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Our commitment to combating institutional racism

Black lives have always mattered, and at Human Made we echo many of the sentiments expressed by Nesrine Malik in her article, ‘Fighting the racism that killed George Floyd requires more than just hashtags’. 

Over the past few days we have had renewed discussions about how we can best use our platform and privilege, as a collective, as a business, as wider members of a network and community, and as individuals.

We condemn the brutal murder of George Floyd by police and the historic institutional and systemic abuses and violence against Black communities and individuals globally. 

We know that we need to commit to long-term action that supports real change, and recognise too that one-off monetary donations and public expressions of support during this time are largely online actions that often don’t result in effective change where it matters: in policy, and in the daily lived experiences of Black people. 

We are listening and speaking openly now, but know also that we have started too late.

Institutionalised state racism is a global, far-reaching, violent act of oppression that requires eradication. 

What are we doing? 

By openly sharing what we’re doing, we hope to encourage others to do the same.

We are very eager to hear feedback from those with more resources and ideas than the ones we have been able to put forward here. We recognise we do not have all the answers and we know we can always be better in collaboration. 

Please get in touch with us on Twitter to share questions, feedback and ideas. We’ve decided to respond to comments through our individual profiles so you know who you’re speaking to and can direct specific questions to us. You can also email us directly at community@humanmade.com.

Paid time off to protest 

Our presence in a number of countries, including the US, UK, and Australia, gives us a unique ability to put in place policies that enable our people to protest against institutionalised racism, and demand action from their governments. We recognise organised, public protest as a powerful response to social injustice and an opportunity to effect change as a widely distributed group. 

This week we introduced paid time off to protest and vote, and we are working with our HR & Legal counsel to create a policy that we plan to release under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License in our public company handbook. We hope others can use and repurpose this for their own needs.

Sustained support to combat institutional racism

As we’ve watched others donate and share statements of support, and read the responses to some of those statements, we’ve been discussing ways to integrate a long-term approach to combat institutional racism. While we work to define exactly how we could execute this as a company in a way that will have significant impact, we wanted to share some of the ideas we’ve had so far. 

We welcome feedback from those with the expertise to help us make the right decisions moving forward. 

Financial Support

One-off donations can be helpful, but we can do more to combat institutional racism as a company. In the past week, we’ve been discussing ways we can contribute financial support in the long-term to a number of different organisations, projects, initiatives and issues. In the meantime, we’ve chosen to donate £5,000 equally (£1,000 each) between five organisations.

  • Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust: UK based organisation working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 
  • United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC): UK based coalition working with those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.
  • Mutual Aid Disaster Relief: US based grassroots disaster relief network based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid, and autonomous direct action. 
  • Deadly Connections: Australia based Aboriginal Community Led, Not For Profit organisation that breaks the cycles of disadvantage and trauma
  • gal-dem: UK based new media publication, committed to telling the stories of women and non-binary people of colour. 

Knowledge Sharing

We’re discussing ways in which we can offer our resources, time and expertise. Some of the ways we’ve done this successfully in the past have included: 

  • When we found out about Afrotech Fest, we decided to sponsor a number of people in our team to attend, including Mike Little, the co-founder of WordPress, who also spoke at the event,
  • We’ve focused our WordCamp sponsorship and support on new events, and those in parts of the world that are underrepresented in our community,
  • We recently worked with one of our clients on an initiative to raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, directing users to a landing page where they can take action,
  • We’re discussing how we can put a framework in place to enable us to provide paid internships to people in underrepresented communities. 

How we can take collective action with non-monetary solutions 

There are many ways all of us can act to combat institutional racism. While financial support may feel like the immediate appropriate response, there are a number of ways we can, collectively, and in the long-term, educate ourselves and take action against institutional racism. 

  • Consume more books and media by Black creators focused on sharing the Black experience. 
  • Use professionally inclusive language: this means both in the way we’re communicating with each other and in the ways we identify and talk about technical concepts.
  • Shop in Black-owned independent shops.
  • Don’t walk away or hide when people raise the issue of institutional racism, be that at events or inside your organisation.
  • Build a business network with people from different backgrounds, cultures and communities.

Our policies for Diversity & Inclusion 

As we’ve grown as a company, and learned from our experiences and our communities, we’ve continued to evolve our diversity and inclusion policies. Our HR Policies are a representation of our values as a company, and alongside our company handbook, freely available for reuse. 

Policies aren’t enough, we need to also hold ourselves to account. Here are a number of initiatives and ideas we’ve discussed so far:

  • We ran an unconscious bias training workshop at our last retreat, and we’re looking into how we can include this as part of all employee onboarding, 
  • We’re continuing to work on making our hiring process more inclusive
  • We’re planning to review pay disparity across the whole company,
  • We’re adding inclusive language guidelines to our engineering handbook.

Internal support for our people 

The effects of institutionalised racism are far-reaching.

As leaders, we must acknowledge how individuals are affected. Within our company and WordPress networks, we have shared an internal company update with the hope that it could be reused and improved. 

Now we’re sharing this post publicly, in an effort to help others do the same, and to enable us to receive the constructive feedback required for us to learn from the experience and knowledge of others. 

We’re bringing the conversation to the surface much more consciously: we have a dedicated Slack channel which we’re using to discuss ideas and share thoughts on our continued actions moving forward. We recognise people are angry, and they should be. We’re encouraging our already distributed workforce to take the time off and work more flexibly should they need to. 

We intend to keep sharing the actions we are taking, and making available resources we’re using, going forward.

I am posting this as Human Made’s CEO because I ultimately have accountability for what we do and say, but this post was authored collaboratively and is a statement of intent from Human Made as a whole. 

Here are some of the resources we found useful while putting this post together.

Authors: Ana Silva, Jenny Wong, Tom Willmot