Interview with Points of Light Award Winner Elliot Vaughn

Elliot Vaughn, board member of OutRight, and partner at Boston Consulting

Elliot Vaughn is a board member of OutRight Action International and a partner at Boston Consulting Group in London. Earlier this week he was recognised by the UK Prime Minister with the Points of Light award for founding GiveOut, a new charity in the UK supporting LGBTIQ activists around the world.

Em Rubey, Executive Assistant at OutRight Action International, caught up with Elliot to talk about his work supporting the global LGBTIQ movement.

Em Rubey: What motivates you to support global LGBTIQ advocacy?

Elliot Vaughn: In Europe, North America and parts of Latin America there has been incredible progress in the recognition and protection of the human rights of LGBTIQ people. Ranging from anti-discrimination laws, to continuously evolving and improving legal gender recognition processes, from efforts tackling so-called “conversion therapy” to ever more countries recognizing same-sex partnership. The achievements of our movement across the world have been incredible. But at the same time there is much to be done to secure foundational human rights around the world. Around 68 countries in the world still criminalize same-sex relations, the death penalty is imposed in a number of places, there are no legal or policy protections at all in others.

I’m in a position of privilege to support human rights work, and I feel a real sense of obligation, and a strong desire to stand in solidarity with advocates around the world.

There are brilliant LGBTIQ advocates doing important, ground-breaking work that just needs funding. As far as I'm aware, only a tiny proportion of LGBTIQ philanthropy goes to global causes beyond the United States and Western Europe. And while there is lots going on in domestic politics in US and in Europe and while there is certainly more progress needed for LGBTIQ people there too, if we turn away from supporting global human rights, isn’t that what winning looks like for populist and nationalist forces? Isn’t that playing into their hands?

Em Rubey: You have been a board member of OutRight Action International since 2017. Why do you support OutRight?

Elliot Vaughn: OutRight is a brilliant organisation, with a fantastic team of staff and board members who are just a delight to work with. It works for the human right of LGBTIQ people globally, and at multiple levels: through the United Nations, regional governing bodies and country partners. I thoroughly believe in the working model of the organization which prioritises and amplifies voices of LGBTIQ advocates from the Global South and East, and provides direct support to them. For example, OutRight supported four Caribbean LGBTIQ groups to become legally registered non-profits this year, partnered with 150 organisations and trained nearly 5,000 people. Moreover, the ground-breaking, impactful research conducted by the organization is crucial to the global LGBTIQ movement. Plus, there is room to grow its impact multiple times over with more funds, and that inspires me!

Em Rubey: Congratulations on your recent award from the British Prime Minister. What are you proudest of in GiveOut’s journey so far?

Elliot Vaughn:I’m proud of GiveOut’s values in providing resources, donor leadership and growing the available funding opportunities for LGBTIQ movement leaders. GiveOut works in partnership with the movement. We’ve done incredible work to become a sustainable force by bringing on Rupert Abbott as Executive Director, building a strong board for transparent governance and diversifying our base of core support. Plus, we are starting to see impact from the first grants we’ve offered. We emphasize core operating support to organizations, which is essential to supporting their programmatic work.

Em Rubey: You lead the Pride@BCG network globally. How do you see the role of business developing in support of LGBTIQ human rights?

This is such an exciting moment for the private sector to engage in LGBTIQ human rights, with the launch of Open for Business, the UN Free & Equal Campaign and now the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality at the World Economic Forum. However, many businesses are still uncertain about how to approach the topic, and each Pride season brings examples of missteps. There is loads of potential to move the needle, and this often starts with ensuring that there are internal employee standards for LGBTIQ rights. Right now, leading businesses must step up to define best practices, use leverage in supply chains to encourage diversity, and take action externally to express support vocally and financially. Put money where your values are by financially supporting the movement!