We start this by acknowledging that it has taken time for us to put this statement out. Over recent weeks we have been having conversations, many of which have been uncomfortable, about the power and privilege that opened up opportunities and led to the creation and growth of our organisation.
Whilst we never intended to become an organisation when we started in 2015, five years later we are a key organisation in the forced migration space globally.
As an independent organisation, we work within a global system that is structurally racist, capitalist and unjust. We acknowledge that this also shows up in our organisational culture and actions. We are a humanitarian organisation, but those who need humanitarian assistance only do so because of colonialism, racism, foreign policy, and borders. Our privilege is a result of these very same things. The nature of much of the work that we do does not place those supporting and those being supported in equal standing – it is not equitable. Those who are forcibly displaced rely on aid and handouts that we facilitate, working within a system that often does not provide a way out. Equally, our work creates a dependency that continues this cycle and perpetuates our power.
Since our inception we have become more and more conscious that these power dynamics aren’t just and are wrong, and that the concept of ‘helping’ without enabling long-term solutions and agency is extremely problematic. We’ve built this into our work by prioritising advocacy, partnering with lived experience organisations or organisations that work in a collaborative way with communities to develop strategies but we need to go deeper and do better. The values and work that we ask of our partners have not been reflected in our leadership, we have not moved fast enough and we are still a white-led organisation.
We have been reflecting on where it is right and not right to take up space. We acknowledge how our privilege reflects in our leadership and the conscious and unconscious bias in our decision-making and are determined to examine this and make changes from within. We know that we have a lot to learn, we don’t know what is going to show up in this process but we are committed to acting on what does as we work towards our vision.
We stand in solidarity with Black communities around the world and are in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We recognise that whilst all oppression is connected it is critical to recognise the additional harm that Black communities face. Every day, Black communities experience institutional racism within public services such as with policing, criminal justice as well as public hostility. People of colour have always suffered injustice which has led to the race disparities we have seen in the UK and US during the current pandemic.
The Help Refugees and Choose Love community is disproportionately affected by state-led violence and institutional racism. People seeking safety across the globe are dying in the middle of the sea, languishing in inhumane detention facilities, experiencing brutal violence at border crossings, and subjected to forced evictions and violent deportations. This is a direct result of racism and systems of oppression. For Black asylum seekers and refugees the racism faced is often multiplied, and the very reason for displacement is caused by centuries of colonialism. We need to take a more intersectional approach and address the different forms of oppression Black displaced communities face.
Here are some of the concrete actions that we commit to today:
Developing our own awareness and becoming more accountable around race
- We are beginning a review of all our operational power dynamics, both internally and with our suppliers and external partners.
- This will be led by experts in race and diversity who are people of colour who we will be accountable to
- We will review our own decision-making processes and the unconscious biases within them, making this more transparent.
- All of our team will undertake mandatory anti-racism, anti-oppression, and power and privilege training within the next 3 months.
Diversifying our core team and volunteers
- We commit to actively diversifying our senior leadership team
- We will work with experts on our recruitment strategies and organisational culture so that we can recruit and retain more staff from diverse backgrounds
- In 2020 we will create a new fund (that will be actioned once it is safe to volunteer due to COVID-19) for people of colour to improve equity in our volunteer community. Currently the demographics of volunteers we work with have been largely white, and we have reflected this is because of a range of racist barriers.
- We will actively recruit more people within our core team with a lived experience background at all levels of our organisation
Increasing our work around Lived Experience
- At present, 35.5% of the organisations we fund are led by leaders with lived experience. We commit to increasing this to 50% by the end of this year with more and better funding.
- We commit to shifting the power that we hold to those with lived experience within our community from decision making, to programme design to our communications strategy
Moving from a model of charitable giving to one of social justice
- For too long, the humanitarian sector has been characterised by imbalanced power structures and patronage. We want a board that has a true understanding of the issues and people we represent. We commit to making our board representative of the communities that we support and the places that we work.
- We acknowledge the power dynamics of charitable giving and move to a mind-set of social justice
- By the end of 2020, we will operate solely under the name Choose Love rather than Help Refugees. This unifying name more accurately reflects the change we want to see in the world.
- We will continue to publicly post updates about our progress to ensure transparency and accountability.
We are committed to move forward with these new steps. If there are other ways we can be better allies, do get in touch. We will be creating a specific email address for feedback that will be monitored by an external group. We are always so grateful to the Choose Love community for letting us know when we could do better.
To everyone fighting for a just world where racism is history and all people can live equally, in safety and freedom – we stand with you, always.