Update on our anti-racist commitments

19 Oct 2021

October 2021 update 

In January this year, we set out SSE’s commitments to become an anti-racist organisation. Commitments are nothing without action and accountability. So twice a year, we’ll update you on the progress we’re making. 

We invite you to challenge us and push for progress, if you think we could be doing more to become truly inclusive and equitable. 

A word from Ali Wilson, our CEO 

“I am proud of the progress we have made so far in our anti-racism work. I thank the team and our community for all their efforts in getting us to this point. But this is a journey for us, and our commitments will guide our work in the long-term. We will persistently work towards them, so we can become a truly anti-racist organisation. 

“Our anti-racism work integrates naturally and comfortably with our values and wider strategy. We have cemented ‘we are inclusive’ into our new values this year, including a commitment to ‘over-represent the under-represented’.  

“Our new three-year organisational strategy, being published soon, will demonstrate how our anti-racism work integrates with our wider vision and priorities. And the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan we have developed this year, underpins both our strategy and our day-to-day operations. 

“A conscious focus on our anti-racism work, offers SSE increased opportunities to draw on talents and passions in pursuit of our mission. I look forward to sharing more in the coming months and years about how this work is developing a stronger, more inclusive SSE.”  

1.  Keep learning and challenging ourselves to be anti-racist 

Our commitment: We will analyse, reflect, learn and challenge ourselves, and our community, to be anti-racist – now and on an ongoing basis. 

We have made good progress on learning and challenging ourselves. This is reflected in our plans and work activity so far this year. 

Measuring progress 

Indicator 1: Action plan for 20/21 developed collaboratively, and implemented 

  • We have developed a three-year Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) action plan. This encompasses our anti-racist commitments, and their intersection with other forms of systemic oppression and injustice.  
  • The DEI plan spans all areas of our work: culture, governance & strategy, recruitment (of our staff & students), our learning offer, and our impact & influence.  
  • We will publish a summary of our DEI plan before the end of 2021. 

Indicator 2: Actions and target outcomes published as part of new three-year strategy 

  • The DEI action plan underpins our new organisational strategy and is cross-referenced within it.  
  • We are now developing operational plans to deliver our new strategy from 2022 onwards, and will ensure DEI is embedded throughout. 

In addition: 

  • We launched our new values this year. This is one of our five values: 

We are inclusive
We want people to feel safe in being themselves, to maintain wellbeing and 

to bring their unique strengths and voices to the table. We over-represent 

the under-represented. We honour lived experience. 

2.  Diversify our staff team, senior leadership, and board 

Our commitment: We will increase the representation of people from Black and other racialised and minoritised communities* in our staff team, particularly at senior level and among the trustee board. We will publicly set and report on diversity indicators. 

We have actively diversified our board. We have made less progress in our senior leadership recruitment. 

Measuring progress 

Indicator 3: Diversity of staff team, including at senior level 

  • We are in the process of collecting data for this year. We will update this blog when the data has been collected and analysed.  
  • We monitor staff diversity approximately annually. But we don’t yet have a clear annual cycle in place for monitoring, reviewing and discussing staff diversity data; then embedding DEI throughout our operational and recruitment practices.  
  • This is partly because a series of organisational mergers over the past year have meant our team has consistently grown and evolved. We aim to pin down an annual cycle over the coming year. 
  • Our CEO Ali Wilson has signed the ACEVO Pledge to commit to diversifying senior leadership in the sector. 
  • We are piloting the use of Applied, recruitment software that aims to remove systemic biases from hiring processes. 

Indicator 4: Diversity of our trustee board 

  • Our trustee board is: 
  • 50% white English 
  • 25% Black and/or Black-British Caribbean 
  • 12.5% mixed ethnic background 
  • 12.5% white – other 
  • This data is from August 2021, based on those who completed DEI monitoring. 

In addition: 

  • Trustee Sharon McPherson has been appointed as our board DEI representative. She works with the DEI group and has helped shape our DEI action plan. 

3.  Diversify our programmes (people and content) 

We will increase the racial and ethnic diversity of participants on our programmes at all stages, from pre-start to scale, as well as provide targeted programmes of support for people from Black and other racialised and minoritised communities. We will make our programmes more inclusive to achieve this, in particular by improving our recruitment and selection processes and by diversifying our delivery team (e.g. assessors, speakers and facilitators). 

We have made positive progress in attracting a higher proportion of Black students and those with mixed ethnic backgrounds (see below). But we need to continue evolving our approach, to continue diversifying our student population. 

Measuring progress 

Indicator 5: Diversity of student population* 

  • Since January 2021, we have increased the proportion of Black students we support (from 11% to 13%), as well as those from mixed ethnic backgrounds (2% to 3%). Other racialised and minoritised groups have stayed consistent, other than a slight drop in white British students (from 64% to 62%). 

We recognise that communications is a key part of recruiting people to our programmes. With this in mind: 

  • Our marketing & communications strategy this year focuses, as one of three goals, on connecting more people from minoritised backgrounds with our support. 
  • We consulted our community on language to describe race and ethnicity, as we recognised an urgent need to stop using the acronym “BAME” in the UK. Together, we decided on “people from racialised and minoritised communities”.* We codified this language in our marcomms strategy, house style and comms assets. 
  • We have long tried to be representative in who we spotlight through our communications. We are increasingly recognising the importance of intersectionality. For example, when we are raising the profile of LGBTQ+ social entrepreneurs during Pride month, we include LGBTQ+ social entrepreneurs from racialised and minoritised backgrounds. 

Indicator 6: Diversity of programme delivery team (assessors, speakers, facilitators) 

  • We are in the process of collecting this data and plan to update this blog within the next couple of months to share progress. 

Indicator 7: At least two targeted programmes for people from racialised and minoritised backgrounds established by end of the financial year 

Indicator 8: Multi-stakeholder learning captured, shared internally and externally, and used to inform future action 

  • We share learning with our wider sector through articles about our learning, and by engaging with DEI forums. For example, we participate at different levels with the Diversity Forum, which strives to create a more diverse social sector. Our head of communications Sophie is on the steering group, and our lead learning manager Amy and communications coordinator Henna are in the champions network. Our CEO Ali has also shared learning with the forum. 
  • Our Global Majority Collective are contributing a reflective piece to our annual report this year (to be published in January 2022). 
  • This Black History Month, we are running internal learning sessions about Black history and the barriers faced by Black social entrepreneurs. We are also running a social media campaign. This champions the impact of our Black SSE fellows, and shares content about how non-Black people can be better allies. 
  • During South Asian Heritage Month, we ran a similar social media campaign in the UK to spotlight South Asian social entrepreneurs. 
  • Two groups of SSE staff have completed Whiteness at Work training. These groups met between sessions to reflect and challenge themselves. They also shared learning with the wider staff team. 
  • We are sharing learning from our two programmes for Black social entrepreneurs internally, to make other programmes more inclusive and equitable. 

4.  Influence our supply chain and funders 

We will increase diversity in our supply chain and promote and influence funder action on anti-racism, through who we work with and how we engage. This means working with funders and supporters who are willing to work alongside us to continue to learn and develop their practice to be anti-racist. 

Some good discussions have been held about this but we still need to do a lot of this work. The policies to support this work still need review and development.  

Measuring progress 

Indicator 9: Increase in the number and value of supplier contracts held by people from Black and other racialised and minoritised communities in our supply chain 

  • We don’t capture this data yet. Staff changes have meant we haven’t had the capacity to progress the work as quickly as we’d like.  
  • We will begin this work soon. 

Indicator 10: Existing funder/supporter commitment to anti-racism assessed and a framework agreed for facilitating meaningful and collaborative discussions to inform decision making regarding future opportunities 

  • Our development team have held detailed discussions and workshops about funder/supporter engagement and due diligence. We are creating a framework for exploring funder commitments, including anti-racism actions. 
  • The framework will be used to guide our consideration of opportunities from 2022. 
  • This year (2021-22), we will work with our existing network to gather data and invite them to discuss their commitments to anti-racism. For example, we’ll consult our corporate supporters, existing funders and others with interests in social enterprise.  

What’s next? 

We’ll continue to update on our commitments twice a year, typically in April and October. 

(*We know that language about identity is personal and these terms won’t feel right to everyone. We mean people who may identify as Black, Brown, bi- or multi-racial, being from a diaspora, having Asian/African/Caribbean/Latinx/Middle Eastern/Indigenous heritage, as a “person of colour”, Jewish, and/or from a white ethnic minority such as Gypsy, Roma, Traveller. We have consulted our community to shape this language.)