An update from Campaign Bootcamp’s Board of Trustees on the culture at Campaign Bootcamp

Last month, we shared an update about the challenges our organisation has been facing and the steps we have been taking to address them. Since our last post, there have been some significant updates.

For the last nine months, we, as the Board of Campaign Bootcamp, have commissioned an investigation into concerns raised by staff and former staff about the working culture within the organisation. That investigation is now complete, and in the interest of transparency and learning, we want to share the outcomes publicly.

This investigation looked at a number of concerns raised by staff in late 2020. All staff were given the opportunity to raise concerns to feed into the investigation. Twelve individuals were interviewed by an external investigator. The investigator looked into claims of a challenging and unhealthy organisational culture. We heard from staff that the culture disadvantaged those with marginalised identities specifically.

The investigation was not looking into any concerns raised around the programmes that Campaign Bootcamp delivers or into the experience of our wider Bootcamp Community. It was conducted by Byrne Dean, a collective of employment law and HR experts who had no prior connection to Campaign Bootcamp. The final report was shared with the Board at the end of August 2021. 

The report outlines, in stark terms, that our internal culture did not live up to our values or our mission. To the current and former staff affected, we offer a sincere apology for the deep hurt caused. 

As a Board, we want to thank current and former staff and freelancers, many of whom have worked under challenging circumstances, for creating powerful training and programmes and consistently calling for the organisation to be better. We appreciate the ways in which our staff trainers, freelancer trainers and programme staff have worked hard to put our values of justice, equity, and supporting people from marginalised backgrounds into practice. 

Outcomes of the report

The report identified three main areas of concern, summarised in quotes from the report, below:

A lack of strategy

“There is evidence that there were weaknesses around strategic planning and implementation[…] whilst there are business plans, these are not regularly referred to and do not seem to guide strategic decisions[…] This had a negative impact on the working environment of staff and their ability to do their jobs well.” 

“The evidence showed that there was a lack of consultation with those that would need to deliver on the funding, resulting in them being required to deliver work which was outside of their capacity and goalposts frequently changing.” 

Inconsistent and unfair HR practices

“It was clear that in general the Organisation’s policies are inadequate and there has been a failure to train and support Managers to implement clear and fair processes.” 

“Senior leadership[…] have at times caused confusion over pay reviews or performance management. The lack of consistency also extends to annual reviews and pay reviews.”

“There was no consistent understanding of when a recruitment process was run internally and when advertised externally[…] The lack of strong policies, training and consistency in the application of HR processes has led to a breakdown in trust among staff.”

A culture of racism that particularly impacted the fundraising team

“Although in specific individual cases the evidence was not sufficient to make findings of racism, that does not mean it does not exist. When looking at the overall pattern and picture of the complaints that have been made there are a concerning number of allegations of racism made by women of colour.”

“There are aspects of [the Organisation] that would fall within the description of a white supremacist culture.” (For a description of “white supremacy culture”, which is a set of ways of working which result in a benefit to white people, often at the expense of people of colour, see this website: https://www.whitesupremacyculture.info/)

An apology from the Board

First, we want to unreservedly apologise to staff members and freelancers who experienced these challenges. There are clearly a number of systemic organisational challenges that resulted in harm, and we must recognise the role we as the Board played within this.

The Board, made up of volunteer Trustees, has not been engaged enough and has allowed the organisation to grow in a way that let funding priorities drive the training programmes’ work to such an extent that it caused harm to staff. 

We didn’t make sure our policies were robust and fairly applied. We didn’t do enough to build relationships with staff so we could provide support when things were hard. This caused people to be put on performance plans without sufficient support and to have pay rises delayed. It caused people to tell us they experienced significant mental health challenges. Even if the report does not show that race specifically was the cause of those experiences, the pain people experienced is valid. We know we have work to do to embody an anti-racist organisation that resists the patterns of white supremacy culture

We have been reflecting a lot on what has happened within Campaign Bootcamp and how things went so wrong. Our key learning as a Board is that the forces of white supremacy, economic inequality, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and other forms of discrimination are incredibly powerful in our society. So powerful that, if we are not actively resisting them in our work, they will embed themselves in organisations like Campaign Bootcamp regardless of our intentions or our ideals.

As a Board we did not do enough to resist those forces, and staff members were harmed as a result. For this, we are deeply sorry, and we are committed to change. 

The Board commissioned this investigation because we understand that societal forces of oppression — white supremacy, economic inequality, ableism, sexism, transphobia, and others — are extremely hard to resist, and can persist in organisations regardless of intentions. We also understand that the legal definition of discrimination only reflects the most overt experiences. We took a view at the start of the investigation that even if the investigation could not prove that people experienced less favourable treatment because of their marginalised identities, the simple fact that people told us they were hurt required us to act to change the organisation.

Ultimately, these are systemic mistakes made real by individual actions. We won’t fix them by focusing on individual actions alone but rather by looking deeply at the systems that caused harm and reflecting on what we could have done differently. We are committed to continuing this work into the future.

Next Steps

We want to share some steps we are taking to address the concerns highlighted in the report:

  1. We are not done learning about why and how people were hurt. This report affirms our belief in the need for a culture review, looking more broadly at the ways we work together and how these are experienced by people of colour, disabled people, neurodivergent people, and trans and queer people as oppressive. We have begun this work with the Social Justice Collective and will be sharing updates on that later this year.
  2. The issues contained in the report are primarily systemic challenges — ones that happen regardless of who is working for the organisation. But there is learning for individuals as well, and we are providing feedback to those people. We are also setting up training for those who need it to ensure that, as individuals, they are getting support to do better in the future. The report did not highlight any need for individual disciplinary processes for current staff of Campaign Bootcamp.
  3. We are committed to only hiring staff, especially leadership, and only appointing Board members who are deeply committed to building an organisation that resists and tackles the culture of white supremacy.
  4. We have adopted an approach to accountability and learning rooted in the principles of transformative justice and guides all the ways we learn from our mistakes at work. This includes building out several new processes that will support systemic reflection and learning and support individual learning and accountability. We know, and we’ve seen in this report, that most harm is caused by a combination of individuals and systems, and we can’t focus alone on individual accountability.
  5. We are beginning a process of organisational transformation. We will look at all aspects of our policies and governance and be open to changing whatever is needed to live our values fully. As a part of that, we will soon be advertising for an interim Transformation Director, who will support us to begin the process of tackling the culture of white supremacy and to build one that values everyone. One of the first pieces of work for this person will be to work with the Head of Operations to redesign our annual review, performance management, recruitment, and pay policies to ensure they are equitable and applied fairly in all cases.
  6. This Transformation Director will also be responsible for guiding a bottom-up strategy development process so that our programmes can meet the needs of the most marginalised people to develop the skills to challenge oppression.
  7. Our new Head of Income Generation has been given the space to adopt an approach to fundraising which lets programmatic work guide funding proposals rather than the other way around. She is also committed to providing feedback to funders where appropriate.
  8. Our new Head of Finance has built systems to track our financial position better, so we have deep insight into our reserves and our financial health. This allows us to invest charitable resources wisely and fundraise accordingly to manage and mitigate financial risks.
  9. We have started to build on the relationships between staff and the Board, with clear systems so challenges can be raised up for support if needed as we undergo the work to transform the organisation.

There is a long road ahead. All of us, but especially the Board and leadership team, will need to work much harder to tackle the issues of our organisational culture and create real change. As Board members, we are committed to seeing this through but also recognise there is a need for new leadership at Board level too. We are continuing our work to restore trust, redesign policies, reflect on our culture, and build an organisation that is just. We believe in our ability as a Board, leadership team, and staff to do that. It isn’t going to be easy, but it is what we need to do.

During this difficult period, the entire staff team has done an amazing job making sure our work in the world embodies our vision of justice and wholeness. That gives us confidence that we have the skills we need to do this internally. We ask our community to continue to hold us to account to ensure we are doing everything we can so our internal reality is fully aligned with our values. 

In solidarity,

Kaytee and Manish, Co Chairs of Campaign Bootcamp
On behalf of the Board

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An update from Campaign Bootcamp’s Board of Trustees

We want to share with you some information around the challenges our organisation has been facing, and the steps we have been taking to address the concerns.