#CharitySoWhite: how Bootcamp grad Fatima and a grassroots POC-led group went viral

This autumn, the hashtag #CharitySoWhite took social media by storm by highlighting racism and a lack of representation of people of colour in the charity and social impact sector.

Fatima, a London based charity sector worker and Bootcamp graduate, felt frustrated by her experiences as the only, or one of the few, people of colour in these spaces. She wanted to figure out if this issue was something other people felt too, so got together with a friend to launch #POCIMPACT, a group for people of colour (POC).

Last month, the group were instrumental in the hashtag #CharitySoWhite going viral. We spoke to Fatima about all of this and more.

Fatima sticks flipchart paper that reads “We want to build a community to – recognise, support and connect” on the inside window of a building.

This all started with a Tweet you wrote to Citizens Advice. Could you tell us a bit more about that, and how #POCIMPACT were involved?

#CharitySoWhite wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t connected with the people I met through #POCIMPACT. It was in conversations with the #POCIMPACT community about how we could shift a conversation about calling out one incident of racism at Citizens Advice to a conversation about institutional racism across the sector.

Working collectively with a number of #POCIMPACT members, we were able to launch and get the momentum that the campaign garnered. In its first 24 hours, the hashtag recorded 3,045 tweets from 1,850 people, and had a reach on Twitter of more than 8.2 million.

We launched it by asking people to share their stories and experiences of racism in the sector as staff, trustees, volunteers and service users. After a couple of days, suddenly I started to get hundreds of retweets, and the press started to cover it, which elicited a response from Citizens Advice.

I don’t think this is an isolated incident in the sector, I think this got traction because of how overtly racist the content of the training was and how well known Citizens Advice are as an organisation giving advice to millions of people a year, this wasn’t some small charity that no one had heard of.

Can you tell us more about how #POCIMPACT organises?

#POCIMPACT is a community for POC, led by POC. We are informed and guided by the community on what we do, working to put POC voices at the centre of the way we work.

We have a flat structure and things are pretty organic at the moment as momentum is dependant on individuals on the organising team being pro-active on pushing forward their areas of work. We are pretty light on meetings and instead use Slack to organise and discuss so we can make decisions and move forward quickly, keeping chunkier bits or things that require more discussion before a decision for meetings. Decisions are generally based on a consensus from the team.

What have been some highlights since #POCIMPACT began?

Following the two of us running those initial ‘Building Community’ events, we are now an organising team of nine people. We’ve seen some exciting milestones along the way, even if we forget to celebrate them sometimes. We just hosted our third at-capacity event, supporting members of their POC communities to share their stories.

We’ve been able to access free space to host our events through the wonderful Advocacy Academy. We’ve grown our online engagement and presence through our newsletter and Facebook group, which has also meant we have been able to make little bits of money through posting job ads to cover expenses. We’re also starting to develop some online resources for the community like our #POCIMPACT directory.

Where do you see #POCIMPACT in one year?

There is so much potential and appetite for the community to grow. Some of the clear things we’ve been hearing from the community that we want to prioritise are:

  • Supporting the development of POC across the sector
  • Help attract more POC talent to the sector
  • Moving beyond London.Our in person events in particular at the moment are totally London centric

We’re hoping that the #POCIMPACT community will also be able to capitalise on some of the success of the #CharitySoWhite campaign to achieve these goals,for example, helping us to build partnerships with those offering and working on personal development in the sector to bring new opportunities to the community.

We’re also working to develop the organising team. For example, it is currently predominantly South Asian women, and it is an urgent priority to ensure better representation in the team.

Do you have three top tips for people who might want to address systemic issues within their organisations?

  1. Work with others. It is a hard slog on your own. Finding other people who are passionate about the kind of change you want to achieve is important, not only to help build capacity, but to bring in their ideas and perspectives.
  2. Don’t be afraid to do new things. Before this campaign, there were lots of things I hadn’t done. For example, I’d never really done any media engagement before and was thrown in the deep end a bit with it all.
  3. Put time and effort into forging connections with people outside your organisation who might have done it before, or might be trying to do similar things. You can learn from each other, but also build up that collective power.

Some tweets shared since the #CharitySoWhite hashtag launched:

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