UK’s Diversity Forum calls on social investors to sign “ambitious” new manifesto

The Diversity Forum has called on social investment organisations to commit to equity, diversity and inclusion by signing their new manifesto, launched this week.

The campaign – which calls for “meaningful collaborations”, an inclusive culture and greater transparency, among others – follows criticism of the social investment sector last week by the influential Adebowale Commission as having “a serious problem with inclusion and equity”. 

The forum’s Manifesto 2.0, Towards Inclusive Social Investment, is intended to take organisations “on a journey in how they look at diversity rather than act as a tick-box exercise”, Amir Rizwan, Diversity Forum chair, wrote in a Pioneers Post column.

“By signing it, we expect organisations to commit and be held accountable to goals when it comes to owning this within their respective organisations,” Rizwan said.

The manifesto includes seven pledges and 10 initial actions to take in the first six months. Organisations are asked to set realistic goals and to report annually on progress.

Rizwan told Pioneers Post he hopes to see up to 20 organisations signing the manifesto by the end of March.

Mark Norbury, CEO of UnLtd, said: “Equitable investing requires us all to shift our design, outreach, delivery, decision making – the Manifesto is a valuable, and vital, way to help get us there.” 

The Diversity Forum was set up in 2017 by volunteers from across the social investment sector, with funding from the Connect Fund, to help it become more diverse and representative of the communities it was looking to serve. It now has a network of 30 champions in the sector and is led by a steering group of six people.

The forum’s pioneering 2019 report, Inclusive Impact: the state of diversity in the social impact sector, was one of the first studies documenting the lack of diversity in the UK social investment sector. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords or tick boxes

Its first manifesto was “too generic” for the social investment sector, Rizwan explained, which led to a low uptake, hence the need to launch a “more robust, ambitious, actionable and tailored manifesto”. 

Chloe Tye, impact and equalities specialist at Big Issue Invest and Diversity Forum steering group member, said: “Diversity, equity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords or tick boxes, and that’s been the foundation for designing this Manifesto 2.0 with the Diversity Forum.” 


“A serious problem”

Last week, the social investment sector came under fire in the much-awaited report of the Adebowale Commission on Social Investment for its lack of diversity and its failure to reach ethnic minority communities.

The commission’s findings showed social investment was not serving Black-led and Black-focused social enterprises – and that other disadvantaged communities also faced barriers. “Social investment continues to have a serious problem with inclusion and equity particularly, although not exclusively, in relation to race,” the report said.

Social investment continues to have a serious problem with inclusion and equity

The paper recommended that social investors, at a minimum, should sign up to the Diversity Forum’s manifesto as a first step.

“What we found around Black and minority ethnic communities and social enterprise leaders, frankly, was shocking, inappropriate, and we need to do something about it,” Victor Adebowale told Pioneers Post. The Commission asked for a £50m fund specifically dedicated to Black-led social enterprises and led by Black investment managers.


Top picture: Pexels

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