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Diversity and Inclusion: how Bristol Beacon is changing

Man wearing a dark tracksuit and trainers jumps through the air mid somersault.

What makes a happy and supportive place to work? How can an organisation attract the most diverse talent? And how do you turn policies and plans into real, tangible action and change?

As well as transforming our performance spaces and name, Bristol Beacon is also undertaking a transformation of our organisation, thinking deeply about workplace culture and practices to ensure we are an open, supportive, and welcoming place to work for all current and prospective staff members.

Our People Manager Alison Williams has been spearheading this process, and has been working with Diversity and Inclusion experts Aisha Thomas from Representation Matters and Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi Director of BCohCo Ltd on a discovery and change project, covering areas like recruitment, race and anti-racist practice, staff engagement, unconscious bias and valuing and recognising individual experience.

Alison tells us what we are discovering as an organisation professionally and personally through this work and how it’s ok to not have all the answers at once.

By Alison Williams

Engaging with your community

Like many organisations I’ve felt that Bristol Beacon had the policies and procedures in place but they were metaphorically sat on the shelf – it’s easy to talk the talk but less easy to put changes into action. How could we really attract different people to come and work with us?

When we put together our Transformation Promise around our name change, suddenly our pledges became real. And, by starting to articulate our challenges, I realised that we didn’t have to find the answers on our own. It’s about engaging with your community and talking to people who have the experiences that you don’t have to help you to unpick what’s happening in your organisation.

I also think there is power and vulnerability in opening up and saying “We’re not doing as well as we want to be – how can we be doing better?”

So it was really refreshing to speak with Katie and Aisha and for them to say “Well of course you don’t know how to do all this – and we’re not going to tell you either!” But they’re there to help us find out about where we are, what questions we need to ask ourselves and put in some positive actions to make change. It’s from there that you can grow and take those steps.

 

“Knowing that your staff feel like they belong is really important”

Alison Williams, Bristol Beacon, People Manager

Right now Katie and Aisha are helping us find out where we are as an organisation by working with us to design a staff questionnaire. And we’re already seeing positive changes. We’ve doubled the number of under 25s working in our organisation within the last year. And that feels really positive. That’s just one measure. We want to increase others such as representation of Black and Asian communities and people with disabilities.

We want to engage with people with real lived experience when discussing issues like women’s safety, or how we recruit and the questions we ask, and when we’re thinking about what our application form looks like. Aisha and Katie are helping us to see things through these individual and specific lenses.

We know that over the next 12 months we will need to ramp back up towards reopening and we’ll have a period of quite extensive recruitment across most areas of our organisation. And we know that inducting these people in the right way is incredibly important so I’m really glad that we’re doing this work now – we’re building a solid foundation of insight and knowledge on which we communicate what it’s like to work here. It feels like vital and exciting work.

A White woman with brown hair wearing a black blazer and white shirt smiles and leans against a wooden banister.
Alison Williams, People Manager

“The events of 2020 were a pivotal moment in our history. We’ll look back and think about who we were and how we showed up. Across the country organisations have been ‘reflecting’ and asking the question ‘what do we need to do and how do we build the change?’

Bristol Beacon’s new and shiny doors will reopen in 2023 and this presents an opportunity to ensure that internal culture, practices and process reflect the community it serves.

Our society is diverse and continues to diversify. It is important that we all continually develop our cross-cultural literacy to help create inclusive cultures and cohesive communities within which we can all thrive.”

Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi, Representation Matters

Welcoming our Inclusion Associates

A smiling Black woman smiles for a professional photograph wearing a dark top and red lipstick.

Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi

Katie is an Inclusion and Cohesion Specialist, founder of BCohCo Ltd, and a woman of dual heritage who is continually navigating her Black & White world. She has over 15 years’ experience in Building Sustainable Communities, delivered with a unique intersection of professional, personal, and academic knowledge in Diversity, Inclusion, Cohesion and Equality (DICE®).

Katie likes people in all their magnificent difference, and finding solutions in the challenges these differences present. One of her key successes was developing the Anti-Hate Crime Ambassador Programme, which attracted £90k in funding from central government to roll out on a wider scale.

She delivers training, development, and consultation in DICE®; a continual, interconnected process designed to provide the skills, tools and ‘know how’ to embed DICE® in personal and professional practice.

A smiling Black woman with short hair wearing a red hoodie with the words

Aisha Thomas

A born and bred Bristolian, Aisha studied law before an epiphany saw her move to education and become Assistant Principal at an inner-city secondary school. Today she is Educational Consultant in her own organisation, Representation Matters Ltd, and has a firm focus on anti-racist practice, equity, justice and liberation.

Aisha has presented a BBC documentary about the lack of black teachers in Bristol and delivered a TEDx talk: ‘Why Representation Really Matters’.

She won Positive Role Model for Race/Ethnicity at the Bristol Diversity Awards 2020, received a 2021 Special Recognition Award from Bristol Black History Month magazine and won the 2021 Baton Awards Campaigner of the Year.

Aisha is also a university guest lecturer, and her debut book ‘Representation Matters: Becoming an Anti-racist Educator’ was released in May 2022.

Inclusion activity

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