Does the voluntary sector have a class problem?
Posted on: April 28, 2022
Stuart Pearson, head of business delivery at Citizens Advice Oldham, Rochdale, Trafford and Stockport, attended a sector event in London earlier this year. During a networking break, he got chatting with a group of peers over a coffee.
As the conversation moved from professional to personal, Pearson found himself growing increasingly uncomfortable.
After the event, he tweeted about it. “Does the charity sector have a class problem?” he asked. “As someone who grew up on a council estate, single parent family, free school meals, I rarely meet senior charity people with similar stories. I always find the small talk really alien.”
The tweet hit a nerve, garnering 148 replies, 159 retweets and more than 2,000 likes. “I was really taken aback by the response,” Pearson says. “Lots of people said they were also from a similar background and felt the same way.”
The responses to Pearson’s tweet, as well as similar experiences shared by others in the sector, suggest that perhaps the question is not whether the sector has a problem with class but how big the problem is.
Unfortunately, at the moment, there isn’t a clear answer to that question.
“We don’t have any good data around things like social background in individual organisations, or in parts of the sector, or in the sector as a whole, or on how it presents as a problem,” says Sarah Atkinson, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation. The charity runs the Social Mobility Index, a benchmarking tool that asks organisations a series of questions to gauge how they are performing on social mobility and where they can improve.