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.

To the Bootcamp community,

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. This is an important moment of reckoning for the charity sector as a whole around oppressive cultures, and we are not immune.

The Board has heard concerns coming from some current and former staff, beginning 2-3 years ago but becoming much louder in the last year, and shared more publicly in recent weeks, about their experience of the culture and working practices at Campaign Bootcamp. They have told us that our rapid growth has left in its wake an environment that feels hurried and stressful, with ever-shifting priorities and high staff turnover. Some staff said they feel that decision-making lacks transparency or consistency, that the organisation is not guided by a shared sense of purpose. As a result, some have shared they feel undervalued and overworked.

They said this working culture has a disproportionate impact on staff of colour, disabled staff, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming staff, LGBTQ staff, staff from working-class backgrounds and staff who experience mental health problems. Some shared stories of situations they experienced as racist, sexist, or ableist.

The culture they described is not what we believe Campaign Bootcamp should be.

Those of us who have been on the board for years acknowledge that we have overseen the growth of an organisation that staff have struggled in. We acknowledge that we did not develop enough relationships with staff to know things were as off-course as we have now heard. We know we should have asked more questions about the well-being of staff, and proactively looked for echoes of systemic oppression in the organisation. Newer board members, who joined just before we began to hear serious concerns, have joined our commitment to ensuring we are successful in our work to transform this organisation. We know there is more to learn here, and the entire board is committed to doing that work through the processes we have initiated (detailed below).

To any current or former staff or freelancers who have shared that they were harmed by the working culture at Campaign Bootcamp, we apologise, both for the harm that you experienced, and for the time it took us as a Board to begin to respond comprehensively. We recognise and appreciate the significant contribution you have made to the success and reputation of Bootcamp, and we are sorry that the culture caused you pain.

To our community of graduates, we realise this news may be hard to hear. We acknowledge we have let you down by not entirely being what you may have imagined us to be, or experienced us as in our trainings. For that we are sorry.

We want to share a few things the Board and Leadership Team have done in response to the concerns over the past few months. 

  • To look into specific instances where we have been told that our policies may have been followed in discriminatory ways, last year we launched an independent investigation, and that investigation should conclude in the coming weeks. We deeply appreciate every person who shared their experiences with the investigator.

  • The Board has been receiving notes from all exit interviews, to understand better why people are leaving.

  • We have begun a comprehensive review of our policies to align them with our values, and began to address any specific contract issues and investigate if there are any pay discrepancies.

  • We have appointed two board members to act as liaisons with staff, to ensure we are actively building relationships with staff members.

  • Board members are now regularly attending staff meetings, to encourage relationship building and information sharing.

  • At a very practical level, we have established a wellbeing fund for staff.

  • We also engaged in a two-week Pause & Reset in June to support staff to get a break from the day to day and spend time thinking about how to make space for wider culture work, as we know engaging in this significant piece of work will require time and emotional space, especially for staff from marginalised backgrounds.

We know that experiencing oppressive workplace cultures can happen even when policies and laws are followed to the letter. While the Investigation is an important step for us to take, we believe that it is necessary also to understand more fully the ways we have heard our culture hurt people, to look deeply at the roots of those challenges, and take steps to heal and rebuild in a way that is fully aligned with our values of justice and equity.

To that end, we have appointed Social Justice Collective to conduct a Culture Review and Visioning Process. We know they will hold us to account and help us use this moment to change our culture in meaningful, systemic ways. We have also devised an accountability process that pulls in the principles of transformative justice to ensure we are understanding and addressing at all levels the harm that people have shared they experienced.

Some people who have told us they were harmed by the culture at Campaign Bootcamp have since left the organisation. To those former staff, we want to acknowledge that your voices and experiences are important to hear and hold ourselves accountable to as we engage in the Culture Review. For any who are interested in participating in a focus group specifically for former staff people, as a part of the Culture Review and facilitated by SJC, please contact Manish at [email protected]. We will compensate former staff for their time supporting our learning and growth.

Finally, the Culture Review will ultimately envision and establish a set of shared values or cultural principles that we will co-create and commit to together, and embed into our organisation at every level, all the way up to the Leadership Team and Board.

We do not expect to emerge from this process free of all of the “isms” that plague our society, but we do expect to emerge with an ability to proactively address challenges going forward, to ensure we work in ways that are fully aligned with our values. As a board, we also hope to be able to right the wrongs of the past through an accountability process rooted in the principles of transformative justice. All current board members, especially those of us who have been around longer, are committed to engaging fully in this accountability process.

As a Board, we are clear: We want Campaign Bootcamp not only to be a place that produces great work, but a great place for everyone to work. In particular, we want staff from marginalised communities to feel fully respected and valued, and for the whole organisation to function and be formed in a way that doesn’t reproduce patterns of harm our work together is committed to dismantling. Crucially, we want to have transparent and fit for purpose processes in place that allow us to respond to concerns as they arise in a way that is fair and restorative.

We recognise that many other organisations are grappling with similar challenges. We are making our struggles public in part out of a commitment to transparency, honesty, and accountability to this community. We also plan to offer reflections, learnings and unlearnings to the wider sector as we do this deep and necessary work. We will share an update by mid-September on the Culture Review and Investigation. We would ask that this community hold us accountable to our vision of a world rooted in justice.

In solidarity,

The Board of Trustees, Campaign Bootcamp

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