Why equity, diversity and inclusion is a continuous journey

James Lee reflects on the equity, diversity and inclusion event we hosted on City Giving Day, and how organisations across the sector are working to embed EDI in their work.

Fiona Rawes, City Bridge Foundation Philanthropy Director, stands at the podium and speaks at the EDI event hosted at our headquarters at Guildhall. Other panellists are seated behind her.
Fiona Rawes, City Bridge Foundation Philanthropy Director, speaks at the EDI event hosted at our headquarters at Guildhall on City Giving Day
  • Author: James Lee
  • Published: 4 October 2023

Something is different. Is it the angle of my computer screen? Was I wearing this shirt yesterday? Oh, that’s it, we’ve changed our name! Mark the date in your calendar – September 26 will forever be known as… the day that The Beatles released their iconic album Abbey Road.

It might, however, also come to be recognised as the day Bridge House Estates, and its funding arm City Bridge Trust, became City Bridge Foundation – a new name reflecting our role as bridge owner and major player in the capital’s charity sector. I leave it for future generations of pub quizmasters to decide which of these events proves most memorable.

While we have a new name, our commitment to supporting communities across London remains. So, on the day of our renaming – which handily coincided with City Giving Day – we held an event for colleagues across the funding sector to examine our ongoing efforts to place equity, diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do.

You probably know that 46% of Londoners are from racialised communities [1] and that racialised households are far more likely to live in poverty (33%) than white households (18%) [2]. You probably know that disability is one of the most powerful driving factors of disadvantage across a host of socio-economic metrics including access to education, employment and housing.

You probably know that LGBTQIA+ Londoners face higher levels of harassment or violence for their sexuality or identity than their counterparts outside the capital [3]. You’ve probably heard these, and other damning indicators of disadvantage, on occasions more numerous than the number of millionaires in London (272,400 in case you were wondering [4])

You know that London is a city of deep disparities, but you might not know what City Bridge Foundation is trying to do about it and why equity, diversity and inclusion must underpin everything we do – hence our event on the who-what-when-where-why and how’ of EDI.
James Lee

Through eavesdropping on conversations between funders at the event and examining feedback gathered, the how’ clearly emerged as the topic we grapple with most. Comments from colleagues across the funding sector indicated an appetite to learn from each other – and, importantly, from the communities we serve – to make our processes and practices much more equitable.

This is perhaps unsurprising given the growing number of funders who, like us, have committed themselves to the open and trusting principles promoted by IVAR and who participated in initiatives such as the DEI coalition.

I’ve been working in funding for over five years and am encouraged by the proliferation of funders who embrace the why; recognise (or seek to recognise) where they can make the most difference; realise when cannot come soon enough; involve diverse communities in deciding what we should be doing; examine their own structures when thinking about who holds power – and are unafraid to ask others how we can be better.

Sarah Denselow and Daniel Seifu from New Philanthropy Capital speaking at the EDI event
Sarah Denselow and Daniel Seifu from New Philanthropy Capital speaking at the EDI event

We are therefore grateful that Sarah Denselow and Daniel Seifu from New Philanthropy Capital were willing to speak at our event about their recent work to help funders understand how to embed EDI into grant making: a fantastic resource available here.

We also heard from a panel of people practising some of what is preached about EDI. Sarah Benioff and Freya Johnson from Islington Giving spoke about how they involved local communities at the heart of their giving in participatory funding programmes such as the Young Grant Makers Programme that Freya co-leads.

Alice Wilcock from the Greater London Authority and Sam Grimmett-Batt, a Funding Director at City Bridge Foundation spoke about two funds that we hope are delivering on funders’ commitments to EDI: Propel and Anchor.

These were designed with, and in response to, what the sector told us about the need for long-term core funding aimed at equity-led organisations tackling systemic barriers. They are great examples of what good grant funding looks like, involving the communities we seek to support in the design, delivery and dissemination.

As we heard from Islington Giving and NPC, more funders are thinking about how they can work in more equitable ways, but that desire can get lost at delivery stage unless supported by a clear strategy. One of the most useful things about NPC’s new resource is the way it breaks down each stage of the grant making cycle with suggestions for actions which support a coherent overall strategy.

It was intriguing to hear how Islington Giving navigated the challenges of recruiting panels and setting formal structures – and the empowerment felt by people participating in panels and, more broadly, by communities having ownership of funding affecting their lives.

I find myself reflecting on a conversation I had at this event with a friend from a fellow funder, who welcomed the progress made but hoped we would not still be having conversations about the need to embed EDI in our work in 10 years’ time.

While I agree with the need for action, I hope we are still talking about EDI 10 years from now. We at City Bridge Foundation have done a lot of work to examine our own approach to the who-what-when-where-why and how’ of EDI and, like many others, recognise that being an equitable, diverse and inclusive funder is not a journey that has an end point – it’s a cycle of continuous learning and action.

So, I for one hope we never stop talking about equity, diversity and inclusion – and I hope you will join us for the next conversation.

James Lee is City Bridge Foundation Bridge Programme & Total Assets Lead

1 — Mid-year population estimates, ONS. Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality; Ethnic group populations – 2021 Census.
2 — Trust for London, Poverty Profile 2023
3 — Centre for London, How do LGBT+ people experience life in the capital? 2020
4 — Visual Capitalist, Ranked: The World’s Wealthiest Cities, by Number of Millionaires, 2023