Cristina Veiga-Pires, 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.
CRISTINA VEIGA-PIRES, Executive Director and Professor, Centro Ciência Viva do Algarve and the University of Algarve
-Originally published in SPOKES #73
Centro Ciência Viva do Algarve opened its doors on 3rd August 1997 as the first science centre within the Portuguese Ciência Viva Network, which today numbers more than 20 centres. This small centre is approx 700 m2, with just six full-time staff members, and its location in Faro in southern Portugal has already received more than 296,000 visitors and engaged with another 287,000 individuals with its activities. School audiences represent 17% of the total audience.
As the Executive Director, do you feel the motivation for this work has been quite top-down?
I am not sure if we can consider it as a top-down movement because it was not the board that decided to get into it, but myself. On the other hand, the fact that I am the Executive Director did facilitate the movement, since I did somehow ‘force’ the team to get into it.
WORKING WITH A TARGET AUDIENCE ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH
When you joined this work, did you have any specific reason or target in mind?
Yes, it all started with a project we developed with Roma children, and maybe also with my experience as a woman in science! We realised that diversity, inclusion and equity was not only a matter of target audience but, in fact, is a much bigger and deeper change in the way of thinking and working within the institution. Indeed, working with a target audience is not enough, we need to work the five different areas for real institutional change and a real impact in DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion).
What was the first step you took after being introduced to the framework?
The first thing we did was the Evaluation tool (the Inclusion Wheel) and I was stunned not only with the result itself (in both a good and bad way) but mostly to the degree of unfamiliarity that the team members had regarding the institution and DEI concepts.
What have you found to be the most useful during your time as a Pioneer?
Sharing: sharing both the good and bad aspects of our work. Sharing the failures and the wins. Sharing motivation and sometimes disillusion… and learning that all of us, either small or big institutions, face the same type of challenges and that, as small as the footsteps are, they are the basal stones to produce a long-lasting institutional change!
Can you share some of the progression and impacts you have seen at Centro Ciência Viva do Algarve while you have been a Pioneer?
Yes I think that even in such a complicated period we managed to progress in our journey in several of the areas:
Access: As strange as it can seem, although the centre already had an evaluation on its accessibility before entering the Pioneers group, it is only during the last 12 months that I realised that the webpage can be accessible and that we did not have a reserved accessible parking place in front of the museum entrance
Strategy: Both the internal regulation and annual plan documents now include specific references promoting DEI
Partnership: We reinforced and developed new partnerships with local and regional institutions, mainly linked to social activities, and included a weekly free visit day for residents of the three municipalities that are part of our association
Staff: The open discussion around the two tools, namely the Inclusion Wheel and the Spark tool, has been with no doubt of huge importance to ignite the movement within the staff and I also applied for a funding for integrating a fellow with disabilities into the team, who started last July
Content: I learned that content can also, or should, be presented by our target audience for being really inclusive. We thus asked one of our trainees, who is an autodidact specialist in vulcanology if he would be willing to have his own Youtube series, and he accepted. That’s how the ‘Não há Simão sem Vulcão’ (meaning ‘There is no Simon without a Volcano’) video series started during the Covid confinement. It now has seven episodes.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The staff was the biggest challenge: motivating them and making them understand what is diversity, inclusion and equity and why it is important was, and still is, my biggest challenge.
I started regularly sending them some videos with examples and/or testimonies to open their mind but I still feel I have to spend more time with them, propose them some formations but also sometimes make them share more of what they feel and need.
This first project phase has closed, but what is the learning from the framework and Pioneer process that you will keep with you on your journey forward?
Contacts and community sharing. I hope we manage to keep the exchange moment with the Community even if not so often.
If you could travel back in time, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Make sure to join the Pioneers group!