EDI strategies are a ‘waste of money’, says charity consultant

26 Jul 2022 News

Martha Awojobi is CEO of JMB Consulting

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives are a “waste of money”, a charity sector consultant has said.

Speaking at Fundraising Everywhere’s open mic conference earlier this month, Martha Awojobi argued that while some charities had introduced effective EDI strategies, most did not “go far enough” in tackling anti-racism.

They said that EDI initiatives were not a “useful framework” to liberate oppressed people and that they “whitewashed” true anti-racist work.

‘Charities must go beyond EDI to tackle racism’

Though Awojobi said there is some good EDI work done in the sector that considers anti-racism, such as that undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Bond, they were largely critical of the term. 

Through reading large charities' EDI policies, Awojobi said many failed to mention the terms white supremacy, structural racism and one did not even name racism.

“If you're not talking about white supremacy, and you're not talking about capitalism, you're not doing anti-racist work,” they said. 

Awojobi, chief executive of JMB Consulting, said that although EDI work was well-intentioned, “it doesn't go far enough” in tackling anti-racism.

“Organisations will claim to care about racism and at the same time, take money from organisations that are responsible for the exploitation, the denigration and the death of Black and brown people. They can’t say they are aspiring to be anti-racist and have that kind of framework.”

Awojobi said anti-racism was often falsely conflated with EDI in the charity sector.

They added: “Most people I've met who do EDI work cannot give me a decent working definition of race or racism, with many thinking that race is the kind of biological phenomenon rather than a socio-political one.”

Awojobi said they are often approached to deliver EDI work for charities, which they decline.

“Most of my PA’s job is telling people that we don't do EDI. Bless her, but it's an absolute waste of money,” they said.

‘Anti-racism work is whitewashed under the label of EDI'

Awojobi previously held senior roles in fundraising at large charities such as Refuge, Money4YOU, and Ronald McDonald House Charities. They also used to be part of the #CharitySoWhite organising committee.

They said they felt that true anti-racism work such as theirs was being “whitewashed under the form of EDI”.

“EDI is kind of watering down the revolutionary potential of anti-racism as it tries to fit it into a white framework; it’s white supremacy working in action. White supremacy always finds a way to hide in plain sight, it shifts, it co-opts language,” they said.

‘EDI props up white supremacy’

They gave an example of why they disagree with EDI through an image of the original lineup of Conservative party leadership candidates, with many being from ethnic minority backgrounds. 

“My thoughts on EDI are summed up kind of perfectly in this image,” Awojobi said. 

“As you can see, these Black and brown people have been held out as a way to prove that racism no longer exists. However, every single one of these candidates support the racist Rwandan policy. And I think this is a brilliant example of how equality, diversity and inclusion actually props up white supremacy, while at the same time claiming that Black and brown faces in high places means an organisation is not racist.” 

Awojobi went on to quote poet and activist Audre Lorde, who said “The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.”

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