Kids Matter Co-Founder and Executive Director Eli Gardner talks about her personal experience of white privilege and how that inspired her to get serious about EDI at work

As it did for so many, when George Floyd died nearly four years ago now, I became aware of the issue of racism not just as a problem for people of colour to deal with, but as a problem for me to deal with. I grew up as a foreigner in Italy within a multi-cultural community created by the international school I went to, where children came from 65 different countries. I have four passports, am both Jewish by birth and Christian by choice, and my friends had names like Amr and Omar. Growing up we genuinely didn’t even know where we each came from. We were all international nomads who travelled through the teenage years together.

I had always (proudly) described myself therefore as ‘colour blind’. The public outcry after George Floyd’s death however raised my awareness of the complexity around race that had genuinely never occurred to me before: how my experience in life thus far as a white person has been privileged without me realising, and how people of colour have to navigate the world differently, accepting subtle and not so subtle denigrations for not being white. It became abundantly clear to me that in being ‘colour blind’ I was both ignoring the richness of diversity as well as dismissing the often difficult reality for people of colour, and that it was not a good thing to be and didn’t lead to a more equal world. Being awake and aware of my own prejudices and behaviours as well as welcoming and celebrating diversity and making room for it is where I want to get to personally and in my role as Executive Director of Kids Matter, a charity that says it exists to see every child in need raised in a strong family.

As a charity, we have just completed two days of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) training with a formidable duo:* Chianne Buckley, a coach and psychotherapist, and also a person of colour, and Susanna Beck, also a coach and psychotherapist who is white and very invested and passionate about helping white organisations think through the reasons to intentionally address EDI. In 2020-1, we did some work on EDI but Kids Matter has grown and we want to have all our new team on the same page. The training was superb. Together they led us on a journey looking at values like empathy and curiosity about people coming from different backgrounds. We were encouraged to ask ourselves reflective questions about our fears around race, what beliefs we hold about the world, and where we might make small changes in own lives to make room for people different to ourselves. Susanna conducted a simple but powerful interview where Chianne shared some examples of where she has had to overcome barriers due to her race and what that felt like. Each one of us was able to feel empathy as well as discomfort as self-recognition dawned: where have I done/said the same thing in my interactions with others?

As a team we then looked at each area of our work: how we hire people, what goes into the programmes we run, what our outside comms is like, how and who we approach to partner with us to deliver our programmes. It was exciting, inspiring, and hope building. In each area, we were able to see a lot of what we are doing well: how intentional we are about genuinely doing ‘with’ people and not ‘to’ them, and how we as a team are fully convinced of the need for Kids Matter to reflect the general population in terms of racial composition, from Board level to our facilitator teams leading our parent groups; so that every family feels they can belong and can receive and add value. Only then will we see genuine transformation of society: when the most marginalised feel seen, heard, and valued.

The danger with excellent training experiences is that when we are back in normal day to day work, the feelings evoked will fade and the urgency felt will grow dull. However, I am hopeful that the changes I observed in myself and in my fellow team members will take hold. We’re on a journey; we may not always get it right, but we want to be held accountable by our peers, partners and supporters – so that we can grow, authentically and intentionally, as individuals and as an organisation. There is already a foundation to our work around this over the last few years and now we have renewed buy in from the whole team to not give up until we see Kids Matter grow in diversity across every aspect of our work. Right now, we are far from our goal. However, I feel we know what needs doing, we are addressing our blind spots and are already making small but significant alterations that we hope will signal to those who want to see this vision come to fruition, that we are serious about wanting and needing diversity in order to do our jobs better and actually see every child in need raised in a strong family.


* Susanna: I’m an MBACP-qualified psychotherapist/counsellor with specific experience in bereavement and collective trauma and an ICF-credentialed coach (PCC) with over 3,000 hours and 10+ years’ experience of group and 1-1 coaching. I grew up as a child in inner-city London and spent my teenage years in the US where I graduated from university with a politics degree including summers spent in Rwanda researching the role of the church in the genocide and witnessing therapeutic survivor groups. I started out teaching secondary-level children in the Southern US where I witnessed firsthand systemic racism and police brutality toward students of colour within the educational setting. I moved back to the UK to coach groups of marginalised young people with high barriers to change to enter and sustain employment, and then entire businesses to improve organisational culture. My recent training in psychotherapy adds a perspective, particularly to EDI work, around how generational trauma works itself out in present relationships and offers hope that we have the capacity to find new ways of relating to one another. I feel that both coaching and therapy get at the core of who we are, help us define what we want and demand we take responsibility for how we relate to each other in the process of getting there.

Chianne: I am a qualified counsellor registered with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and an accredited coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). I began my coaching journey in 2015, coaching young people facing various personal, social and economic barriers to work. I wanted to deepen my practice and offer a more holistic service to my clients, so I trained and qualified as a counsellor in Spring 2022. I am currently completing my MSc in Integrative Counselling and Coaching. I have worked with a range of clients in various settings. I give people a space to bring themselves, their entire self and be honest about what they’re struggling with and what changes they want to see. I’ll meet you where you’re at, respond to your needs and work with you to create a solution to make the life changes you want. This may be through counselling, coaching or a combination of the two (Personal Consultancy).



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