Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

East London Dance

We are committed to social justice, and to tackling injustice and inequality. Racial justice is a critical element in this, in the UK and across the world, and we are committed to addressing structural and systemic racism in the UK both as an organisation and through the work we support.

Why diversity, equity and inclusion:

We believe that understanding and making progress towards diversity, equity, and inclusion will be critical for delivering our mission. To do this, we have worked with the whole team to explore and agree our shared organisational values, and we are implementing a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan – involving both Trustees and staff.

We want our progress towards diversity, equity and inclusion to be measured by our actions, and are keen to encourage feedback, challenge, and new ideas from everyone we work alongside.


As an organisation, we believe that a greater diversity of views, skills, and lived experience will help generate better ideas, and will lead to better decision making.

We commit to:

  • living up to our value of “equity” in our culture, systems and practices;
  • working in an inclusive way as a staff and Trustee team to ensure we make progress against our action plan; and
  • tracking, improving and sharing our progress.

Through our work, we have funded some significant organisations seeking to tackle injustice, including racial injustice, for many years. But we know that we need to do much more.

We commit to:

  • striving for fair opportunities and outcomes for the people we work with;
  • making an effort to understand and respond to people’s context, culture, and characteristics;
  • funding more organisations led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity*;
  • giving more long-term funding and support to organisations already in our portfolio that are working to advance racial justice;
  • working with partners to identify, fund, and nurture smaller organisations led by racialised people that are working towards our impact goals; and
  • using our power as a funder to influence recruitment and governance practice to be more inclusive in sectors (e.g. environment) where the majority of organisations are not ethnically diverse.

*We are using the term 'communities experiencing racial inequity' to describe people that experience inequity as a result of their race or ethnic group (often termed 'BAME'). Learn more about our language and how we classify our data on organisations.

Tracking and sharing our progress:

Our action plan is based on the recommendations of the 2019 Association of Charitable Foundation’s report Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: The Pillars of Stronger Foundation Practice. The report identifies nine ‘Pillars’ of good practice on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) which are listed below. We will share our planned actions and progress against these pillars here in 2020 and 2021.

Actions so far:

December 2019

We held a staff meeting to discuss the ACF pillars of good practice and how we think Esmée measures up to each. We also gathered anonymous responses via an online staff survey. Through this we identified pillars 1, 3, 4, and 6 as the first priorities for Esmée and suggested some practical ways forward in addressing them. We also highlighted the need for greater organisational understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion.

July 2020

Our Trustee Board approved an action plan for addressing the pillars of good practice. Trustees agreed that diversity, equity and inclusion is fundamental to our upcoming new strategy: to who and what we fund, to how we operate as a staff team and Board, and to how we use our influence.

From July 2020

Pilot underway of a young people's collective, to advise us on how we might involve young people in how we work and make decisions.

July 2020

Introductory training for all staff on diversity, equity and inclusion, facilitated by an external expert. Its purpose was to start to explore and define what diversity, equity and inclusion means to Esmée and to build confidence on language and practice. The training highlighted the need for Esmée to think more intentionally about what our values are, how equity and inclusion is part of them, and how we can ensure our work better reflects our values.

August and September 2020

We worked in small groups with an external facilitator to develop a set of organisational values in an inclusive way.

August 2020

We surveyed trustees and staff to provide better diversity data.

September - December 2020

We began a public recruitment process for additional Trustees with the aim of increasing the diversity of our Trustee Board.

August 2020 - January 2021

We will work together with other funders on a shared set of questions for collecting diversity data. We will publish data on how much of our funding is going to racialised community-led organisations and contributes towards race equality outcomes, using a tool developed by Funders for Race Equality Alliance, and as indicated by our own data collection from applicants we turn down, and organisations we fund.

January 2021

A cross-organisation staff DEI Working Group will start working alongside the Senior Management Team to ensure we make progress against our action plan.

Learn more

  • Diversity_Hackathon.jpeg

    Addressing the lack of diversity in the environment sector

    We're pleased to share a new report from our Involving Young People Collective summarising the discussions at a hackathon on addressing the lack of diversity in the environment sector. We also share our reflections on what we learned and our next steps for making progress on this.

    Read more
  • Graeae Theatre, Belonging - Photo Patrick Baldwin.jpg

    £1.8m Reinvent Performing Arts funding awarded to 40 arts organisations

    We're excited to announce 40 new grants worth £1.8m, which we have made through Reinvent Performing Arts funding. This one-off funding is part of our response to the pandemic and provides additional support to some of our grantees as they re-open and lockdown eases.

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  • Advocacy-Academy-wide.jpg

    Response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report

    Following the publication of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report, we wanted to reaffirm our commitment to racial justice and to all those working to challenge systemic and institutional racism to create a fairer future.

    Read more
  • Praxis.jpg

    Increasing our funding for racial justice: a first step

    We are offering organisations in our portfolio that are led by and for racialised communities additional unrestricted funding. A total of £2m has been made available, which will be split equally between the organisations that meet the criteria for this funding.

    Read more
  • team-plastic-fishing-2019.jpg

    What we're doing about diversity, equity and inclusion

    This article explains where Esmée Fairbairn has got to so far, where we're headed, and pulls together our views, plans, and resources.

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  • Campaign Bootcamp- Johnny Chatterton.jpg

    Recruiting for Diversity

    In an event we hosted on recruiting for diversity, we heard from Campaign Bootcamp, Diverse City and Women in Prison who shared their experiences as well as good practice examples for organisations looking to improve on diversity and inclusion.

    Read more