The following is an update on the RSA’s ongoing work to tackle racism and promote inclusion and diversity. We have engaged colleagues, Fellows and Board members in the development of this statement, but we know that no form of words is perfect. The important thing now are the concrete actions which we will be taking and regularly reporting on as we go forward. Our next update will come after our Board meeting later this month.
Black Lives Matter: we've taken too long to make an independent statement and we are sorry
None of us at the RSA can achieve our ambition of creating a better world in which everyone is able to participate when Black and minority ethnic communities continue to be held back and harmed by systemic racism.
The RSA did not release our own equivalent statement following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, choosing instead to endorse our US affiliate’s statement. We have heard your criticism, and our response was insufficient. We should have made a clear and direct statement and given far greater prominence to the injustice of structural racism in the UK. We have listened to our staff and to others. We are sorry for not addressing this sooner. This statement is the first step of many to working with our staff, Fellows and many others to put that right.
We have been examining our culture, practices and policies and opening discussions to ensure that our workplace and wider RSA communities are places in which diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded. We are learning about our shortcomings, particularly those which have impacted and continue to impact our Black colleagues and colleagues from underrepresented groups. We are working with our staff and Fellows to ensure that anti-racism considerations are at the forefront of our strategy, our programmes of work, and the Fellowship and staff experience.
What we will do
We are committed to taking concrete and measurable steps to address the lack of diversity at our organisation and being accountable to them. We will:
- Urgently address the lack of racial diversity in our governance and representative structures including our Trustee Board and Fellowship Council to ensure that it truly reflects the communities we collaborate with;
- Use specialist recruitment agencies to help us work towards recruiting a senior leadership team that truly reflects the communities we engage with;
- Ensure diversity of speakers and audience at our events;
- Establish a representative advisory group that centres Black and minority ethnic experiences to assess our progress and challenge the Board and the Executive to go further;
- Honestly and openly explore our history and relationship to colonialism and slavery and recognise the responsibilities of the RSA today and in the future.
We are engaging an expert organisation to conduct an independent audit of diversity and inclusion at the RSA during August. Any commitments made and measures identified will be actioned and integrated into our existing Key Performance Indicators. Following the audit we will carry out careful analysis to understand where and how staff or Fellows from minority communities have experienced exclusion, marginalisation, or a lack of support from the RSA. We will consider their findings and act. Where we have failed, we will be open and transparent.
Our starting point is our organisation. The action we take internally and through our Fellowship must be substantive and sustained to make a difference. It must also be shared on an ongoing basis. The new measures and approaches we will adopt must be clear about our commitment. We will publish an update outlining our progress at the end of July.
What we have done
This year, our staff have developed an independent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Employee Network Group to facilitate conversations around inclusion and equality within the organisation – most recently focusing on Black Lives Matter - and to work with the senior management team and Trustee board to engage with issues of diversity and equity across the charity.
Our Fellows are central to the RSA, so we are also working on a roadmap supported by an external agency and our Fellows to improve the overall Fellowship experience. We will ensure underrepresented groups are not only included but become well-supported and prominent voices who feel valued within our community. The RSA is actively seeking to increase the diversity of its Fellowship across all the protected characteristics under the 2010 Equalities Act.
Our research seeks to address issues of exclusion and injustice along multiple dimensions, including race. Yet we know we can and must do more for a more equitable world, both in the work we do and as an organisation. We will be sharing additional steps that we are taking continuously as our dialogue with staff, Fellows and others continues and develops.
We recognise that for many this is coming too late. We strive to be better going forwards. We are committed to this challenge and are taking steps to confront this. Above all, there is no place for racial discrimination or inequality in today’s society.
We speak to Brandur Karlsson, one of three Fellows in Iceland, who created an award-winning startup focused on supporting health and welfare innovations.