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This handbook is for those in a leadership role – both paid and unpaid - within civil society. Our definition of ‘civil society’ is wide and inclusive. Civil society refers to when we organise ourselves outside the market and the state. When we act not for profit nor because the law requires us to, but out of love or anger or creativity, or principle.

Many of the exercises and resources in this handbook are directed particularly at those running organisations and networks or movements within the charity and voluntary and community sectors as we think this will be the main audience for the handbook. However, some of the ideas and exercises – we believe will be equally applicable to leaders involved in less ‘formal’ ways of organising too (such as coffee mornings or social media groups).


Download the Power, Anti-racism and Civil Society Exercise Book here


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There is an increasing recognition that addressing power imbalances is about more than civil society leaders having good people skills or following their charity’s codes of conduct and HR policies. Using ‘power’ well is about our everyday behaviours at work – our everyday relationships with our colleagues and the communities we work with and for. It is about creating working environments where people from diverse backgrounds can be themselves, feel valued and can progress.

The guide will give you an opportunity to: 

  • describe different types of power

  • recognise your own power and privilege

  • explore the impact of power on yourself and others

  • understand different approaches to using your power effectively to promote equity and social justice

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The behaviour of civil society leaders is increasingly visible and open to public scrutiny. This brings with it pressure and stress for leaders to respond to social media. There are greater opportunities for civil society leaders to show their accountability to their members and the public. But there is also a risk that increasing willingness to respond to consumer pressure or to movements such as Black Lives Matter or #MeToo is driven by a desire to be seen to do the right thing, rather than a willingness to grapple with real issues of how and for whom they work.

The guide will give you an opportunity to:

  • understand how power shapes who you are accountable to and how you are held to account

  • explore which aspects of your practice you feel most comfortable getting feedback on and learning about

  • imagine different approaches to accountability based on your mission and purpose

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It has become clear during the pandemic that some of the existing divides and inequalities within our society have grown. Inequalities along the lines of class, digital access, race, age and disability for instance have been exacerbated. Civil society has needed to work harder, to adapt and reach people. In some cases, this has required charities to completely re-think their operating models to become more accessible to those most in need. There is a growing recognition that if those working in civil society are to maintain their critical edge and relevance in our changing society, then they need to learn from and change as they encounter diversity in all its forms.

The guide will give you an opportunity to:

  • understand how ‘race’ is socially constructed and the role of anti-racism in addressing it

  • explore your own racial positioning and how this affects your connections with others

  • understand how to engage effectively with diversity and conflict in order to promote inclusion


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Trust is a key ‘currency’ upon which civil society is able to do its work. It helps individuals and organisations in civil society to connect with the people that they work for and to get their job done. Yet building trust is not always easy. Building trust requires leaders to consistently act on what they say they will do. Leaders can build trust by using their power well, by showing they are accountable to the communities they serve and by ‘showing up’ and challenging injustice when they see it.

The guide will give you an opportunity to:

  • identify areas of personal development and growth that would help you to build trust and achieve your anti-racist goals in your work

  • explore strategies for identifying and disrupting beliefs and behaviours that perpetuate racism in your work

Explore more topics.

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