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An update on Elrha’s Anti-Racism Work in 2020/21

When we published our Statement on Anti-Racism in November 2020, we made six commitments. We provide an update on each of the commitments below where we aim to honestly reflect on the progress we have made so far on anti-racism, and what we still need to do. 

We collected input from staff in the Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) to write this update and reflect a collective view. 

We hope that by sharing this update, we keep ourselves publicly accountable to our work on anti-racism.

Commitment 1: We will be an anti-racist employer and workplace


We will work to ensure no one is disadvantaged at Elrha because of their colour. We will improve the diversity of our governance structures and review our recruitment processes to promote anti-racism and remove unconscious bias. 


We have mapped out an Anti-Racism Learning Journey, with the aim of culminating this into an action plan for the organisation. We have begun the first step by undertaking trainings to better understand race and racism.  While not focused solely on staff experiences, we aim to increase our understanding on how racism manifests for our staff and identify specific areas we need to address.  

We created a staff-led Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) in October 2020 to provide a space and structure for discussing racism and developing anti-racist practice. We strive to create an inclusive culture, beyond the recruitment process. Our Directors and HR Lead are creating an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policy, with input from the ARWG, that will explore how anti-racism overlaps with EDI.  


We recognise that this commitment is cross-cutting throughout all other commitments and requires long-term changes to our processes and systems; and are actively working to create a workplace that promotes EDI for all. 

Commitment 2: We will collaborate with the sector and our partners to promote an anti-racism approach


We will work with peers to redress the sector’s racial inequalities and leverage our partnerships to seek changes to our joint working, where necessary. We will build diverse supply chains. We will promote and share best practice, encourage greater accountability and advocate widespread change. 


We have increased our communication and collaboration on themes that intersect with anti-racism, including decoloniality and the humanitarian ecosystem, community-led innovation, and increasing Global South leadership in humanitarian research and innovation.  

  • We co-organised and participated in a panel as part of the 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference and its focus on decolonising the humanitarian ecosystem. We discussed how community-led innovation can challenge inequity and contribute to the decolonisation of humanitarian aid. We also published a follow-up blog.  
  • We partnered with Royal Roads University and shared our reflections on how indigenous, locally led approaches to innovation aim for equity and equality of opportunity, reimagine existing power structures and promote self-determination.  

We are at the early stages of this work however, during this period we have prioritised listening and learning from others. 

We have started a research exercise to explore whether and how unconscious bias and systemic racism manifests in our funding model. For this we are engaging others in the sector (also see Commitment 3). 

Commitment 3: We will consider how our work in research and innovation can support an anti-racism agenda


We will work to improve the accessibility of funding to applicants from lower middle-income countries (LMICs) and ensure our research and innovation programmes and portfolios directly and indirectly support anti-racism. 


We have continued our existing work on building in partnership requirements for our grantees which ensure that projects have local leadership and representative partners. 

We have conducted analyses looking at the proportion of our applicants are from LMICs, the stages those applications reach and thinking critically about how we can best support greater engagement with organisations in LMICs. 


The above activities have helped us develop a much-needed baseline of understanding for where there is bias in our grant-making and has already informed the R2HC’s 2022 funding calls.  

Commitment 4: We will weave anti-racism into the fabric of our brand and communications


We will redress power imbalances by critically reviewing what we say and the language we use, and through thoughtful consideration of how we visually represent the work we do. We will ensure diverse representation at events we organise or participate in. We will review and reconstruct our storytelling, using our platform to provide space for, and amplify, the voices and perspectives of people of colour, particularly in lower middle-income countries. 


We have reflected on how to embed anti-racism into our communications approach. Our communications team attended courses on participatory photography, storytelling and ethical content gathering. These offered new guidance on reconsidering use of images, language, terminology and how to best use our platforms to spotlight diverse voices, and resulted in the creation of an ethical framework. 

We actively work to diversify our public communications outputs. Examples include convening diverse panels at the Humanitarian Leadership Conference, finding new authors for blogs and a resulting opinion piece in Devex written by an R2HC grantee from an LMIC, as well as sharing a challenging cartoon series on Global South engagement in research in our newsletters. 

We have included in our Annual Report reflections on diversity and inclusion, and the work of the ARWG to ensure that anti-racism and accountability to our ambitions is embedded in our public reporting. 

We have developed an induction on our anti-racism work for new starters at Elrha. 


We feel our activities are small examples of change, albeit positive first steps to increasing representation and normalising public discourse on racism.  

Commitment 5: We will nurture an environment of listening, learning and unlearning racism


We will invite speakers to discuss racism and unconscious bias, for example, and encourage safe spaces for employees to discuss how racism and privilege manifests itself in our organisation, our sector and beyond. 


We have created multiple spaces for discussion and learning. Most notably, we set up a monthly reading and discussion group, focused around educating ourselves and engaging with discussions on racism in our sector, our workplaces, and in the UK as a society. 

We have increased organisational-wide engagement with the ARWG group. The group have presented back to the whole organisation with updates on our progress, to ensure that we are creating an environment in which everyone participates, regardless of their engagement with the ARWG specifically. 

We have created a knowledge hub of literature on anti-racism and other relevant themes, and a number of staff have contributed to the literature review on anti-racist funding models and grant making.   


We realised that this commitment takes conscious and ongoing effort, so we wanted to focus on the creation of tangible spaces for discussion and reflection, like the discussion group or ongoing Elrha-wide updates on the work of the ARWG, to therefore nurture the wider environment of listening, learning and openness. 

We have training sessions planned to further this discussion and engage specifically with discourse around racism in our sector through our Learning Journey, and we have hosted external speakers for our internal learning series called ‘Elrha Learns’. This has included presentations on localisation, the history of western humanitarianism and coloniality, and diversity and inclusion. 

Commitment 6: We will develop clear and specific next steps through our detailed action plan to make anti-racism a core and sustainable part of our ethos and work


We will publicly share our action plan and regularly review and publish our progress annually, so we can be held publicly accountable for our actions and can contribute to continued learning across our sector and beyond. 


We are delivering on our anti-racism work through diverse approaches. For example, some colleagues have EDI responsibilities as part of their work objectives, some colleagues are involved in the ARWG on a voluntary basis while all staff members are all welcome to discussion groups. For now, this fluid approach of agreeing priorities and having shared responsibility for key areas has felt more intuitive for us than a documented action plan. 


We have reflected on this commitment since the original statement and have realised that we were not equipped to develop a meaningful ‘action plan’ for a clear path forward in advance of undertaking the Anti-Racism Learning Journey. 

We have been through an important learning process, as an organisation, during the last year. We realised that this work will always feel a bit messy, however we recognised the need to prioritise and make progress on what we can, rather than trying to do everything at once and moving nowhere. 

 The diversity of delivery approaches is fundamental to where we are now and a clearer process is anticipated through our journey on this commitment.  

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