CJ Bishop, Abi Ashton, Shaaron Leverment
Pioneers organisations have explored in-depth the draft version on the DiverSci website; raised awareness, ignited action and scrutinised areas of their practice across Content, Partnerships, Access, Staff and Strategy. We thank them for their honest and open shared experiences during this pilot phase.
CJ BISHOP, Community Manager at the National Space Centre, Leicester, UK
-Originally published in SPOKES #73
The National Space Centre is a science centre based in Leicester that uses the context of space, such as space-related content and artefacts, to engage its audiences, primarily family and school aged children. Pre-pandemic the National Space Centre visitor numbers exceeded 300,000 in a year, manageable by our collective staff team of approximately 120.
What is your role within the National Space Centre?
In terms of staff permanence, I am in my very early years of being employed by the Space Centre, having been there for just over two years, compared to many who have been there for over a decade! I came in the role as Community Liaison, to develop and lead a community engagement programme for local people within the City of Leicester.
As part of this role, engaging and working with the community, we often speak of diversity and identifying barriers of engagement, with the aim to provide inclusive practices that enable our community members to engage with us and feel part of the National Space Centre and science community. Through this work we enhanced perspectives on diversity, barriers, and inclusion from within the staff, our current practices and who visits us, thus developing a critical lens amongst staff that would enable practical change to enhance our diversity and inclusive practices.
This work to an extent was occurring across teams to provide platforms that enabled staff to engage and converse in such topics, experience various job roles and to be part of a wider team outside of their department and day role. However, a global incident in 2020 regarding the inequalities amongst people of different races led to organisations globally taking a privy approach of addressing the deeper issues of diversity, inclusion and equality. This is not only to address the practices of individuals, but also the underpinning ethos, values and policies of a business that sets out strategy and KPIs to enable the business to measure, reflect and implement the necessary change. For us this was led top down from our Board of Trustees via our CEO, staff and influenced new policy.
What contributed to your motivation to join the Pioneers group?
The same conversation about EDI (Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) was happening in almost every setting, so if this was the time to be part of any momentum and a group larger than your own setting on this topic, then this was the time to do so, and this was the group to join. My main motivation to join the Pioneers group was to be part of a network and group of people across the sector who would support one another and share perspectives based on experiences and learning. With a shared vision to develop current practices regarding EDI, the group would act as a working group that would share practices and tools to best implement and enhance what we were aiming to achieve within each of our own settings.
Did you find the framework itself useful?
The framework provided a clear overview of five defined areas of work that would best enable a conversation of change to be had, with each area providing strategy and tools on methods of best action for that specific area.
All elements of the framework play their role, having my EDI strategy mapped-out enabled me to draw on the various areas as required to ensure I was getting the best use of them.
For me, it was about how do we use this toolkit and framework that not only engages and enables the delivery workforce of the organisation, but engages the senior personnel to commit to this conversation and enable access to the required resources – demonstrating to the wider workforce the EDI agenda driven from the top, thus removing potential barriers and allowing strategic change amongst policy to be shaped. This then paves the way for new practices and ideologies across the organisation that align to this agenda.
HAVE A STRATEGY, RESEARCH, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE/BUSINESS AND THEN MAKE YOUR PITCH REFLECTIVE
You were able to get the EDI agenda listened to at the most senior level of your organisation. This was a barrier to change and implementation faced by some Pioneers, so how did you achieve this?
Integral to this is understanding your own organisation’s business model. For me it was the difference of commercial viability and community engagement/impact. The argument to consider is what do we stand for ethically and how do we demonstrate our values through practice as a business towards others but also amongst staff. With this in mind, we must find the interrelation of the two, critically reflect on our business of work, and align such values to our practice – adapting and adopting where necessary to demonstrate ‘best-placed’ practice.
Partnership working would allow engagement with third parties that hold a greater experience in the field of EDI to ensure we allow a greater perspective and analysis into our business that will positively change and influence. The ability to be honest according to the data, have a reflective lens and hold a safe space with seniors enabled buy-in, but so did a chance to demonstrate experience, provide new contacts and demonstrate a commitment. Staff also played an important role, forming a collective voice of the organisation that represented numerous demographics including job roles and personal make up.
In short, my recommendation is to have a strategy, research, know your audience/business and then make your pitch reflective to encourage them to discuss, feel empowered and find a new motivation for the good of the business agenda.
HAVING THIS CONVERSATION IN SUCH A WELL-CONSTRUCTED, MOTIVATED AND PROFESSIONAL MANNER IS A GREAT THING TO BE HAD
What have you found to be the most valuable aspect of being a Pioneer?
By far the range of perspectives and experiences on the topic of EDI that enable the opportunity to develop and enhance my own learning and experience. To hear the various strategies and reasoning behind people’s actions and passion regarding diversity and inclusion, but also how this differs across each organisation and the barriers they face.
The conversations have been great, each is constructive and supportive. Collectively, it was good to have a sound board and network of people across organisations, cities and countries that each worked to this framework, utilising it as a best fit for each of them, and then sharing their methodology.
For the sector to be having this conversation in such a well-constructed, motivated and professional manner is a great thing to be had and to be a part of.