Operation Black Vote

Amount Given:

£100,000 over three years (grant made in 2014)


Injustice - systemic change around injustice and inequality


OBV bus

John Mulligan,

Director of Funding Development, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation


In order to address deep-seated race inequalities and injustice it is vital to increase levels of participation and representation in the political process by people from minority ethnic backgrounds.  Voter registration amongst minority communities is below that of white Britons and political representatives, particularly at national level, do not reflect the diversity of populations they serve. Operation Black Vote has been a dynamic and effective force in seeking to highlight the issue and bring about sustained change.  We were keen to support its activities because of the imagination of its plans, the reach it has across many different ethnic minority groups and the potential to bring about social change at the deepest levels.

Simon Woolley,

Director, Operation Black Vote



David Harewood

Sadly, we live in an era in which civil society is not well supported by local and national government. This is particularly so for BME groups, many of whom have folded in the last decade.

When we at OBV came to Esmée Fairbairn for support, just over a year ago, we said we didn’t want charity but rather a partner who believed, like us, we could change our world. We also stated that supporting a Black empowerment and racial justice project would not be a walk in the park. They agreed on both counts.

With that simple yet profound starting point OBV set about thinking big: The general election was around the corner so we under took three projects: firstly a voter registration campaign bus visiting 12 cities and registering thousands; secondly to launch the UK’s first voter registration app that would inspire, inform and empower BME individuals and thirdly, to convince ad-agency Saatchi and Saatchi to undertake a pro-bono campaign to reach millions.

The overall result was the three projects collectively were viewed 98 million times on TV and press. In the last week alone the campaign encouraged nearly one million people black and white to register to vote.


Shanice Adams,

OBV volunteer activist and participant in the OBV/Lewisham Council Civic Leadership Programme 2015


I knew about Operation Black Vote, but I'd never seen them in action and if I'm honest I was cynical about everything to do with politics, but when I saw them on the big orange bus everything changed.

I watched how they spoke with young people and how much they meant to people like me. I asked if I could join the tour.

I went to Walthamstow, Liverpool, and Wolverhampton. I think from that tour I really became an activist. I had to argue with people, I had to make my point. “Don't get involved, then get nothing”. I had to listen to the elders, and they had listen to me too.

Since then I've joined the OBV young leaders scheme in Lewisham. I've attended a ministerial meeting on voter registration and I've spoken at their training days. I don't know where this journey will take me but I feel stronger and I'll tell other young people.