Committing to change: an update

In June 2020, we made specific commitments about how we at Internews would address racism to ensure our organisation is one in which our people and partners genuinely have the opportunity to thrive. 

International development worldwide has rightly come under criticism for its failure to reflect the communities it serves and in particular, a failure to turn words into action in addressing the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the sector. 

Internews recognises that we are no exception. We can and should do better. Racism and anti-Blackness, like many systems of oppression, are structural and systemic. As an organisation that helps people worldwide get access to information so they can achieve their full potential, we know we have the collective power to make a change and we must be part of that effort internally and across the sector. 

We knew this work would be complex and challenging. Tackling racism and discrimination is not a one-off initiative, it is work that must be continuous and must transform us as people and an organisation.  

A year later, we want to share an update on where we are with this vital work. This is just the beginning and we look forward to sharing more updates as our work progresses. 

What we said we would do:  

Recruit an external consultant or consultants to build our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices as an organisation. We are committed to change and recognize that we need help in identifying our weaknesses in these areas and in developing practical, actionable steps that we can take. 

What we have done so far:  

In September 2021, Internews announced we had hired US-based consultancy Decolonize Design to help us with our work tackling racism and discrimination in the workplace.  

Rather than building a program around the traditional concepts of “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)”, Decolonize Design emphasizes Belonging, Dignity and Justice, concepts that transcend the DEI norms and resonate strongly with Internews’ mission and our aspirations as an organisation.

Graphic showing the intersection of Belonging, Dignity and Justice

Our partnership with Decolonize Design has involved considerable engagement from across the organization. Internews’ CEOs Jeanne Bourgault and Jodie Ginsberg meet the Decolonize team every two weeks along with key members of our HR and administrative teams. This includes a new team hired to do this work. 

Decolonize Design conducted an audit of our formal and informal policies, procedures, rituals, and norms, as well as an all-staff survey in five languages and a climate assessment (i.e., focus groups, interviews, and joining meetings.) 

The results of the survey were presented to staff at an all-staff meeting, to Senior Staff teams and global management teams across the organisation, and to the boards of Internews earlier this year. We are using the results of the survey and audit as the starting point for a number of changes in how we do our work. New solutions and approaches will be co-designed with a cross section of staff across the organisation that represent as many of our communities as possible. 

What we said we would do

Establish an organization-wide DEI task force with a mandate to craft a DEI strategy. Our goal is to be as unequivocal in our statements, actions and position on racial justice as we are on other issues such as gender equality. We commit to begin implementing recommendations that emerge in this strategy within three months. 

What we have done so far: 

At the recommendation of Decolonize Design, Internews decided not to create immediately an organization wide task force but rather create a small team to take the steps conduct a survey and learning sessions to establish the needs of staff.  

In addition, Internews launched a Stewards Coalition for staff interested in contributing to co-design of workstreams relating to Belonging, Dignity and Justice. Following this work, which lasted from October 2020 to January 2021, Internews began the creation of working groups which will give staff the opportunity to be part of creating the change at Internews, as well as the launch of affinity groups – groups formed around shared identities, interests, or experiences. 

What we said we would do:  

Take a leadership role in elevating the issue of racial inequality in the international development sector, though our actions, advocacy efforts and membership commitments. Our aim is to lead the way by being the most diverse and inclusive organisation in the media development and information sector within the next five years, in line with our values and our new strategic plan. 

What we have done so far: 

Through this process, we have recognised that change begins at home. We need to do the internal work in such a way that centres those most marginalised and impacted. While we have largely focused on the internal work needed to be leaders in this sector, Internews plays an active role in a number of sectoral initiatives. For example, Internews is participating in the ‘Building anti-racist practices’ peer learning sessions for CEOs being run by NGO network Bond in the UK and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) peer learning sessions for HR and DEI practitioners being run by NGO network Humentum globally.  

What is to come: 

This work is a continuous journey which requires much personal and organisational change. It is also iterative and requires regular action and upkeep. 

In addition to the action listed, going forward, we will be reviewing our HQ recruitment, compensation and advancement processes to ensure that those most marginalised are not adversely impacted. We will also be holding multiple trainings on Fostering BDJ day-to-day and Leading with BDJ. We aim to offer these learning opportunities multiple times per year going forward and will add additional trainings around tangible topics as we move forward. We will also be joining InterAction’s DEI NGO coalition taskforce to continue elevating the issues of racial inequality in the international development sector. 

There is still much to come but we cannot go forward without our staff and partners’ continual commitment to this work. Thank you so much to every individual who has committed their time, efforts and mental space to this work and those who will along this journey. We are eternally grateful for your contributions so far and going forward.