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How to choose impactful diversity programmes

Isabel Farchy, CEO and Founder of Creative Mentor Network on the seven questions to ask when choosing a diversity partner.

Isabel Farchy, Creative Mentor Network

Founder & CEO

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With the rise in in support and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement, the corporate sector can’t afford to sit on the fence anymore. Talk is cheap, and a bit of lip-service won’t cut it. We have to really get to grips with equality, diversity and inclusion.

With that realisation comes real action. And as an organisation supporting socioeconomic diversity, we welcome that wholeheartedly. But as companies look to team up with diversity organisations such as the Creative Mentor Network, benefitting from their access to diverse communities, how should they select the right partner?

I could write a list of diversity organisations I think are doing great work. There are loads of them. After all, diversity isn’t a new problem. But maybe it’s actually more useful to set out some points for you to think about, before you decide who to partner with.

If an organisation isn’t rigorous in its impact evaluation, it’s impossible to know if real changes are being made.

Isabel Farchy

1. What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity is a catch-all term by definition. Are you focusing on gender, sexuality, neuro, ethnic or socioeconomic diversity? Looking to improve diversity internally? Support young people? Or do you just want to build a pipeline of opportunities?

Effective programmes are tailored to support specific challenges, and organisations often use eligibility criteria so that those who really need support are not competing against their more privileged counterparts. While an ‘everyone welcome’ approach is nice in theory, it can make selection more biased. It’s worth seeking out organisations who are targeted in their approach and get a definition of what diversity really means to them.

2. Has the impact model been thought through?

There’s little point having grand ambitions to reach 10,000 young people if you haven’t tested the programmes you’re planning.  And ambitions for growth should be predicated on outcomes. So, what will be the impact on these hypothetical young people? How’s it going to be measured? And how would you know if things weren’t working?

If an organisation can’t articulate what it is they need to improve on, they’re probably not self-critical enough. As a charity working in this space, it’s part of our core values and organisational structure to ensure we are outcomes-focused at all times.

3. Do they have a strong track record? 

Good intentions are important, obviously. But if an organisation isn’t rigorous in its impact evaluation, it’s impossible to know if real changes are being made. Does the organisation publish impact reports? Do they have data as well as case studies to demonstrate their impact, or is it just anecdotal? Try to find organisations that have a strong track record in this area

Reaching people who genuinely stand to benefit from diversity initiatives takes a lot of work.

Isabel Farchy

4. What safeguarding practices are in place?

Is there a safeguarding policy? Are there processes in place if participants feel unsafe or uncomfortable, and are they aware of those processes? Have connections been established with other support services in the event that someone needs more specialist support?

Diversity organisations should have clear safeguarding practices in place to protect all vulnerable individuals. Yes, young people need protecting but so do those aged 18 and over. Otherwise, people are being put at risk. Post-pandemic, as delivery has moved online, the need for proper safeguarding practices is even more important.

5. What is the organisational structure?

Not for profit is a very loose term. Before commissioning an organisation, ask yourself, who stands to gain from the growth of this organisation?

Charities are subject to strict reporting requirements and governance determining how their income is spent. CIC’s, most typical legal structure for social enterprises, have an asset lock, meaning that a percentage of its profit must be reinvested. Similarly, businesses becoming B Corp are increasingly popular and membership requires greater disclosure on profits and impact reviews.

Make sure the organisation you choose has a structure you feel comfortable with. But most importantly, make sure that the beneficiaries, and not the industry, are at the centre of the organisation’s values and activities.

6. What expertise is there in the team?

 It’s important to make sure your organisation is putting beneficiaries at the centre of the work and aims to have a true understanding of the needs of the community it serves.

Who’s involved? What expertise is there in the team, and on the board? Is the organisation as a whole representative?

Make sure you feel comfortable with the answers to these questions. Although the companies may have the best intentions when setting up access schemes, they mightn’t have the required expertise. Education, young people, careers guidance and safeguarding are complex and nuanced areas. As a charity, we benefit from expertise in the team as well as a board of trustees who support and challenge our activities. If organisations don’t have the skills and knowledge in house, they need to make use of advisors.

7. How are they reaching communities? 

In the creative industries particularly, diversity’s a big issue. Those from more privileged backgrounds have better networks, a better understanding of the jobs out there, and, frankly, more confidence that they belong in those jobs. Reaching people who genuinely stand to benefit from diversity initiatives takes a lot of work.

What are the organisation’s outreach practices? Are they reaching people that wouldn’t otherwise access the industry?

You need to interrogate outreach practices. Posting about an opportunity on social media is great, but most likely won’t reach a genuinely diverse audience. Let’s face it, if it were that simple, there wouldn’t be an issue in the first place

Guest Author

Isabel Farchy, Creative Mentor Network

Founder & CEO,

About

Isabel began in education as a Teach First teacher at one of London’s leading ARK Academy’s, implementing programmes to increase social mobility. She then worked as an educational consultant, training student teachers for Teach For Lebanon out in Beirut, and developing diversity programmes for creative agencies. Isabel set up Creative Mentor Network in 2014 and now leads the organisation as CEO.

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