At the start of this year, it would have been hard not to get excited about the plans for 2018. As we bring this year to a close, I am not only delighted, but humbled and proud of what we have achieved as a team, the foundations we have laid, and the collaborations we are engaged in.
I am lucky enough to have the best job in the world. My passion is to increase equality of access to life’s opportunities. This is not just a project - it is the very essence of me. No matter how challenging it can be at times, or what obstacles life throws in my path to distract me, nothing derails us from striving to reach our goals for a better universal world.
Early in the first quarter, I finalised the structure and content for my new website – www.universalinclusion.co.uk - which reflects the journey we are following with Universal Inclusion and the various opportunities I am involved in. The site is now live and will continue to develop over the next year.
As a consultancy, we create and implement solutions to barriers which prevent access to life's opportunities, alongside organisational change frameworks and pathways to inclusive working practice. We work with corporates, businesses and individuals from across all industries and walks of life. In addition we develop thought leadership and share knowledge through our advisory and board positions and work with Governments, NGOs and international organisations.
Through our Inclusive Entrepreneur Programme and Network we continue to support some remarkable entrepreneurs including Grant Logan of Disability Today, alongside my work as a Virgin Start Up Mentor with Laura Draper of Gooseberry Pink.
UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)
I am a member of the APPG for Disability - APPGD - and have spent time this year speaking on the concept of Inclusive Economic Growth. In particular, I drew attention as to how the Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) should achieve the 2030 Agenda Paradigm Shift, and move from viewing disabled people as care/tax burdens to that of contributing citizens with rights & protections who will contribute to economic growth. This is alongside a request for opening up existing programmes and making them more accessible.
This is an important concept and underpins our work in The Inclusive Entrepreneur Program. One of our work-streams, it was piloted in the UK. It identifies the key issues faced by disabled entrepreneurs and made recommendations to Government on how this could be improved, including a call to place the Access to Work award within what is now BEIS.
Working with Pink Shoe, The UK Economic Blueprint and another APPG, I am focussing my attention on women in enterprise. Pink Shoe is driving The UK Economic Blueprint for Women which will help create the conditions for women owned/led businesses to gain a fairer share of business opportunities and contracts nationally, as well as scale up their businesses. Within this programme, I am the Inclusion and Diversity Lead. Related to this work is the APPG for Women in Enterprise - APPGWE, where with a team of driven leaders, we are looking at issues affecting women in this area. I am part of the work-stream for inclusion and diversity.
Gender Equality and Empowerment
FILIA may be new to a lot of you. To me it is an important branch in the overall programme of equality for women and girls. I have been working with FILIA for a number of years and I have been the Filia Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the last two years. FILIA is a women-led volunteer charity focused on females. The word 'filia' means daughter, reflecting that women are a continuous link - the daughters of the women who came before us. It brings together sisters taking down patriarchy, fighting injustices across the world, fighting violence towards women, pay disparity, discrimination against refugees, racism, classism.
A key focus for FILIA is reducing violence against women. I was on the organising team for this year’s annual FILIA conference and I recently participated in the awareness campaign for women’s rights through FILIA art -my poetry and artwork were featured at the FILIA International Conference in Manchester in October this year. In addition I have a particular interest in the growing impact of the digital world on violence against women and girls. There will be more work in the field during 2019.
Another organisation close to my heart is FILT, where I am privileged to be a trustee. FILT helps older and vulnerable people live with dignity in their own homes by delivering grants to local home improvement agencies (HIAs) to provide a range of support including repairs and improvements to people’s homes.
In June I was present for the HIA Awards – honouring the work of Home Improvement Agencies and Handyperson Services across England – which were announced at a House of Lords ceremony. Organised by Foundations, the national body for HIAs, the annual HIA awards – sponsored by ProCare – recognise the way in which the 200-strong HIA sector is contributing to the prevention and early intervention agenda in helping to link up health, housing and social care.
Creating the Paradigm Shift: Speaking at the UN Headquarters, New York and Windsor Consultations, UK
As part of our drive towards Creating the Paradigm Shift, we have also been very active on the international stage. Once again we were invited to speak about how our framework can help achieve the Paradigm Shift required for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and explain the concept for the Inclusive Entrepreneur.
In May, I was at the UN Headquarters in New York, and then in Windsor in the UK, to participate in the Global Consultations. These form part of a framework of global consultations based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, organised by the International Council for Caring Communities (ICCC). I am the Co-Chair of the ICCC Friends of the Society for Agequake Student Designers. The discussion during the Consultations centered around the “Age of Connectivity: Cities, Magnets of Hope. Imagining the Possible” Dialogue Series which has addressed the challenges facing a rapidly urbanizing world since 1994
Related to this initiative is the ICCC International Caring Citizen of the Humanities Award. I sit on the UK Award Panel and was present for the presentation in New York during the Raising The Roof concert in June.
We were proud to also present two UK citizens with this award at the November Raising The Roof Concert which was held at the iconic St George’s Hall in Liverpool: Dr Roderick Hackney, a world-renowned architect, leader and influencer, and Gail Jones, entrepreneur and global leader in diversity and inclusion for the contributions they have made, and continue to make.
Opening Up The Creative Space seminar and Raising The Roof 2018 concert were two seminal events held on November 1. Ground-breaking in theme, they shone a spotlight on this world-heritage-site as a leader in #Accessibility in #Spaces. The events brought together leaders and participants from across culture, arts and architectural fields and were held in partnership with the ICCC and Liverpool City Council in support of the ICCC International Student Design Competition Fellowships. Both events were supported by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Courage and Sparkle, Disability Today, Disability Rights UK, Evermore Wellbeing, Gooseberry Pink, Jigsaw Medical, LMA Liverpool, Liverpool City Council, Market Accents, Merseyside Woman of the Year (MWOTY), Pink Shoe Club, Soundtrack Recording Studios and St George’s Hall.
Opening up the Creative Space established the conversation for the day. The two seminar panels debated barriers in creating inclusive cities and opportunities. While the first panel focussed on the build environment, the second panel discussed the creative field. Both sessions highlighted challenges and personal experiences, and demonstrated how opening up the creative space enables us to achieve the UN SDGs.
I must thank our guests, speakers, moderators and MCs who together brought these events to life. In no particular order these include: Ade Adepitan MBE, Elle Exxe, Ayesha Gavin, James Holt, Grant Logan, Matthew Wadsworth, Professor Dianne Davis - Founder of ICCC and the International Student Design Competition, John Kiehl, Laura Draper, Helene Martin Gee, Robert Winstanley and The Alder Hey Staff Choir by Bernie Whelan, Asa Murphy and his Big Band, the Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra and Dancers, Napua Davoy and the Liverpool Media Academy (LMA) performers, Cllr Liz Parsons, Cabinet Member for Communities & Partnerships Liverpool City Council; Nancy Chen Lady Chairman of SEE YEP Chinese Association; Harry Chen Finance Manager SEE YEP Chinese Association and Linda van Nooijn Chairman of Pagoda Arts.
I must also thank the team behind the scenes which includes: Musical Director John Kiehl, co-founder of Soundtrack Recording Studios; Stage Manager Ellen Kerr from Merseyside Woman of the Year (MWOTY) and Marketing and Communications Director Noreen Cesareo from Market Accents. They were supported by Mike Cash; Professor Dianne Davis; Julie Fernandez; Christine Gong, Co-Founder, Chinese Cultural and Art International Organization; Christoff Karla; Professor Gisela Loehlein, ICCC Vice President for Student Design Competition; Peter Mathius; Emanuel ‘Manny’ Perlman, Alan Smith, Tony Thompson, Dave Mort from Think Print and Dan White.
Opening up the Creative Space is certainly an area we are exploring and this will continue in 2019. I see the creative space as one that can engage with everyone, young and old. And yet there is an inequality of access to this space, across the creative and cultural spectrum. Through the various conversations during the year and at the seminar, we have set in motion the Paradigm Shift that gives rise to accessibility to spaces that are not constrained by traditional responses to the unique individuality of each and every one of us...and that recognises the direct correlation between opening up the creative space and its impact on health and wellbeing, inclusive economic growth and GDP. We have already started planning for 2019, and this concept will be pivotal for our work and events.
Courage and Sparkle
In my role as CEO of Courage and Sparkle I continue with the legacy in celebration of the life of our funder Una McBride. It's been an exciting year, collaborating and ensuring that the legacy strands Una chose are supported effectively as we go forward.
As I consolidate my direction for the coming year, I count my blessings and am excited by our future plans. In January we pick up again on the outcomes from Opening Up the Creative Spaces and the Windsor Consultation in November. We will develop recommendations which will be put forward to leaders across business, government, society and the arts. This is our next step in the creation of the Paradigm Shift and it is the start of a journey based on collaboration. We have come together in one voice and it will lead to a commitment towards innovation within the creation of inclusive cities to help achieve the 2020 Agenda within the UN’s SDGs.
Thank you for joining me on this journey to make our world a better more inclusive one.