In this blog, we spoke to Hanif Alli, the Chief Officer of BASE Community Benefit Society, about what the organisation is doing to promote communities of colour around Greater Manchester.
What inspired the creation of BASE?
Originally, it was research carried out by GMCVO and others that highlighted the need for an eco-system of support for ‘BAME’ Social Enterprises.
This, then changed, as BASE members grew and organisational capacity building support for communities of colour was being requested as well as the need to become much more than just an eco-system of support for social enterprises.
By the time we officially registered as a Community Benefit Society in July 2022 we had become a unique, single platform for many of the larger networks of colour within Greater Manchester with a vision to empower Communities of Colour in every way.
Why a Community Benefit Society?
Well, we wanted an organisation that was owned by its members and was for its members. The Community Benefit Society route ensured that the BASE membership decide the direction that it should go in and they alone, choose who is in control too. This ‘bye and for’ principle is becoming ‘more and more’ recognised and requested by ‘People of Colour’ sector.
Is it easy and free to join?
Of course! You just visit the BASE website and press the Become a member button and it’s so quick and simple that it can easily be done in only a couple of minutes.
Why is it important that communities of colour are empowered to make changes?
Since the Black Lives Matter Campaign, it has become well established that ‘systemic racism’ in Britain is rife.
BASE in many ways emulates parts of the existing systems of collaboration that are used at present in many cases, to keep Communities of Colour down and be a gatekeeper. The only difference is that we are collaborating to strategically empower Communities of Colour and not only connect them with social investment, but also to each other with an ‘each one, teach one’ philosophy. Instead of being a gatekeeper, we are opening the floodgates and connecting funders to our members, holding events and an online presence whereby our members can get valuable, support, knowledge, representation, share ideas and be creative together.
In short, I would say that the ‘People of Colour’ sector should be supported and empowered to make changes as they know their own communities, cultures and needs better than anyone else. For far too long now Communities of Colour have become the ‘cash cows’ for Non BAME entities in the name of empowerment due to ‘them not being ready to hold funds themselves’ or ‘until they have the capacity to deliver themselves’. As soon as the PoC entities become ready to hold funds and deliver programmes themselves, the money just runs out!
Funders need to stop giving money to Non BAME entities to empower Communities of Colour! We now have the ability to empower ourselves as we are into the 4th and 5th generations since coming to these lands at the invitation of previous British governments.
What networks do you work with to influence change?
We work with many networks of colour such as CAHN, BURN and VVUK, but also work with the Council and many other partners within the VCSE sectors too. We are plugged into and work with national ‘People of Colour’ infrastructure organisations such as The Ubele Initiative, The Baobab Foundation and BEO.
What kind of activities does the BASE platform host?
The BASE platform is an enabling and capacity building structure. We link our groups to funders and training as well as visiting members to give advice on how to strategise to become more successful by identifying income streams and giving good business advice. We have a ‘support’ page on our website that lists all the support that we offer and our social media keeps our members aware of all the events/activities that are going on within BASE as well as any opportunities that become available. Base constantly voices the issues raised by its members at relevant ‘spheres of influence’.
Why do you think BASE has the ‘cult following’ that it does, over such a short period of time within the ‘PoC sector’.
I feel this is because we are doing radical work, such as asking for the ‘PoC Sector’ to be recognised in the same vein as the Public and VCSE sectors are recognised. Another key factor, is that we are not beholden to anyone for funding or anything else and that gives us a unique freedom to speak out freely and without fear of having our funding cut or being reprimanded or being kicked out of any premises.
Finally, because we have resilient, experienced, seasoned members who have for many years, fought the battle for Race Equality and seen ‘first hand’ the barriers, tactics, rhetoric and EDI policies used to hide behind in order to mask the true actions required in order to make organisations within the Public and VCSE sectors accountable. We are genuine, experienced, fearless and speak from the heart. We give shape and form to what many in the PoC sector feel and think.
What did you do before becoming Chief Officer of BASE?
Well, I have just worked in what I love really and tried to hold roles where my job is always meaningful and has impact on people’s lives.
I am pretty much ‘old school’ and don’t really have much of a presence on social media except a few months ago, when my daughter convinced me to join LinkedIn which has really shown me the value of being on platforms like that.
What does BASE hope to achieve over the next few years?
BASE hopes to
- Become a self-sustaining entity that becomes the true voice of communities of colour and represents them at the highest levels.
- Expose and challenge ‘systemic racism’ in a strategic manner and call out ‘the powers that be’ to take action against those perpetrators who have clear evidence against them.
- Strategically empower Black and Asian communities via capacity building programmes, providing networking opportunities with funders and creating an eco-system of peer to peer support with; ‘an each one, teach one philosophy’. We will promote collaboration instead of competition.
- Ask for a ‘percentage share’ of contracts being given for healthcare and community development contracts based on geographical populations of Communities of Colour, to deliver ourselves through our member organisations and social enterprises. For example, this means asking clinical commissioners to give us 25% of the future contracts being awarded in parts of Greater Manchester for Drug & Alcohol Recovery Services because our communities make up 25% of the population. This could be applied to Mental Health & Well Being Services and many other public funded services including Youth Work too.
- Become the first PoC Social Investor in Britain.
- Become a key player in the regular celebration of Black & Asian Culture and Heritage.
- Lead on community cohesion activities.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just a massive thank you to all those who believe in us, constantly offer us moral support and recognise the struggle we are facing just to survive without any real financial support from many of those ‘existing Public/VCSE infrastructure systems’ that profess to support communities of colour and equality.
A Special thank you from me as well to our Lead Officers: Chair; Shamime Jan – Bollyfit Active, Treasurer; Nile Henry – The Blair Project and Company Secretary; Mohammed T Akhtar – Cloude Law Solicitors for all their ‘pro bono’ time and active, unwavering support given to myself and towards the defence and development of BASE over the last 2 years.