Six lessons on DEI from a Blueprint judge

By Henry Rowling, Co-founder, Flying Cars Innovation

Six lessons on DEI from a Blueprint judge

By Henry Rowling, Co-founder, Flying Cars Innovation

I have been lucky enough to be involved with The Blueprint awards since their start in 2020 as a judge.

Each quarter the fellow judges and I read carefully through the applications various PR agencies have made. They describe the practical steps they are taking to level the playing field for prospective and Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Ethnic Minority (BME) staff working with them.

This is what I’ve learnt so far:

1. This work is hard.

Elizabeth and her small team are at the sharp end trying to improve working conditions for BME professionals in PR and communications. The emotional toll on them is high and it’s not all roses in the garden. But they have an incredible mission that makes a massive difference in real people’s lives – so they carry on.

2. There is some incredible work going on at the accredited agencies.

It translates across everything they’re doing:

– The suppliers they will and won’t work with
– How they recruit and where
– How they celebrate as teams
– How they nurture talent
– How they decide who works on what clients
– What training staff go on
– The work they do for their clients (probably my favourite part of the judging process is to see the diversity of their creative outputs)

3. Building diverse and fair workplaces is a journey for everyone.

Applicants are usually honest about where they are and where they want to get to. They usually know their own shortcomings and plan to improve in deficient areas. The honesty of the applications reveals the deep commitment many have to improve.

“Nurturing inclusive working practices shouldn’t ever be primarily about the benefit to the bottom line.”

4. There is clear evidence of the benefits of a more fair, progressive and thoughtful work environment.

You see the benefits in:
– The quality of their work
– Staff satisfaction levels increasing (especially of accredited agencies),
– Their abilities to keep and promote BME staff
– The joy with which they write their entries

It has also been interesting and very satisfying to see how DEI work has led agencies to adopt progressive policies and practices in other areas – LGBTQ, disability, neurodiversity and parental leave to name a few.

Nurturing inclusive working practices shouldn’t ever be primarily about the benefit to the bottom line. There are more critical, human reasons for adopting anti-racist practices than increased profits.

5. The reasons for inequity, racism and oppression are systemic.

That’s not up for debate by anyone sensible anymore. Blueprinted agencies and The Blueprint diversity mark itself are helping to change some of the systems that unfairly hold people back. It’s doing the unglamorous hard work day in day out that actually works. It’s not a flashy social media campaign or a celebrity-endorsed initiative for likes and clout. It’s bringing about systemic and lasting change, which the world urgently needs in many areas. In a world where people are looking for hacks, shortcuts and instantaneous wins – it’s refreshing to be involved in something that is working on systems change.

6. The charity sector is playing catch up in many areas.

I’ve spent most of my working life working for or with organisations doing incredible work for various causes and people. But the charity sector is overwhelmingly white and middle-class. I should know – I was one of those people taking up space. Most people looked and sounded broadly like me. Particularly in comms, fundraising, marketing and leadership roles. A lot of the practices, policies and initiatives occurring in Blueprinted agencies are not happening in NGO’s and the third sector desperately needs a similar approach and community to start shifting the dial rapidly.

I’m so proud to be a tiny part of the Blueprinted community and will carry on learning and contributing where I can.

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