On Your Side and Culture Shift: The power of reporting tools for marginalised groups

I am a big advocate when it comes to the power an anonymous reporting tool can give people. When I came across and joined Culture Shift more than a year ago I wished it was something my previous workplaces and universities I went to had. Not necessarily just for me who encountered problematic behaviour but for others I know also did.

And through my experiences, those of my fellow Culture Shifters and the stories we hear and read about either almost daily in the news or from both potential and current partners we speak to, we can talk passionately about the service we offer and the invaluable importance of a system that allows 2 million people to voice their concerns and off-load the issues they face at work or at uni.

When I heard about On Your Side launching last year, I was once again both thrilled that such a service had been started and also wondered how impactful it could have been had it been around before (including for myself who experienced Sinophobia at the start of the pandemic). A place where anyone who identifies as ESEA and their allies can report and get support for incidents of racism or any form of hate that they experience or witness, On Your Side is led by the independent charity Protection Approaches after the obviously terrible rise in physical, verbal and online attacks against ESEA people in the UK. They work alongside a consortium of mainly East and Southeast Asian Community organisations up and down the country.

On Your Side, like Culture Shift’s Report + Support, allows people to remain completely anonymous and share as little or as much information as they wish; the power lies in the reporter’s hands rather than whoever receives the report and is in charge of dealing with it. So whether you simply want to tell someone what happened, get advice, find somewhere to get further help or have the information passed on to authorities, it is up to you. Amazingly, there are also  trauma-informed practice trained caseworkers who speak a variety of different languages from across the ESEA region should you prefer and you can report in different languages too, which helps reduce one of the biggest barriers that perhaps many people from within the ESEA community face.

On Your Side works independently of the government and the police, who are often not trusted by the public to deal with incidents satisfactorily or swiftly enough. Although “official data” from 2019/2020 shows that 81% of Chinese and 84% of “Asian – Other” people said they have confidence in the police, the sample sizes were an uninspiring 193 and 375, respectively and reading and hearing firsthand from people, the general consensus is that the police cannot be trusted. But one of the biggest and most important benefits of the service is the greater sense of empathy and relatability people will be more likely to receive and feel talking to a caseworker when they report instead of the police. OYS might not be able to help by taking action like the police could (hmm!), they can help find the appropriate support services you need, such as legal or mental health aid, and will be “on your side” if your case is being handled by the police or local authorities, plus ongoing community support will also be offered.

Even though it is an incredible service that could be life-changing and potentially even life-saving for ESEA people, it is also for non-ESEA allies who want to be able to help by reporting or encouraging others to report it. When ESEA people make up not much more than 1-2% of the UK population and OYS is thought to only have reached just 2% of that number so far, the voices and help of non-ESEA people is – as I have always reiterated – of the upmost importance and it is them who have the real influence to ignite change.

While OYS is a game-changer for a particular group of marginalised communities, I can only hope similar ones do appear in the future, especially for other minority groups. Others that already exist include Galop for LGBTQ people and Tell MAMA for Islamphobia. In a world where marginalised groups of people can face daily hate and bigotry and sometimes live in fear or feel unsupported, something like OYS and what we do at Culture Shift (which can be for anyone who is bullied, discriminated against or harassed at a place of work or study and is not specifically for any group(s) of people) have never been more – and I hate that it is – necessary.

Read this blog post I wrote for Culture Shift here.

If you work in an organisation or one of the 80+ more universities in the UK that hasn’t already partnered with Culture Shift and want to know more about it, you can find out more here. And if you want to become an On Your Side champion, helping them to further increase the reach of their service across the ESEA communities in the UK, you can sign up to do so here.

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