David Jones, 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.
DAVID JONES, Community Liaison Manager, International Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
-Originally published in SPOKES #73
The Centre for Life is a science centre serving the North East of England from its base in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne. We offer the opportunity for everyone in North East England to explore and enjoy science and to discover its relevance to their own lives. Life is 21 years-old this year, and is the only dedicated public science centre in the North of England, welcoming an average of 300,000 visitors each year (pre-Covid). David Jones became Life’s first Community Liaison Manager nearly four years ago and is also an active advocate within the Equity@Ecsite Group championing equity, diversity, inclusion and access.
As a core advocate of the Equity@Ecsite group, and a Pioneer, how was the framework put to best use at the Centre for Life?
As someone who has been involved in the development of the Diversci website I was uniquely placed to support this opportunity within Life. Life already has an Equality Standard Gold accreditation with a supporting action plan, which was renewed not long before the Covid-19 pandemic, so Life was probably in a better position than some organisations, who were just starting on this journey.
We used the Diversci framework as a way of looking at equality, diversity, access, and inclusion through a different lens. Our ambitions were and still are, to ensure that we act as a fair, equal, and inclusive employer, ensuring that Life is accessible to all communities. This new tool has helped us to explore these issues further.
What were the first steps you took with the framework?
My first step was to introduce the team to this new framework. What this did was enable everyone to consider the previous action plan and review it against the five new pillars set within a Diversci framework, challenging everyone to think differently about things.
We aimed to develop a new action plan around the five new pillars included within Diversci and although the pilot has finished, we continue to work on this. With Covid-19, naturally resources were pushed and pulled, and it was quite difficult to create the opportunities to bring the team together to explore and discuss the Diversci framework and the development of a new action plan. Although we are still working on the draft action plan, for me this shows that it’s a long journey and we should celebrate each step on the way.
Celebrating each step on the way is a great message! Could you share some of the successes with us?During the Covid-19 period, all staff received autism acceptance training from North East Autism Society. This training was well received. It is not often that you see a colleague speaking on first name terms with a trainer, several weeks after the training, asking further questions so they can develop a deeper understanding.
UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF ONE COMMUNITY CAN OFTEN HELP TO IMPROVE THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE FOR OTHERS
Sometimes it’s the small things that make a big difference, for instance: a colleague used the learning from working with the autistic community and transferred that learning to support a family.
When a young girl went to the planetarium with her family, the young girl said, ‘I don’t want to go into the planetarium, it’s too dark’! There was no-one else in the planetarium so the Science Explainer, drawing on his experience of Sensory-friendly Sundays, where the door of the planetarium is kept open to remove accessibility barriers, said to the little girl ‘what if I leave the door open, would that help? The little girl then watched and enjoyed the show with her family from the door. That small adjustment enabled the family to experience the planetarium show. This example shows that understanding the needs of one community can often help to improve the visitor experience for others.
One of the things which organisations seem to find hard to do is to celebrate the small achievements and victories, instead looking for a golden egg which shows that they have cracked equality, diversity, inclusion and access. For those of us who work in this field, we understand that this egg does not exist, and that it is an infinite journey, seeking out, and implementing inspiring practice.
What have you found to be most valuable about being a Diversci Pioneer?
The most valuable aspect was being given the opportunity to explore and learn from the Diversci website with colleagues.
However, an often-forgotten benefit of being involved in this kind of collaboration has been understanding that others are at different stages of their journey and that there are lots of different approaches to achieving the same aim. Because all the organisations have their own unique set of local issues and environments, being able to share experiences and exploring the issues that everyone else faces, has been enlightening. It has also been interesting to hear the discussions that have taken place at recent ‘Community of Practice’ events and in particular to see the positive impact which the Pioneer organisations have had on this inspiring practice forum.
WE NEED TO WANT TO KEEP LOOKING FOR TOMORROW’S NEW INSPIRING PRACTICE
What do you think you’ll keep with you from this experience for your ongoing work?
Hopefully the Diversci website will become a permanent feature and it will become a useful resource which we will be able to refer to again and again. Having this will help to fast track the sector’s learning.
Some in the sector may think that organisations only need to develop an equality, diversity, inclusion and access action plan, ticking the box and it is ‘job done’. That just is not the case. Searching out and implementing inspiring practice really is an ongoing journey. If we are to further expand accessibility to the audiences and the communities which we serve, we need to want to keep looking for tomorrow’s new inspiring practice. The Pioneer’s initiative is inspiring practice.