We believe that, for too long, development actors have chosen to either ignore or downplay crucial issues related to racism, sexism, power, voice, access and opportunity within their own organisations. Actors from the Global North still hold most of the power. They remain the decision-makers and gatekeepers of resources, despite commitments to place people and communities at the centre of their work. We see inequity across the sector as a serious issue that does not receive sufficient attention and requires more than cosmetic changes to address.
A more equitable development sector where organisations in the Global North walk their own talk, accompanied by a shift in power from North to South. Whereby people and organisations with lived experience, close to the realities of their context, are calling the shots and have the resources to implement the solutions to their own problems. Where imbalanced relationships have been transformed into equitable partnerships that recognise historical injustices and prioritise holistic well-being and dignity.
It is time for the UK development sector to hold a mirror up to its own ways of working. Our broad theory of change is that by shining a light on the extent and effects of inequitable practices – and the change that is possible when equitable approaches are adopted – development organisations will be encouraged and supported to improve the way they work. Publishing the results would create an incentive for change, and allow organisations to learn from each other’s experiences.
The Equity Index was inspired by a group of women who came together in 2018 to start an anti-racism book club in London, UK. Many of the book club members work in the international development sector and would not have met were it not for the sessions, reading classics including Natives by Akala, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
On 1 January 2019, Alex Martins sat down with fellow book club member Lorriann Robinson and talked through the idea of a public index that would encourage the Northern international development sector to turn inwards and focus as much on its own practices and behaviours as on its work ‘over there’ in the Global South.
The idea developed slowly throughout 2019 and was shared with a wide range of people from across the development sector, both Southern and Northern. In March 2020, a diverse group of international development experts came together to form an official Advisory Council, 14 members strong and growing.
The Equity Index officially became a Community Interest Company on 1 May 2020 and was launched publicly in June 2020 after receiving our first grant from the Joffe Charitable Trust.
Where to from here? Our next step is to hire a full-time Managing Director to lead The Equity Index as it launches and begins to grow. If you are interested in this role, or in providing organisational development funding, please get in touch. We will also recruit a formal Board to govern our activities and to ensure accountability for our work.