Racism, power and truth

Experiences of people of colour in development

17 June 2021

Organisations need to reflect more deeply on the colonial roots of the international development and humanitarian system, which continues to insidiously perpetuate racism in the UK and beyond. 

A year ago, the resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests in the UK highlighted the pervasive nature of structural racism. Employees demanded greater action on anti-racism, and shone a spotlight on harmful, racist practices within their organisations. 

Organisations need to understand how racism manifests in their cultures, policies and work to take the first steps to becoming actively anti-racist. To support NGOs on this journey, this report explores the experiences of people of colour working for UK international development organisations, both those based in the UK and overseas. Scroll down to download the report.

Our findings

  • 150 people of colour shared their experiences in this report
  • 68% have experienced or witnessed an incident of racism in the past year
  • 89% feel their organisations aren’t committed to diversity and inclusion
  • 65% feel they haven’t had equal access to mentors as their white peers

We looked at what enables and prevents people of colour from getting jobs in the sector. We examined their experiences of organisational cultures in UK organisations, and the challenges they face in progressing into leadership positions. We provide invaluable insights into what is going wrong with the sector’s predominant approaches to diversity and inclusion, highlighting an urgent need to transform organisational cultures.

Our findings are divided into three areas:

  • Getting in: recruitment, interview processes and gaining a foothold in the sector
  • Getting on: organisational structures and cultures that value and support diversity
  • Getting up: career progression and tomorrow’s leaders

This report centres on the voices and experiences of people of colour and their input has shaped the recommendations. Download the full report below or watch our video to hear people’s experiences. 


We provide recommendations for organisations to surface, understand and address the intersectional inequalities faced by different groups of colour, including those based in the countries where NGOs work. Our recommendations cover policies, systems and culture, which we’ve broken down for individuals, organisations, CEOs and boards, and the wider sector.

Download resource