Colleen Harris, MVO, appointed as first Diversity Consultant


The Foundation has appointed Colleen Harris, MVO, as an independent Diversity Consultant to ensure our commitment to racial equality and valuing diversity becomes a fundamental part of our DNA.

For 300 years the Foundation has been a beacon for philanthropy and good intentions. In that time, tens of millions of pounds have been given to beneficiaries from underprivileged and marginalised communities in East London. However, the good intentions did not fully acknowledge the truth that trans-Atlantic slavery lay behind the fortune of Sir John Cass.

Our Governors believe the Foundation will benefit from an independent expert on race and culture and as a former Director for the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equality & Human Rights Commission, Colleen has advised several organisations on diversity and inclusion. As the first Black Press Officer in the Prime Minister’s Office and the First Black member of the Royal Household Colleen has a wealth of experience on diversity and cultural issues.

Richard Foley, CEO of the Foundation, said:

“This is a unique and especially important role. The Foundation has millions of pounds to donate to beneficiaries but if we want to continue to be relevant and useful, we need to find a new way forward.

“Despite our willingness to implement change, we at the Foundation feel that we must have an independent person to oversee this huge change. We believe that Colleen’s unique experience will act as an invaluable accountability touchstone to the Board.”

Speaking on her appointment Colleen said:

“The #BlackLivesMatter campaign has made it clear that the historical connection to slavery must be acknowledged and clearly communicated.

The Foundation has begun a programme of change, from committing to changing their name by the end of the year, to launching special projects to support ethnic minority students. My role will essentially be ensuring SJCF maintains its momentum for change.”