RSN, anti-racism and the way forward
The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the global Black Lives Matter movement, which brought to light the lives and tragic deaths of many others, hit RSN 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.
The Black Lives Matter movement has reignited a conversation globally and amongst everyone involved with RSN. Racism and discrimination are antithetical to RSN. The Christian theology upon which RSN 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 RSN what it is and fills us with some 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 RSN - 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.
This is why we have taken some time to think carefully and put together a comprehensive action-plan to make RSN a more active anti-racist organisation. We passionately believe that ‘black lives matter’ is not a moment but a process, an overdue commitment to equality stretching into the future, and that this requires taking action now and in the days, months and years to come.
We are sharing the following action points to ensure we are held accountable to others and to ourselves. We look forward to reporting on what progress has been made in due course.
1. Establish an anti-racism task force.
A working group of RSN staff have been meeting regularly to plan and deliver various action points to make RSN a more actively anti-racist organisation. In order to hold them to account and supplement their work, RSN is launching an Anti-Racist Taskforce, to be established by July 2021 and made up of at least one member of each of the groups which make RSN what it is and as outlined above. Once the Taskforce is assembled they will meet with staff members and evaluate progress on quarterly basis. Both groups will be committed to being entirely transparent and soliciting advice and guidance from other staff members and young people at every stage.
2. Make RSN an open and learning anti-racist environment.
The working group has constructed a ‘dialogue starter’ to audit staff experiences of racism while working in the RSN office, directly with young refugees and when training volunteers. The purpose of this dialogue starter is to take the first step towards creating an open culture of discussing and collectively learning about and taking action on race, which sits distinct from our usual processes on reporting incidents of racism. We have created a virtual space to share anonymous reflections on the issue of race, and we commit to reviewing, analysing and acting on what arises from this process on a quarterly basis. We appreciate that thorough dialogue requires diverse mediums. In addition to the virtual space, we will also create a physical space for everyone involved with RSN, including young refugees, in which race and inequality can be discussed and initiatives can be created, once we return to the office and move into the new building. This will take the form of a moving space with open meetings to facilitate real-life conversations. Depending on whether plans for the new building allow, RSN will also seek a fixed space to share thoughts and ideas about race for discussion in shared spaces.
Beyond these spaces, RSN will share anti-racist resources online and amongst young people, volunteers and mentors. RSN is a family and young people are at its heart. These spaces are for them as much as anyone else and we are committed to facilitating the continuation of difficult but important conversations. RSN also wants to to play a role in developing anti-racist educational resources for different levels of English language, and is seeking partners for this project.
3. Embark on a comprehensive anti-racist training programme for everyone involved with RSN.
All staff at RSN have undertaken diversity, equity and inclusion training but we are looking to improve our efforts in this regard. We are exploring opportunities to commission an external stakeholder for specific anti-racist training for staff. RSN 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. RSN will be launching a paid traineeship programme for young people from forced migration backgrounds to join our staff team. 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 which will allow young refugees to take responsibility for RSN 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 RSN’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 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.
RSN 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 categorizations. 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.