Credit: Christina Morillo

In the US, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a multi-billion dollar industry. US universities, corporations and non-profits have been implementing DEI programmes for decades. Yet, many point out that there has been little to show for this investment. Take Google, for example. In 2014 and 2015, it is reported that the tech firm spent $114 million and $150 million respectively on diversity programmes. Yet in 2019, only two percent of its workforce were African Americans. Recent controversies include the firing of Timnit Gebru — a prominent Black expert on artificial intelligence who had criticised the company’s diversity efforts.

Meanwhile…


When the UK Children’s charity Barnados published a blog post earlier this year discussing racial inequality and white privilege, they faced an avalanche of vitriol. Not just from the usual suspects — internet trolls and far-right extremists — but also from the Common Sense Group, a cluster of Conservative MPs who work against what they call the ‘woke agenda’. Some of these MPs accused Barnados of ‘divisive militancy’ and ‘ideological dogma’. When Barnados’ CEO and vice president both issued statements defending the original blog post, and committed to ‘keep on raising the issues that matter for all vulnerable children’, I…


I recently spent time listening to witnesses give evidence to the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector. The committee has painstakingly filtered through a labyrinth of different compliance procedures, frameworks, protocols and mechanisms put in place by the aid sector over the past two years. They have listened to those who believe the sector needs to do ‘more of the same but better’; as well as others who feel that development agencies’ responses have been akin to trying to carry water with a sieve. …


When I started working in international development, somewhat romantic notions about the potential of civil society partnerships prevailed. People often spoke about partnerships as a way of building ‘power with’ and ensuring local actors could leverage ‘power to’. Early on, I was lucky enough to work for a couple of International NGOs (INGOs) that seemed to be doing a good job of brokering and sustaining civil society partnerships with local actors — where participatory approaches were in place, accountability mechanisms seemed to be working well, and where partners seemed prepared to stand in solidarity with each other. A few years…


Pic: Myseum of Toronto

Those of us working on social justice issues can sense something in the air. It’s more than a generalised sense of fatigue among leaders and their teams. People who had been managing relatively well at the beginning of Covid-19 are now struggling. For some it shows up as lethargy and listlessness; for others, activity levels frenetically spike upwards as anxiety reasserts itself. Many people are simply going through the motions, getting through the day, unable to take pleasure in or draw energy from the things that used to sustain or nourish them. What is driving these dynamics? …


In the non-profit sector, we’re great at talking about structural inequalities. Systemic disadvantages and social divisions? We’ve got that covered. You need a 50-minute speech about social exclusion and its impact across geographical regions? Sure, pass me the mic. Yet despite our fluency in structural analyses of power, we remain woefully inarticulate about a very specific form of power: privilege. I’m referring here to the types of rights, advantages and protections we automatically receive by virtue of our membership of a dominant group (e.g. male, white, cisgendered, non-disabled). Our inability to turn the lens of analysis inwards to ourselves and…


I’ve been reading a lot of advice for leaders on how they can support their organisations to navigate Covid-19. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the mainstream guidance I’ve read on blogs, websites and social media: stoicism is key; get better at running virtual meetings; be courageous; stay positive; remember that ‘from crisis comes opportunity’. While I’m not denying that each of these pieces of guidance has its merits, I wonder whether, cumulatively, this is really the type of leadership that we need in these fractured times. What if leaders of all stripes, from diverse sectors, started to follow the kinds…

Leila Billing

Leila Billing is a freelance gender consultant

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