Black History Month Frontline

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As part of Black History Month Bright Network are aiming to provide a platform for the celebration and recognition of black success. We would like to increase our understanding of black history and create space for a real conversation about diversity in the workplace. We have as such put together the below questions, which can be altered and expanded on however you would like, to start this conversation.

1. Could you tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to work at Frontline?

After graduating, I completed a one year graduate scheme with Into University who help to raise the aspirations and support the attainment of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I then went on to work on various widening participation projects geared towards increasing the representation of marginalized groups at university as well as working as a sixth-form teacher in East London.

The combination of this work inspired me to work for Frontline because I realized that by inspiring hundreds of other graduates to train as outstanding social workers I could have a wider impact on the outcomes of some of the young people least likely to gain a higher education – care leavers.

2. How important is diversity to Frontline?

Diversity is a top strategic priority at Frontline because we recognize that a diverse workforce is required to respond to the enormity of the challenge that is children’s social care. There is also an important need for Frontline to be reflective of the diverse communities we serve.

Since our launch in 2013, Frontline has taken a number of measures to broaden the diversity of each cohort of trainee social workers and indeed across the organization. This has included reviewing and updating our admissions policy, unconscious bias training for staff, coaching support for underrepresented groups, attending a wider portfolio of universities and career events and partnering with organizations like Bright Networks. Whilst this has resulted in the 2017 cohort being our most diverse cohort to date, we recognize there is still some work to do for example, encouraging more men to consider social work. I feel confident because of Frontline’s unwavering commitment to diversity we will make positive strides in the right direction in 2018.

3. What are your hopes and expectations for Frontline and the role it plays in diversity initiatives in the future? Both internally as an organization and in terms of it’s impact on society more widely.

I think that because Frontline is a Social Work charity and therefore preoccupied with understanding difference and supporting children and families from all walks of life, we have the potential to be leaders in diversity in the graduate recruitment sector. I think that one of my biggest ambitions for Frontline is that it will be pioneering in readdressing the gender discrepancy across social work. I think other professions like teaching which have also falsely been identified as a feminine profession have already made positive progress in changing perceptions and I hope that through the work of our alumni we will continue to contribute to this cultural shift. This work of graduate recruiters in challenging these stereotypes is so important because it has a much broader impact on society.

4. What changes do you want to see in how organizations in general approach diversity and inclusion?

I think in the UK we have a tendency to think too small when it comes to diversity. Whereas in other parts of the world things like quotas and specific shortlisting rules are much more evident and at times more effective in encouraging diverse workforces. Yes, we need to use research and data to help us make informed decisions about diversity but too often organizations allow this data to paralyze them from taking positive action completely. We need to be much more creative and willing to take calculated risk to brings a broader range of perspectives and ideas into our offices.

I also want to see organizations continue to develop the ‘inclusion’ aspect of their Diversity and Inclusion agenda. That is, focusing on how they support a diverse workforce and motivate them to stay once they’re in. My experience has been that it is not enough to simply but a wide mix of people in the same room, work has to go into ensuring that these people with all of the similarities, differences and idiosyncrasies have the opportunity to feel valued, respected and like they can be themselves. Like university widening participation departments I think employers need to recognize that nurturing diversity is a never ending cycle but that the reward is more than worth it.

5. What does Black History month mean to you?

For me, Black History Month is about having an opportunity to be hyperaware of the contribution people of colour have made to the UK and indeed the rest of the world. As a black man growing up in multicultural London, I have been lucky to experience this month as a beautiful tapestry of defying achievement. Grime artists topping the charts, John Boyega from Peckham in the Star Wars Franchise and unprecedented numbers of POC graduating from the top universities in the country.

The month is also a more solemn reminder of the past and how the grave inequality of racism and slavery still rears its ugly head today.

6. Will you be celebrating black history month and how do you plan to do that? Will you be doing something at work or at home with your family?

Although I feel a month is not enough to celebrate black history I will take the opportunity to indulge in black culture. I’m particularly interested in theatre and so will be checking out productions from Talawa Theatre which is a black theatre company. At work me and another colleague are keen to put on a Bring and Share lunch to celebrate African and Caribbean cooking.

7. What would you like celebrated or remembered in Black History month? Whether that is the story of your own family or the actions of a famous figure.

I think the Transatlantic Slave Trade is often the default when it comes to reflecting on black history. However, I would like us to make a more concerted effort to celebrate African culture before slavery and to celebrate the achievements of free slaves. For example, in Nigeria (where I was born) there is a 160km wall which was built in 800-1000 AD – this is a phenomenal achievement and if shared will help to eradicate false truths about Africa’s past and raise the collective self-esteem of people of colour.

8. Have you got any events lined up that you are attending or you think are interesting that you could recommend to our members?