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13 April 2021    |    Blog

Consultancy – Personal and Political

I’m one of those annoying people who love life in lockdown. No more walking into organisations that don’t get it. My Shack at the bottom of the garden is a multiverse, interacting with hundreds of people. Webinars, workshops, book readings, yoga, Zumba, cocktail parties, everything is possible online!

Last week, enraged by the Sewell Race and Discrimination report’s assertion that Institutional Racism no longer exists in Britain, I Zoomed into a meeting of 1,700 Black activists, organised at 24-hour’s notice. You just can’t do that in real life.

And those re-usable interactive post-it notes! Facilitator’s Eco-Heaven, taking our creative consultancy work to new heights. I went freelance in 1995, the year of the United Nations Beijing Conference on Women. Remember that? 50,000 feminists from all over a Covid-free world, the biggest gathering ever, lobbying Governments to commit to the Platform for Action.

Beijing was about a global movement for change. For me, it was a watershed, politically and personally. I could do more working alongside Third Sector organisations than within them. My identity was another powerful driver for my decision to go freelance. Before lockdown, I spent three years in my Shack working on my Memoir, The Space Between Black and White, exploring the stresses and challenges of ‘only-ness’ as a Mixed-Race woman in White spaces, an experience familiar to many of my sisters and brothers of colour – although that is now thankfully changing as our sector becomes more diverse, and diasporan organisations become more influential.

My consultancy work is political and radical, part of my activism, not just a technical management development fix. ‘Working with’ rather than ‘working for’ my clients, I rock up with my own special blend: Safe Space, Participatory, Inclusive, Challenging, Experiential and Dynamic Diversity – ‘SPICED’. I love a good acronym. I also add the ‘F’ word. Fun. Equally controversial.

Moving between organisations as a consultant enables me to connect with kindred, Feminist, Black and Brown revolutionary souls. But I dreaded being pigeon-holed as a ‘Black’ consultant working on Diversity and Inclusion. I worked across the whole spectrum of NGOs, from helping to develop local community groups, to Feminist Leadership with the European Women’s Lobby, and working on global strategies with international organisations.

A quarter of a century on, we have arrived at yet another watershed moment, a global wake-up call touching us all. In January I went down the shop for a pint of milk, and came back with Covid. Still haven’t quite recovered. The Pandemic puts the spotlight on inequality and unimaginable suffering worldwide, and shows the Patriarchal, White supremacist capitalist system for what it is – unjust and unsustainable.

Our planet can’t go on like this.

The Voluntary Sector has decades of experience in envisioning alternatives, and inspiring, dedicated people to make it happen. What we lack are structures and systems fit for the 21st century. Boards don’t work, ‘charity’ is disempowering, and organisations should be run and led by the people they serve, and our allies. MDN’s evolution to values-based ‘Consultants for Good’ is part of this reimagining, a recognition of our place in a worldwide movement that includes the Environmental Movement, Black Lives Matter and #Me Too.

Here’s a grand idea. Replace ‘charity’ with a local and global movement for Reparations, International Solidarity and Equality. RISE. I still love a good acronym.

Esuantsiwa Jane Goldsmith

Esua’s profile

Author, The Space Between Black and White, Jacaranda 2020

Esua’s website | Anona Development Consultancy