URGENT NEED: A USP for the BME sector!

In these bleak times, the BME sector urgently needs to find its USP, argues Bryan Teixeira from Naz Project London.

Bryan Teixeira from Naz Project London

I recently read that the investment income of grant-making Trusts and Foundations may have shrunk by as much as 20%.

And we all know that income from governments to the charity sector has also declined sharply.

On top of that, I see the recent defunding of key BME and other equality organisations, including Voice4Change England. To me, these are challenging times to find ourselves yet again fighting the battle to prove that BME organisations have a place.

In this climate, I worry that the sustainability of the BME sector is at risk. Many charities have BME service users. What's so special about a BME organisation? And wouldn't it be easier (more 'cost effective'? less duplication?) to simply have one service for all residents of an area, BME and non-BME together? I think we can't afford to ignore these questions.

We urgently need to be able to show that whatever services we provide to our communities and indirectly to the public at large are better than equivalent services provided by non-BME public, private or voluntary sector competitors.

Certainly my experience at Naz Project London (NLP) has informed how I think about all this. And for us that has to do with an emphasis on the self-help peer model. For years, we seemed unable to reach out to Black gay and bisexual men until we found a Black gay man to lead on that work. This approach is also true in our other services where, for example, Latin Americans work with Latin Americans, or Asians work with Asians.

It seems to me that working from such a framework makes it far more likely that we have a sound grasp of the relevant needs and expectations in our communities. Again, taking NPL as an example, we ensure that the majority of our Board, staff and volunteers - we aim for 80% - come from the communities we serve. This ensures we have a deep reach into those BME communities, with minimal insider/outsider gap between our staff and our beneficiaries. I believe the concept of 'hard to reach' usually emerges in situations where there is an obvious gap between the service provider and the service user.

And lastly, I don't see how we can illustrate our unique effectiveness without some well chosen numbers, stories and acknowledgements.

The responses to the recent riots in England are a good example of how some have jumped to solutions that are not primarily based on evidence but rather on ideology, knee jerk reactions and fads.

We need to be able to show that what we are doing makes a real difference. To do this, we need numbers. But at NPL we are particularly aware of the value of community engagement and support. We therefore also put a high premium on powerful testimonies from our service users as well as from leaders in and outside of our communities.

Disclaimer: Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of Voice4Change England.