Six Lessons I’ve Learnt from The Blueprint Process

Six Lessons I’ve Learnt from The Blueprint Process

By Lisa Yiasemides-Cook, Blueprint Coordinator

Many people may not realise that The Blueprint has been a huge learning curve for me over the past couple of years. I have learnt from Blueprinted agencies, I have learnt from Elizabeth and the rest of our team, I have learnt from our supporters and training providers.

I have also learnt an awful lot through The Blueprint process itself…

1/ The application is rigorous…and it really needs to be!

Only through an application this size and this detailed, is it possible to gauge the truly sincere from those who are merely ticking boxes. Only through this level of detail is it possible for the judges to get a sense of the hard work an organisation has already put into diversity, equity and inclusion.

We have had over 30 applications in total in just over two years. The fact that only a third have been awarded full Blueprint status or Blueprint Ally, is proof of how hard it is. It also reflects that integrity is at the heart of The Blueprint: it cannot be bought or negotiated. The tough process has been designed to allow the genuine, boundary-pushing, brilliant work Blueprinted organisations are doing, to shine and stand out from the rest.

2/ A close-knit community with aligned values has grown

Yes, we have encouraged this through events such as The Lunchbox Sessions, but the level of knowledge sharing and expertise has been extended far beyond the realms of what The Blueprint team initially set out (or hoped) to do. From mentoring to collaborative projects outside of The Blueprint, it has been wonderful to see these partnerships and relationships develop.

This is why it’s particularly exciting that Blueprinted is hosting the first Leaders’ Lunch next month…it will be the perfect opportunity for even more collaboration to take place. Also, it’s the first time representatives from all ten organisations will be in the same room together. I predict lots of talking, plenty of laughter and as much setting the world to rights as can possibly be squeezed into five hours!

3/ You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

Ok, I know that adage existed long before The Blueprint did, so it isn’t technically a lesson only learnt in my time working at Blueprinted…but(!) the idea that you can’t make anyone do something they don’t really want to do (or in this case, think something they don’t really want to think) has really hit home for me in the last couple of years.

Blueprinted gets a lot of enquiries from organisations that want to find a quick answer to their diversity questions. Elizabeth and I receive emails asking for phone calls, meetings, or a “quick coffee” so that they can “pick our brains”. These are probably my least favourite emails to find in my inbox. Essentially, because it’s hard to find a polite way to say “You’re missing the point.” And it is quite often (in my experience) an opinion that isn’t well received. I have heard the following response more than once or twice: “but why can’t you teach us what we don’t know?”

The short and simple answer is because the first step has to happen internally. The Blueprint isn’t about giving organisations a hand up on their DE&I journeys. It is about recognising brilliant work that has already been done, and acknowledging a proven track record that has grown out of a genuine desire to effect change.

4/ It’s not always easy

But it is always rewarding when done right. I am not sure that a genuine DE&I journey can start from a place that isn’t deeply uncomfortable. To begin to make changes, it is first necessary to admit to oneself where the failings lie. And that takes courage. I do believe though that, once that line has been crossed, the next steps don’t seem quite as hard.

5/ There is always more to learn

This is the lesson that becomes more and more apparent to me over time. DE&I theories and viewpoints that were being discussed five or ten years ago aren’t necessarily still appropriate or relevant to today’s society. It’s constantly evolving.

This is why we have created a calendar of events and training programmes that are varied, delivered by lots of different people, encouraging the people receiving it to continually keep checking in on what they already believe they know. What at times may seem obvious, may no longer be true today. It is entirely possible that there is no ‘final destination’ when it comes to DE&I, but that the end goal should be to continue to learn and to keep digging deep.

6/ The journey never ends

It is bittersweet that I will soon be leaving The Blueprint. I have met so many wonderful people doing so many wonderful things. In some ways I can’t believe that in a couple of weeks I won’t be involved in the way that I am now.

Endings are always the hard part, which is probably why I know that I will never fully leave The Blueprinted family; and I wouldn’t want to. So expect to see me on the dancefloor at the next BME PR Pros summer party, if not before.