by Jilly Cross, founder of Bravand.
Mid last year (2020 – for those that might also be losing track) – I, along with many other business owners across industry declared solidarity with our black fellow human beings and a commitment to doing our part, showing up, and being anti-racist.
on 23rd June…
I set out a list of actual aims and targets that I was personally committed to working on and leading within our little company – all based around the theory that truly making a difference takes TIME and MONEY.
You can see the original blog here. Back then, I said that I would be reporting back on how we’ve done in six months.
I’m a little late,
I know. I won’t lie, the house and therefore half of every day has been taken over by a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. Writing blog posts has taken a back seat. But the work has not…
One of the most significant things I have personally undertaken has been taking part (and paying for) the You Change It anti-racism development programme. This 5 module programme led by chief facilitator Asma Shah has been a brilliant, human-centred, emotional, eye and heart-opening experience that I would recommend to any small business owner looking for an accessible way to truly build on their anti-racism activism and DO THE WORK.
I actually met up with my fellow cohort members and discussed how we have continued our efforts and learnings out there in the world including battles, confrontations, successes and, sadly, failures too. We’re booked to meet again in 3 months time.
Speaking of mixed results – here’s an update on those pledges we made back in June:
We will spend a significant amount of both our own and our client’s MONEY on talented black freelancers.
In the last six months, we have hired and paid for the brilliant services of 5 talented black freelancers – 4 engaged on client projects, and 1 working on Bravand’s own housework and processes.
On top of this we have promoted and referred clients towards the services of several black freelancers and business owners, of which we know that at least 2 has resulted in ongoing paid work.
In order to achieve this, we will spend our TIME actively seeking and meeting brilliantly talented black freelancers and adding them to our talent pool.
We have and we continue to network, meet and be in awe of brilliant black talent in our industry – recently, time has come at a premium for me personally, where networking opportunities take a back seat against work commitments and homeschooling, but we continue to make efforts in this – any ideas, events or suggested initiatives that can continue to help us open these doors, we are all ears!
We will spend both MONEY and TIME on partnering with local (Hackney and London-based) initiatives that actively support black people looking to develop a career or a business in the tech sector.
In August last year we started our partnership with two initiatives aimed at supporting young black and brown people who are looking to develop a career in digital – these were:
1. The Hackney 100 programme from Hackney Council’s employability and skills department, run by John Karubo and Naomi Amoatin, and
2. The BRILLIANT You Make It programme organised and managed by the formidable Asma Shah, Roxi Jahanshahi, Alysha Yates and team.
We worked with both organisations to provide 2 x 100 hours London Living Wage paying work placements with us at Team Bravand. The two young black women that joined us during this time excelled in showing us what they were capable of, working on live client projects and bringing themselves and their creative thinking to the day to day work challenges we as a team face. Both young women were instrumental in the delivery and go live of not one but two client projects, namely the launch of the new Little Village website and Christmas Campaign and the launch of the Town and City Gift Card Christmas Quiz.
Even better, after a little discussion, one of the participants was kind enough to accept a permanent role in our team. Having now been with us for 3 months, we can safely say that she is nailing it on the project management front, handling 3 new web design and build projects at the moment, and we are very excited to see what she can achieve in 2021 and beyond!
We will achieve a 30% BAME representation in any of our user research initiatives (focus groups, prototype testing, surveys) so that we are truly designing interfaces and products that work for everyone.
This target has been an eye-opener for us, in the fact that we’re yet to achieve it – but not for want of trying.
With our consumer products and services, engaging with people from different backgrounds and cultures is relatively simple. However, a majority of our research work in the last six months has been aimed at professors and lecturers in Schools of Economics. Don’t get me wrong, we have found SOME black economics professors and lecturers, but the numbers are eye openingly low and not enough to give us the number we’d need to achieve 30%. The wider issue of diversity within higher education and faculty became apparent to us pretty swiftly.
In order to achieve this, we will spend TIME actively assessing and recruiting research participants to ensure that this quota is met.
This continues to be done by our insight and research team, who continue to champion an ethos of designing products and services for all, and hitting that 30% target. We will continue to report back on these efforts.
So – there it is, some elements of change in what we hope is just the start of ongoing work that we’re committed to doing. I hope that this time next year, I will be able to report on a whole lot more. More importantly, I genuinely know that our company is better, more creative, more fulfilled and delivering better work with this ethos becoming embedded into our very being.
I urge any other small business owners out there currently wondering how their little operation can make a difference to an issue that can seem SO huge – spend TIME, spend MONEY – you can, and when you do, report back – the returns are huge.
(Photo credit: Nappy.co – for anyone looking for high-quality stock imagery that feature black and brown people, check them out)