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Warm Words, Cold Comfort: Home Truths 2 highlights UK civil society's ongoing racism problem

Updated: May 22




Three and a half years after the murder of George Floyd, and despite considerable attention in civil society to racism and anti-racism, too little has changed in day-to-day experience for Black and Minoritised Ethnic people in mainstream civil society.


These are the findings of a new report, ‘Warm Words, Cold Comfort: UK civil society’s ongoing racism problem’ released today by ACEVO and Voice4Change England and authored by Dr. Sanjiv Lingayah, co-creator of the Home Truths 2 programme.


This report is informed by a survey of over 130 Black and Minoritised Ethnic people working in mainstream civil society and is the first major output of the Home Truths 2 programme, designed to challenge and support mainstream UK civil society to take serious practical action on anti-racism and race equity. The insights and experiences reflected in this report will guide the programme’s work to build a sector that takes meaningful action on anti-racism and race equity.


The report shows that while there are some signs that organisations are signaling that they are against racism, they are not taking the associated practical steps to change experiences.


Key findings shed light on urgent challenges and hope for progress

The report reveals some alarming realities:

  • 77% of respondents have experienced or witnessed racism within civil society within the last five years;

  • 59% doubt the commitment of civil society leaders to combat racism effectively;

  • 68% of respondents have felt the need to ‘tone down’ their behaviour or to be on their ‘best behaviour’ in order to fit into mainstream civil society.

Amid these negative experiences and perspectives, the report also highlights that there is hope.

  • 46% of contributors feel that anti-racism/race equity is taken seriously in their organisation; and

  • 65% are hopeful that progress will be made on anti-racism/race equity in the organisation in which they work.

Whether this hope is well founded will largely depend on the courage and commitment of mainstream civil society leaders and organisations to undertake the hard emotional and practical labour that of moving towards anti-racism and race equity.


If there is enough willingness, transformation is possible. If not, then mainstream civil society will be deemed to have offered warm words on racism, but these words will offer cold comfort and count for little.


A call for transformative change


The full report offers comprehensive insights and offers a textured account of the realities of working towards race equity and anti-racism in mainstream UK civil society more than three years on from the murder of George Floyd and the publication of the first Home Truths report. Visit https://www.acevo.org.uk/reports/warm-words-cold-comfort to read the report in full.


The report kicks off a programme of wider activities for The Home Truths 2 over the next 18 months. The “Further, Faster” programme designed to support chief executives and senior leaders already active in anti-racism and race equity practice within their organisations to make rapid and meaningful progress, will open for applications in the new year. For those ready to make anti-racism and race equity core to their organisation’s mission and take action, register your interest to be kept informed and be the first to know when applications are open.


"This report clearly demonstrates that warm words and positive intents have not so far been reflected in consistent tangible action across civil society and by its leaders," comments Jane Ide, chief executive of ACEVO.


"It's a clarion call urging us to push boundaries, be brave and dismantle the status quo. Together, we have the power to shape an inclusive, equitable future by driving meaningful change through anti-racism and race equity. We all have a job of work to do, I am pleased that ACEVO is hosting the Home Truths 2 programme to support our leaders take practical steps in doing just that."


Kunle Olulode MBE, director of Voice for Change England, adds, "Home Truths 2 challenges us to seek solutions now and reaffirms our belief that progress is not a distant dream but a real possibility. It is time for mainstream civil society leaders and organisations to not only increase partnership with black and minority ethnic civil society but also value the resource adequately to move beyond warm words towards transformative action against racism."


Dr Sanjiv Lingayah, co-creator of Home Truths 2 and author of Warm Words, Cold Comfort said “The testimonies of survey respondents show the ongoing and harmful problem of racism in mainstream UK civil society. While civil society organisations have positioned themselves against the idea of racism too few take necessary action against it, such as publicly reporting ethnicity pay gap and plans to address these. Words and realities are at odds."


Notes for Editors

For more information, media inquiries and interviews about Home Truths 2, contact: Pamela Daniels pamela.daniels@acevo.org.uk or Heloisa Righetto heloisa.righetto@acevo.org.uk To stay updated follow Home Truths 2 on LinkedIn.


About the survey

The survey ran online from 17 July 2023 to 12 October 2023 and was open to Black and Minoritised Ethnic people with recent or current experience of working in UK mainstream civil society. It gathered a total of 139 valid responses.


At the time of survey completion, 129 out of the 139 contributors were working in civil society – the vast majority as employees. The largest representation in the survey was of people working in organisations with annual income of between £1 million and £5 million. Other respondents were fairly evenly distributed, including between organisations with annual income of £100,000 or less and £50 million or more.


It is noted that discrimination faced by Black and Minoritised Ethnic people may be compounded by multiple factors in addition to their ‘race.’ Most survey respondents fell into intersectional categories, as a result of which they may be subject to discrimination on multiple grounds.


About Home Truths 2

Home Truths 2 is a programme of work from ACEVO and Voice4Change England designed to challenge and support mainstream UK civil society to take serious practical action on anti-racism and race equity.


Over the course of the next 18 months, Home Truths 2 will engage stakeholders from across civil society, including senior leaders, staff and those working within and alongside civil society organisations in a targeted practical programme of activity. Home Truths 2 will offer practical resources and guidance to mainstream civil society in general. The work includes approaches to calculating and remedying ethnic pay disparities, integrating race equity into the core mission and bringing senior leaders together to drive forward their anti-racist and race equity practice.


The elements of the programme will contribute to converting the positive words from mainstream civil society on anti-racism and race equity into practical and powerful change.


About ACEVO: The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations is a network of over 1,700 CEOs and aspiring CEOs leading civil society organisations ranging from small, community-based charities to ambitious medium-sized organisations to well known, well-loved national and international not-for-profits. ACEVO’s vision is for civil society leaders to make the biggest possible difference. Together with their network they inspire and support civil society leaders by providing connection, skills and influence.


About Voice4Change England: Voice4Change England (V4CE) is a charity and national advocate for the Black and Minoritised Ethnic voluntary and community sector. As a leading national membership organisation, V4CE actively speaks to policymakers on the issues that matter to the sector, brings the sector together to share good practices and develops the sector to better meet the needs of communities.


About the author: Dr Sanjiv Lingayah, is the racial justice lead and co-creator of Home Truths 2, Sanjiv was the lead author and researcher on the first Home Truths report and is the Founder and Director of Reframing Race, a not-for-profit initiative that exists to change the public conversation on racism in order to build an anti-racist future.

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