Happy 23rd Birthday OBV!


I’m never quite sure as to the exact time we launched OBV at the House of Commons 23 years ago today. Probably about now, 11AM UK time. Even back then we were media savvy, thinking about how we’d get onto the lunchtime news.

23 years later, I guess we’ve become a bit of an institution, even with our small staff contingent. Nevertheless our goals whether, empowering communities, nurturing talent or transforming political and civic institutions haven’t changed one iota. They’re big!

Last year we managed to mentor over 100 individuals, from the MP shadowing scheme, the Gee Bernard Croydon leadership scheme, to the Transatlantic Inclusion Leadership Network. MEPs, councillors, school governors, activists, educators, are all coming from these schemes. Furthermore, their alumni are building self sufficient, self supporting networks that just keep growing. For us at OBV to watch an individual politically, mentally and spiritually develop and become a leader and a role model is about as satisfying as work can be.

But institutionally too, OBV has been part of some breakthrough moments. The establishment of the Race Disparity Audit and the Advisory Group that I chair, at the heart of the British Government is an OBV success that could have profound effects for decades. In essence we’ve elevated tackling persistent race inequality beyond party politics, and offered a framework for any Government to first lay bare the ‘uncomfortable truths’, and then find policies to close the gaps. The Cabinet Office team have won national policy awards, and won international acclaim. For us at OBV its means being able to challenge Government Ministers: ‘Explain why a Black child’s chances at school, are on average, less favourable than their white peers, or change! Not surprising our priorities have been education, employment and the criminal justice system. It’s early days, but convincing the government to use 300 million pounds of Bank dormant funds to deal with disadvantaged youth, unemployment, and knife crime represents a clear statement of intent. We’ve also begun the process to legislate for ethnic minority pay gaps which in time will be another game changer.

It’s also been a big year personally too: A fostered then adopted child brought up on a council estate in Leicester going on to be knighted by the Queen for services to race equality is a truly humbling moment. An award, I hope will inspire other council house kids to believe, it’s not where you start, but where you finish. Oh, and by the way, I ain’t finished yet, by a long way.

So Happy Birthday to the small, but very brilliant OBV team.

Please donate 23 pounds - One pound for every year.

Simon Woolley