Partnerships. Pursue funding and partnerships that allow us to progress along our anti-racist journey collectively with others and use our influence with donors and funders to push for more progressive, feminist and anti-colonial funding opportunities.
  • Internal opportunities. Ensure staff development opportunities are distributed fairly across the agency. Formalise how our staff access development opportunities.
  • Volunteer remuneration. Conduct an audit of all volunteer compensation to identify where inequality exists. Contribute to new research into fair volunteer compensation and create a subsequent policy to ensure all volunteers are treated equal.
  • Diverse voices on We Are Restless. Authors and readers on our blog are globally diverse, however we need more diversity among authors in the UK and US. We will continue to actively commission more voices from young people of colour in the UK and US and review any barriers they may face.