REUK is an organisation formed by stories from all around the world. We are acutely aware that racial discrimination and inequality affects not only the black community, but people of colour and different national and ethnoreligious communities, in different ways. We also appreciate the vital intersection between gender and these categorisations. There is a lot of work to be done, but this is where we are at now. We want to make progress purposefully and effectively, and know this is only one step on a much larger journey. Please be in touch if you think you may be able to help us in any way on it.
REUK and anti-racism
REUK stands against racism. Here is our roadmap for becoming a more anti-racist organisation.
The Black Lives Matter movement has reignited a conversation globally and amongst everyone involved with REUK. Racism and discrimination are antithetical to REUK. The Christian theology upon which REUK is founded, and our organisational values of respect, inclusivity and equality simply afford no space for any form of discrimination. Our belief in hope is another central value which makes REUK what it is and fills us with confidence that change is possible. These organisational values are instructive and fundamental to what we are doing, and we insist that they are embodied every day by everyone involved with REUK – staff, volunteers, mentors, partners, trustees, funders and young people.
While we are proud of our values and what we have done so far to enact them, we realise we can and must do more to resist and dismantle structural racism.
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the global Black Lives Matter movement, which brought to light the lives and tragic deaths of many others, hit REUK hard. When we saw the footage of what is a daily occurring tragedy, we were deeply saddened, incredibly troubled and yet somewhat unsurprised. The nature of our work with displaced young people means we see and hear of baseless hatred and inexcusable dehumanization every day.
As a global society, we are a long way from racial equality, and much further from understanding the shared history on which that inequality is founded.
3. Embark on a comprehensive anti-racist training programme for everyone involved with REUK.
All staff at REUK have undertaken diversity, equity and inclusion training but we are looking to improve our efforts in this regard. We are commissioning an external stakeholder for specific anti-racist training for staff. REUK is also committing to providing anti-racism training for all mentors as part of their volunteer training. We are also committing to providing anti-racism training for the young refugees who sit on our Youth Advisory Board.
4. Create an alternative pathway to diversity.
We are committed to making our staff vacancies more visible to a more racially diverse group of candidates. In addition, we are committing to creating at least one pathway to employment to make our team more diverse. REUK will be launching a paid traineeship programme for young people from forced migration backgrounds to join our staff team, as well as paid Lived Experience Advisors to inform and contribute to our strategic vision. The scheme aims to give young people invaluable, extended paid work experience and the skills to work in the charity and refugee and asylum sector. We also hope to launch an ambassador programme that will allow young refugees to take responsibility for REUK projects and initiatives and to boost their experience as they try to make progress in the labour market.
5. Reviewing and taking action in recruitment.
Last year REUK’s senior leadership team committed to reviewing our recruitment processes and updating our equal opportunities policy. We are now committing to a comprehensive, external review of our processes through an anti-racist lense, the findings of which we commit to taking concrete action on. The first steps have been taken to arrange this audit process and we look forward to enacting the recommendations.
REUK's roadmap on anti-racism
2. Make REUK an open and learning anti-racist environment
To start creating an open culture of discussing and collectively learning about and taking action on race, we've created a 'dialogue starter'. This virtual space enables staff to share their anonymous reflections on and experiences of racism while working in the REUK office, directly with young refugees and when training volunteers. Our working group reviews, analyses and acts on the perspectives shared. Once we return to the office and/or move into the new building, we will also create a physical space for everyone involved with REUK, including young refugees, in which race and inequality can be discussed and initiatives can be created. Until then, we'll keep sharing anti-racist resources online and amongst young people, volunteers and mentors.
These spaces and resources are for young refugees as much as anyone else and we are committed to facilitating difficult but important conversations. REUK also wants to play a role in developing anti-racist educational resources for different levels of English language and is seeking partners for this project.
1. Establish an anti-racism task force
To date, a working group has been meeting regularly to plan and lead various actions which are making REUK a more actively anti-racist organisation.
By July 2021, we will have formally launched an anti-racist taskforce. This taskforce will be made up of representatives from across REUK and will evaluate our progress on a quarterly basis, holding us to account for the anti-racist agenda we're pursuing.
Both groups will be committed to being entirely transparent and soliciting advice and guidance from other staff members and young people at every stage.
3. Embark on a comprehensive anti-racist training programme for everyone involved with REUK
5. Create alternative pathways to diversity
4. Review and take action in recruitment
All our Senior Leadership Team have undertaken diversity, equality and inclusion training. Going forward, all staff at REUK must undertake diversity, equity and inclusion training, we will include anti-racism training in our volunteer training and will provide anti-racism training for the young people on our Youth Advisory Board.
We have commissioned external anti-racism training for our staff team. This will be carried out by Ben Lindsey, author of We need to talk about race, as part of a wider anti-racism audit of REUK.
We are developing a paid traineeship programme for young people from forced migration backgrounds. Launching in September 2021, this scheme will offer young people invaluable, extended paid work experience and skills development opportunities to prepare them for work in the charity and refugee sectors.
Other planned initiatives to increase racial diversity in our sector include launching an ambassador programme that will allow young refugees to take responsibility for REUK projects and initiatives and to boost their experience as they try to move from education to employment.
We are committed to making our staff vacancies increasingly visible to a more racially diverse group of candidate and, to this end, are reviewing our recruitment processes and updating our equal opportunities policy. We are commissioning a comprehensive, external review of our processes through an anti-racist lens, the findings of which we promise to take concrete action on.
Anti-racism update 2022
This update has been produced by the AR staff group as a review of our progress so far and the challenges ahead.
When the reality of racism was brought to the world’s attention in May 2020, staff at REUK were shocked to their core. Our work with young refugees has made us intimately aware of discrimination, particularly anti-black racism. We felt that we had always done what we could to minimise the pain and injustice for them, and for people of colour on our staff and volunteer team. But in May 2020 we realised and reckoned with the fact that we could have done more, we can do more, and that we must do more.
We created a five-point action plan, to join other organisations in committing to creating a world defined not by oppression or structural inequality but by equality and fair treatment. The reason we made this plan was because we wanted our response to be considered and strategic.
We came to the process with an awareness of and humility about the dangers – especially in the third sector – of launching anti-racist programmes. We wanted to be careful not to racialise the young people we work with, and we were conscious that to do this work in a way which was sensitive and impactful, it would need to involve a range of stakeholders within and outside of REUK. We were comfortable with the need to disrupt the status quo within our organisation, and understood that it would require careful and critical thought, organisational honesty and resources.
This update presents the situation we are in now, where we have felt like we have succeeded, where we haven’t, and what we feel needs to happen in order to continue making progress.
To this end, there are two processes going on at REUK. The first is the workstream which delivers the plan we outlined in 2020. The second is the process by which anti-racism is embedded within the organisation such that it becomes an essential part of who we are. We are finding that this second process is a matter of apportioning responsibility and creating structures within the organisation to ensure the continuation of this work for the next stage of our organisational journey.
Update on 5 elements of the plan (as published in 2020, below)
To support the senior leadership team (SLT) in implementing changes at REUK, a staff working group was set up which meets monthly. This group reflects on progress made, areas of work in progress and work which still needs to be instigated.. Our Head of Culture and Ethos is part of this working group, which serves as a direct line of communication between the working group and the SLT. This group also shares our progress and updates with the wider team. Our Chief Executive attends these sessions on a quarterly basis where the group has opportunities to pose questions directly to her, as well as hear her perspective on progress being made at a structural level.
We have also established an REUK anti-racism accountability group, which reviews the progress of the staff working group and actively contributes to the priority areas and elements of the rest of this plan. The group is made up of REUK trustees, mentors, staff members, young people and critical friends who advise on our activities and are led by a terms of reference. The group has proven invaluable to ensuring we maintain our momentum as an organisation, and is crucial in offering alternative perspectives from those with different experiences and networks.
REUK is an open and learning anti-racist learning environmment
We’ve made good progress with this element of the plan, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Our first step was to communicate, formally to staff and informally amongst the team on an ongoing basis, that race is a subject which we should be talking about, even and especially when it isn’t on the front page of the newspaper. This happens in team meetings and ‘around the water cooler’ in the office. We have also developed an online space for staff to share reflections anonymously if they wish, about how race and racialisation impacts their life and work. One consequence of this open space was a suggestion to host an ad-hoc internal event to discuss race and how it related to a particular conflict which was affecting young people and staff at REUK last year. We have also recently launched a comprehensive staff culture survey; with an entire section of the survey asking staff to give feedback on their view of the role that race plays and how it affects our work.
We have found it challenging to bring about this same level of discussion and space for reflection to young people and volunteers, as we have been able to do with staff. One of the reasons for this is because staff are a group, whereas young people and volunteers engage with each other in pairs. How to create space for young people to discuss race in safe spaces is an ongoing conversation at REUK. We are determined to avoid racialising young people and pushing an issue if it isn’t a problem in their lives. We recognise that every young person is different, and that the approach should reflect the individual's circumstances.
The challenge therefore is equipping young people and the volunteers who work with them with the critical thought and resources to discuss race should they so wish We have seen some success in fostering an environment in which young people feel comfortable to discuss race and push the organisation to do more about it (see our recent statement on Ukraine and other refugees which resulted from a meeting with the Youth Advisory Board). We are not going to force the issue - mentoring and support sessions are always going to be led by mentees - but we also feel a responsibility to encourage a critical consciousness regarding race amongst everyone we work with, including young people. We believe this requires more than just offering resources and spaces should a young person bring up and engage people on the topic of race. One route to go beyond this is to think critically and make changes to how we frame the mentoring programme to young people and volunteers. We are determined not only to recognise the racial power dynamics of some mentoring relationships from the outset and throughout, as well as engaging seriously with principles of decolonising the curriculum.
We are also considering how to use The Lighthouse to further create and nourish an anti-racist learning environment. One suggestion has been to host learning and reflection sessions open to staff, young people, and volunteers so we can all speak critically and supportively about race. Our organisation is deeply diverse, and we want to use The Lighthouse to create educational opportunities which sit outside the spaces of mainstream education and in which challenging subjects can be tackled and joyous and diverse cultural experiences can be shared.
Comprehensive anti-racist training for everyone involved with REUK
Staff at REUK found it incredibly useful to connect with Ben Lindsay and Power the Fight for a set of training sessions last year. The training for all staff explored strategic approaches to fighting racism, the ways in which racism affects young people, and the ways in which different forms of racism manifest in the UK. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and furnished staff with a confidence to speak about and identify racism in our work and workplace.
The training was also rolled out to volunteer mentors as part of their development training, and the session was very well attended. The training encouraged REUK staff and volunteers to ask ourselves the difficult questions on how to mitigate the unhelpful power dynamic which can exist in work like ours, which can often be racial, between mentors and mentees.
REUK’s SLT also received a separate training from Ben Lindsay, which explored organisational culture setting and in particular the changes we can make in our recruitment. This led to a host of adjustments to our recruitment process which we are in the process of actioning. More recently, we have also been exploring other anti-racist trainers and training providers who may be able to provide more tailored training and expertise regarding the kind of racism particularly experiencd by those with a refugee background. We are in discussions and working on exploring various others who may be able to provide us with this kind of support and experience.
In the meantime, we continue to work on areas for change identified by the work we have done with Ben Lindsay, as well as exploring ways of ensuring that those who are recently new to REUK, or are yet to join us, also receive this type of training and input.
Review and take action in recruitment
As mentioned, we have made a number of changes to our recruitment process to make it more accessible to people from different backgrounds. We have piloted alternatives to the traditional cover letter/CV approach and have made our interview panels more diverse, so that applicants are more likely to see themselves across the table. We have changed the questions we ask in interviews to give applicants the greatest chance to explain on their terms why they would excel at REUK, and how their background and experience might positively inform our culture. We have included an anti-racist element to our recruitment review, and are continuing a similar and central thought process amongst the mentoring team regarding our recruitment of mentors.
Create alternative pathways to diversity
REUK has made good progress in ensuring that young people with lived experience of forced migration are central to our decision making processes. In practice, although not necessarily in all cases, we see this as supporting our broader attempts to become a more anti-racist organisation, in which the power for decision-making is shared by people from a range of different backgrounds. The Youth Advisory Board continues to inform important decisions, such as the name of our new building for example, and the new REUK Voice group has contributed centrally to our organisational voice both in the advocacy space and when training practitioners. We appreciate youth participation isn’t the full answer, but it does make our organisation more representative and inclusive of the young people we exist to support.
We have completed a concept note for a traineeship specifically designed to diversify our staff team and create paid opportunities for young people from forced migration backgrounds to gain valuable work experience within our staff team. The two 6-month roles will give the post holders a strong sense of what it’s like to work at REUK, supporting the organisation across the teams and being a part of our wider staff group. We hope the insight into the sector, office-work and regular supervision will encourage the post holders to enter our line of work and pursue further employment opportunities in the sector, and/or at REUK. We have identified prospective funders and are looking to launch the programme in 2023.
Throughout this process, we have been aware of the need to maintain momentum, check ourselves and make sure the work we are doing is thoughtful and effective. These principles apply to our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work more broadly, and with the help of the Accountability Group and a volunteer consultant we are looking to solidify these plans into a broader EDI strategy which reflects the different inequalities which manifest in our work and beyond it, as well as how they intersect in different contexts.
REUK is proud of what we have achieved in the past year and recognise that we are still only at the beginning of this journey. Please reach out to us if you have comments or suggestions about this line of our work - we are always looking for critical friends to shape and inform our work so we can collectively push towards a fairer world.