Our progress towards being an anti-racist organisation

IIED shares an update on its journey towards becoming an anti-racist organisation and the actions in its workplan.

Article, 15 December 2021
A woman on a protest march holds up a sign that says "enough"

A woman holds up a sign during a protest march against racism in 2020 (Photo: Liam Edwards, Unsplash)

In 2021 IIED launched an internal process of dialogue and reflection on race and racism. This process has surfaced insightful, uncomfortable and challenging issues linked to the role we play in perpetuating racial injustices in our organisation and in the international development and environmental sectors within which we work.

We recognise the sustainable development sector carries complex historic legacies of colonial and racist power dynamics and inequalities. We believe there is a contemporary pattern of racial injustice that must be addressed.

Racism and other forms of discrimination impact Black people and people of colour in many ways, from professional relationships at the individual level, to structural racism that shapes policies, institutional practices, access to funding, cultural representations and other norms that we operate within.

IIED’s responsibility to address racism is inextricably intertwined with our mission to help build a fairer, more sustainable world. It is also an integral part of the environmental protection and development goals that we seek to contribute to.

Our challenge is to tackle racism in ways that address intersecting oppressions that discriminate against people based on class, gender, sexuality and ability. To do this, bold steps are required.

This journey has been, and will continue to be, guided by our strategy and management team, our race and racism working group and individuals in our wider community, with the full support of our board of trustees. We will call on external expertise as needed.

Our commitment

IIED is committed to the journey and transformation needed to become an anti-racist organisation. This will mean driving change internally that includes redefining our shared values, behaviours and culture. Externally, this will include transforming ways of working with others, how we set our research agendas, take action in policy and in practice, and how we communicate.

This level of change takes time and needs strategic direction. It will require individual and collective action, financial investment and continued commitment and engagement from IIED leadership and staff on both personal and professional levels.

We also seek to learn from and collaborate with organisations that are leading by example.

Our actions

To understand and confront the manifestations of racism within IIED and the sustainable development sector more broadly, we formed an internal working group, and in May 2021 we launched a workplan. We have outlined some of the activities below, many of which are already under way.

What we learn as we work through these actions will inform and underpin our future approaches to tackling racism and will be embedded in our mid-term IIED strategic review, due in 2022.

1. Review

We are working with external experts to conduct a diversity, equity and inclusion audit in IIED with an anti-racist lens, analysing key staff data. We are also conducting a qualitative anti-racist organisational self-assessment which will be guided by an external framework (PDF) developed by the Catalyst Project.

This analysis will help us establish a diversity, equity and inclusion baseline from which we can propose actions and track progress. We are analysing the words, images and other content of our communications to ensure they do not perpetuate discriminatory narratives. And we will review our ethical frameworks, guidelines, strategies and policies to improve inclusion and challenge unacceptable behaviours and practices.

2. Re-learn

We will support our staff and wider community to deepen their understanding of racism and its intersecting oppressions. By creating space for uncomfortable but necessary conversations and through a learning programme for IIED leadership and staff, we will explore issues of White defensiveness, bias, supremacy, fragility and privilege.

This will be coupled with the creation of spaces where we will seek to listen to and learn from the experiences of Black staff and staff of colour in IIED and in the organisations we partner with. We will reflect on how this learning can be applied to organisational reform and embedded in policy and practice. 

3. Reform

Informed by the results of the organisational audit, self-assessment and conversations with our networks, we will address racial injustice in our organisational culture and ways of working.

Some aspects of how we do business will need to be changed, reformulated, or articulated differently. This will include who, how and where we recruit, how we are funded, how we work with partner organisations and how we communicate.

We have a long way to go on our journey. To achieve our workplan and realise our commitment we will need to hold ourselves to account both individually and collectively. We will continue learning from others who have been on this journey and seek feedback from partners to inform our actions.