top of page
  • Writer's pictureCharity Chat Podcast

E160 - Difficult Conversations part 1 with Jon Cornejo and Lily Lewis

“What does diversity actually look like? What does it mean for us?” - Jon Cornejo

This episode is part one of three in the Difficult Conversations series. The series will explore creating safe spaces for conversations around D&I, how to be an ally and get your team on board, and being ok with getting things wrong and making genuine changes.

In this episode, we’re joined by Jon Cornejo, anti-racism consultant with JMB Consulting and campaign organiser with Charity So White and Lily Lewis, Founder and CEO of The Pocressi Initiative and workshop facilitator for Let's Talk About Race.

This episode explores the current climate, the importance of anti-racism work and the need to start having difficult conversations about race and other protected characteristics which are often on the fringe and marginalised. The episode will also focus on how we need to and can ensure minorities and oppressed groups have safe spaces while this work is ongoing for the organisation.

1. How can organisations create safe spaces to begin difficult conversations?

Jon shares that the key way to approach this is vulnerability. There will be a lot of preparation needed before having anti-racism conversations, so you can get it right. Individuals at the organisation should reflect on why it is on the agenda and what are their motivations for getting involved in these conversations? Think about your intentions and what change would like to happen within the organisation. It is powerful when leaders acknowledge their mistakes, show vulnerability and open up for others to enter the space and build on the organisation’s anti-racist mission.

Lily adds that these conversations should come from the board and at CEO level, to take a step back and reflect on their own relationships, to then share with the wider organisation. There are usually feelings of fear and shame and worry about getting it wrong, but it’s ok to make mistakes. We need to learn and make the most of opportunities to do better. Practically, individuals can take time to make a list to better understand how your privilege has allowed you to wait this long without tackling anti-racism. This work is not a quick fix, it’s part of a personal lifelong journey.

Jon asks us to remember why we are reflecting on this. Being honest with ourselves and our failures, asking why the organisation is so white, for example critiquing current recruitment processes.

2. How to create safe spaces for BAME colleagues

Jon feels that it’s impactful for leaders to give space and power to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background (BAME) groups self-organising. Senior leadership should acknowledge the valuable work that this adds to the organisation, for example by improving staff pay and job titles. Most importantly, as an organisation, demonstrate that you are willing to listen.

Lily adds that declaring a space as safe, doesn’t mean that it actually is for BAME colleagues. Having white-only spaces is also important, to be carrying out this work on a genuine level, it is a space where white colleagues can share their thoughts and foster accountability. Safety will be established slowly over time.

3) Organisations implementing the work

Charity So White has been pushing the agenda around this work and Jon feels that it has transformed the sector. There’s been an acceptance that individuals don’t know how to tackle it and a willingness to learn. We should acknowledge systemic barriers of how racism operates and how it relates to each other at work and affects the team internally. The organisations Jon has worked with have co-created action plans to move forward with anti-racism work.

Lily has experienced resistance from clients and it has been challenging looking at what anti-racism looks like for white-led organisations. Lily has found that organisations are worried about what it might say about them. Ultimately, we have to be patient and we shouldn’t expect things to change overnight.

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode.

This episode is brought to you by our platinum sponsor Charity People.

Our guests have shared resources on the topic of Getting difficult conversations started and creating safe space

- Upcoming workshops for white people in the charity sector where people can find out more on our website

Jon Cornejo offers bespoke consultancy packages on all things anti-racism for third sector clients. They work with you to develop anti-racism training that helps deepen your staff’s understanding of what racism is and begin to understand how racism and white supremacy culture impacts your workplace. They centre the voices and experiences of POC staff in all of this work, seeking to build a supportive environment where we can really challenge ourselves to do better anti-racism work. You can find more information at

Related episodes that you may be interested in:

E80: CharitySoWhite with Camille St-Omer Donaldson & Jon Cornejo -

E87: COVID-19 and its impact on BAME communities with CharitySoWhite -

E94: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion with Siobhan Corria -


bottom of page