Discomfort to discovery: exploring racism and anti-racism in development narratives
In 2020/21, IIED conducted an internal review to better understand whether and how dimensions of racism play out in the narratives that it writes and publishes. With this exercise, IIED focused on exploring how far its written content acknowledges or omits historic patterns of enslavement, colonial exploitation, present day racism, and coloniality. The exercise is relevant to the wider discourse on racism in the aid and sustainable development sectors, particularly for organisations considering how internal discourse and external communications influence strategy, values and culture.
The authors worked alongside experienced anti-racist practitioners to design a two-step methodology: having reviewed relevant academic literature, they developed a framework to facilitate discussions with IIED colleagues around the narratives in four communications products, including the organisational strategy.
The framework identifies six dimensions of racism and coloniality that are dominant in aid and development storytelling: colour blindness, White gaze, saviourism, eurocentrism, neutrality, and exclusion. This evaluation shares findings from those discussions, exploring which dimensions participants found most prevalent in the communications they analysed.
The review succeeded in starting a valuable process of reflection; it also revealed that the narratives IIED uses to communicate its work do not sufficiently acknowledge how patterns of coloniality and racism impact on the sustainable development challenges that the organisation works on. This evaluation concludes with a roadmap for change that sets out the actions IIED will take based on the review.