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"My personal commitment to addressing systemic racism" - Poppy Jaman, CEO

"My personal commitment to addressing systemic racism" - Poppy Jaman, CEO
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This blog is the result of conversations social sector CEOs and leaders have been having about racial justice. We have taken a long hard look at ourselves, our organisations, our sector and the power and responsibility we have as leaders to address systemic racism.

Those conversations have held two things in common: racial justice and a commitment to change.

They have centred on a determination to understand the everyday impact of structural racism, and how we can get better at disrupting the status quo, using our power and privilege for racial justice and demonstrating strong allyship.

Allyship is about using our personal and positional power and privilege to amplify voices. It is about asking who is sat at the table, who isn’t, why not and how do we get them there, as well as making sure the voices of people with a wide range of lived experiences to be heard.

We have reflected on how to be conscious and intentional in our actions, and how we walk the walk in everything we do, how we make sure our racial justice work is embedded in our organisations and how we can influence change wherever we can.

As an organisation, the CMHA has convened member businesses, inclusion and mental health experts to create a Mental Health and Race Toolkit, which provides a roadmap for businesses to achieve a diverse, inclusive and mentally healthy workplace. We have also created the first mental health and race workplace training course. We are also taking active steps to ensure that every part of our organisation – Board, Exec team and Advisory Group – are more diverse and representative.

On a personal level, I have reflected with my peers on how frequently we are invited to be on panels, events, committees and working groups that contribute to the production of knowledge and policy. It is not an opportunity everyone is afforded; that diverse voices and perspectives are often excluded, and consequently privilege, inequality and the status quo are perpetuated. Those with the opportunity to be heard get to influence outcomes, as well as develop personally and strengthen their careers.

This led us to think about the small but nonetheless significant steps we can take to influence change.

As a result, along with other leaders from the social sector, I am committing to:

  • Be part of groups and committees that are actively inclusive, and to ask myself the question who isn’t at the table, who should be and how can we get them there?
  • Be part of panels where at least 50% of the panel is women and 20% of the panel Black, Indigenous and People of Colour
  • Take part in conferences where speakers and representatives with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences are heard across all parts of the conference including the main stage
  • Always be asking myself, my teams and other organisers if we are making sure a wide range of voices and lived experiences are heard in our own events and those we participate in.

I am also:

  • Encouraging others around me to make these commitments
  • Making this an organisation wide approach whereby we encourage everyone to do the same
  • Talking to event organisers about amplifying diverse voices
  • Encouraging thinking about any barriers – financial or otherwise – to attendance at their events and consider subsidies and other mechanisms that enable people from diverse communities to participate.

In making these commitments public, I am naming and owning the power I hold to create space for more voices to be heard, and to influence. And the more of us that make these commitments the faster we will make change.

Our group of leaders from the social sector are keeping track of our collective progress so we can learn as we go. We know we won’t always get it right. When we don’t, we will reflect on why and what we can learn.

There is no badge, no club to join, no fee to pay, just an ask, please join us in committing to do all you can to ensure diverse voices and lived experiences are heard. Will you?

A version of this blog is being published on multiple organisational and individual channels and we would like to encourage anyone who wants to join us in those commitment to use and adapt the text and publish on your own channels. If you are struggling to access the text, please email ceo@mhfaengland.org .