Ideas from the team

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A Whole Organisation Approach to Inclusion

Cath Hume is is the CEO of the Arts Marketing Association, a membership association dedicated to helping cultural organisations reach more diverse audiences. Cath spoke at Spektrix Conference 2018 on our Workforce Change Management - Diversity, Resilience, Efficiency panel, speaking about the importance of applying practical approaches to diversifying teams. Diverse teams have been shown to outperform those that are less diverse by up to 35%. For cultural organisations to reach diverse audiences, she says, we need to take an organisational approach to see long-term effects. 

It’s our human right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community. Currently only a limited number of people appear to be able to take up that right and the AMA is committed to changing that. This lack of access is due to things beyond our immediate control; inaccessible structures within what we currently define as the arts and cultural sector; how we define art and culture; our reverence for power; and much more but that’s a blog post for another day. What the AMA can do with immediate effect is work hard to use our position to make the existing arts and culture sector inclusive.

To make change as an organisation we believe ‘it can’t be about us without us’ so if the AMA is not a diverse/inclusive organisation then we can’t effectively influence the arts and cultural sector to become more inclusive and therefore become more open to the fullness of our society. You need to get your own house in order first. For us this means taking a 360 approach to inclusion so that we think about every aspect of the AMA – staff, Board, Member Reps, Members, programme, speakers, venues, suppliers. We are only at the beginning of this journey and there is so much more to do but I can share are some of the things we’ve learnt so far.

  1. Change is scary
    If you are the person leading this change – it’s scary. Find your own network and seek and great advice from people who know what they are talking about. I’m a white, middle-class woman. What does my privilege mean for how I’m going to lead this journey? Who can help me navigate this journey without making too many blunders (how many will I have made in this blog post)?
  2. Take a whole organisation approach
    You need everyone on board to make this happen, you need everyone to want to realise your vision. We are a team of 19 so it’s pretty easy for us to have whole-team events where we take time to explore this and to understand why the AMA isn’t inclusive and what we can do about it. Hull Truck Theatre are doing great work and much of this started from their time in the Audience Diversity Academy.
  3. Don't be afraid to challenge.
    Challenge and question people who are happy with the status quo and refuse to acknowledge that things need to change. I’ve found it helps to start by getting people to understand unconscious bias. People may deny this at first but it’s real and we all need to get our heads round it. If you can’t get them on board your bus maybe it’s time they took another one.
  4. Visual diversity is important.
    People need to see that you are inclusive. It needs to be visible to start to change people’s perceptions of your organisation.

These things will help you with your approach but there are practical things you can do to. We’ve been trying lots of things and here are a few that have worked:

Re-vamp your recruitment procedures. We don’t have an HR person – I don’t know if that makes things easier or not – so we’ve collectively found things that make a difference:

Recruitment

  • Be very clear in your recruitment information that you have an ambition to be a diverse organisation. Link to your diversity and inclusion strategy.
  • Offer flexible jobs. You’ll get the best person for the job if you are willing to be creative about how a job might work. Embrace job shares, people who can’t work 40 hours a week, flexible working hours and working from home where it’s possible.
  • Use images – show people your vision for your organisation. Show them that it’s for people like them.
  • Think about what you are asking people for. Do they really need a degree to do that job?
  • Ask people with broader networks than you to share the job information. People trust people and hearing from someone in their network that your organisation is a good place to work is going to make it far more likely they’ll think about applying.
  • Separate your monitoring forms from your applications. Take names off the application forms before the people scoring them have access to them.
  • Board recruitment – identify what would make an excellent Board member for you. Then go out there and find people that meet that criteria who also happen to have one or more of the protected characteristics you need to diversify your Board. These people do exist. There’s no excuse.

Those are things that are working for us. But I’ve made mistakes along the way. Before we separated the monitoring forms and took the names off applications I cheated. This is not a good thing. I took people to interview for the wrong reason and they didn’t get the job. I’m embarrassed by that.

I’ve also made the mistake of taking ‘the easy option’ in recruitment. What I mean by that is; Candidate A seems to have it all. They are job ready with the experience and energy they need to come straight in and get on with the job. But they don’t bring any diversity to the team. Candidate B has the same energy but not as much experience. They do bring diversity to the team. They also have the potential to get to where Candidate A is in a reasonable amount of time with extra support and training. You choose Candidate A because it’s easier for everyone in the short-term. But what about for your organisation in the long-term? We need to value what people bring beyond their job experience if we want to become a diverse organisation. Ours is a closed sector, we can make it more open by recognising potential and making sensible decisions. This is a tricky area, I’m happy to discuss.

This is a complex area of work and we have a long way to go. The AMA isn’t a diverse organisation. But one day we will be.

If you are looking to make changes and shape your workplace at a new level, you might be interested in attending Inclusivity and Audiences Symposium — setting the tone, facilitated by Raymond Bobgan of Cleveland Public Theatre.