Our race awareness journey

Statement from Innovation Unit

Instead of praising people for being ‘resilient’, change the systems that are making them vulnerableDr Muna Abdi, MA Education Consultancy

Over the last year, Innovation Unit has been on a journey, thinking and talking about race and racism and taking actions to become an anti-racist organisation.

At Innovation Unit, we want to see a world in which all people belong and contribute to thriving societies. Because of discrimination, and systemic racism too many people are excluded and prevented from participating in a thriving society and economy.

We are working to overcome this injustice and inequality by growing and scaling the boldest and best innovations that deliver long-term impact for people, reduce persistent inequalities, and transform the systems that surround them.

We describe our approach as intersectional, because we recognise that disadvantage based on race is compounded by other types of disadvantage based on gender, sexuality, age, disability and other protected characteristics, and that these interact with one another.

We aspire to be system thinkers in action. We have a responsibility to carefully and intentionally dismantle existing systems that cause harm, and reproduce inequality and disadvantage, and replace them with alternatives that are just, equitable and hopeful.

Racism lives not only in overt acts of violence and prejudice, but in the systems and relationships we all inhabit. Structural racism is a determinant of life chances, wellbeing and health, and affects practice and outcomes across all the systems in which we work.

We have seen the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black and Asian communities in the UK, and the unequal health outcomes of different racial groups in the NHS with Black women in the UK four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth.

We know that racism affects mental health, and Black people are four times more likely to be detained under the mental health act. The Lammy Review evidenced the disproportionate number of Black and Asian people in prisons in the UK, and much higher rates of ‘stop and search’.

Black Caribbean children in Britain are more likely to be in care. People from Black, Asian and Ethnic minority communities are more likely to experience housing stress and homelessness, and Black, and Bangladeshi and Pakistani people are most likely to experience unemployment in the UK.

As we began talking properly about race at work over an extended period of time, we recognised the urgency and the very real risks of inaction. We ran internal workshops on race and racism. Race and racism became a standing item at our board meetings. And we invited Wondrous People to facilitate an education programme for the whole organisation on anti-racism – for board members, staff and associates – which had the most profound effect on us and helped to galvanize us.

More recently we set up an action group to lead our anti-racist work, as well as a group where staff can reflect on their practice and anti-racism, and a staff group specifically for Black people and people of colour.

In our commitment to creating more socially just and equitable systems, we have 3 identified areas of focus in our action plan:

Governance & accountability – we will ensure that race and racism is a priority for our Board and exec team, that there are spaces to discuss race and racism for all staff, and that we will create a more diverse board. We will strengthen our equality, diversity and inclusion policy, and gather and report better data about race and inequalities.

Our services & communication – when we  consider and decide which projects we pursue, we will identify, examine and respond to race and equalities issues from the outset; and we will consciously improve our race awareness, and anti-racist practice when delivering projects and programmes.

Our people & processes – we will change the way we recruit staff, associates and board members to create a more diverse and inclusive organization. We will ensure that race awareness is part of our induction and development of staff; and that race is no barrier to progression inside the organisation.

We are not experts on how to do this. We are still learning and sometimes failing. But we are committed to this journey of race awareness and exploring the actions we take, with honesty and humility; accountable for our actions as well as learning.

Paul Roberts, Chair
Sarah Gillinson, CEO

James Thomas, Board Director
Valerie Hannon, Board Director
Joe Ludlow, Board Director
Rebecca Ayres, Board Director
Winnie Armah, Company Secretary
Matthew Horne, Deputy CEO