Quite a year, quite a journey!
In March I thought the world had ended, COVID struck, lockdowns began and all our courses were being cancelled. I was grateful for the security provided by our grant income, which kept us going in those first few months of the pandemic.
Soon after, in May, following the murder of George Floyd in the US, and the subsequent rise and rise of the global Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the #MeToo and Trans Lives Matter movements, we saw a very sharp increase in demand. We put all our courses online. Blackboard, Google, Skype, Teams and Zoom became our new best friends, the tools of our trade. We got used to setting up breakout rooms, running polls, using Slido and sharing video clips.
I quickly realised we had to start recruiting if we were going to manage. We increased our admin, finance and business support teams. We welcomed on board Sartaj, Sammy, Steve and Mina. You are all so very, very welcome.
We quickly developed the Race & Bias Team, under Russell’s leadership, with support from Mina; and increased the Trans & Non Binary team, under the leadership of Cheryl and Aaron, with support from Sammy. I have also been busy developing the Equalities Team with support from Sartaj.
We launched new courses including Managing & Mitigating Bias, It’s About Race, Disability Awareness, Autism and Neurodiversity Awareness and Stand Up and Speak Out.
We won new clients from the private sector and the NHS, new local authority clients including Gloucestershire County Council, Somerset County Council and Oxfordshire County Council. We enhanced our fantastic relationship with South Gloucestershire Council.
We won new higher education clients including the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, as well as the University of Sussex and University College London. We also really enhanced our long-standing relationships, nay friendships, with the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Bath Spa University, Plymouth University and UWE Bristol.
We won new police clients in Hampshire and Gwent. We won new clients from government departments including the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, the Ministry of Justice and DCMS.
We delivered over 330 courses, almost all of these were online. And as a result we saw a 100% increase in turnover.
We increased our reach across the U.K. including across all four nations (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) and globally across the regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Russell spoke at the UN!
We got cited alongside “other” global influencers including UN Women and the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) as global influencers ourselves.
I was given an award for making an Outstanding Contribution to the Community, in the Bristol Diversity Awards, and I was nominated in the National Diversity Awards for a Lifetime Achiever Award. My Mum told me this made her feel “very old”.
We brought on board wonderful new sponsors including City Sprint, Distillery, Purple Fish, Skin Deep and StepStone.
We won a new procurement with Avon & Somerset Police; working alongside SARI, WECIL, Empova and Babassa. Aiming to engage over 2000 police officers in equalities training.
We were awarded an 18-month contract with NHS Somerset, aiming to engage over 2000 health care workers.
We reached over 5000 people through our online training last year, and we managed to engage hundreds of young people through our youth services. Despite 6-months of only being able to offer a safe space for young people online.
We developed a new area of the website, dedicated to COVID-19 and mental health, which has been cited by local authorities, the NHS and our voluntary sector partners including the Care Forum and Healthwatch.
We worked with North Bristol NHS Trust and Bristol Autism Support to design, develop and deliver autism awareness training, a buddy support scheme, panel and speaker events and a toolkit for supporting NHS staff with autism and Neurodiversity in the workplace.
We hosted popular online events for BiVisibility Day, with UWE Bristol, and a World AIDS Day event challenging HIV stigma with Brigstowe. As well as Covid-19 vaccination events with Healthwatch South Glos, Public Health and the Clinical Commissioning Group.
We launched a new booklet Out in B&NES; and worked with the Council, the police and SARI to develop a new community forum for B&NES.
We had lots of positive media coverage including features on BBC News, in Raconteur, Sky Sports, Campaigns Asia, Pioneers Post and in The Ferret.
We published guest blog posts on accessibility, autism awareness, homelessness, immigration, prejudice recovery and on migration and domestic abuse policy. I wrote and published blog posts on diversity in the workplace and why we still need Pride. These blog posts were shared by the Association of Chief Executives and the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
We launched a new series of podcasts… including the MP Tanmajeet Dhesi (faith) the actress Samantha Renke (disability) and campaigners Roianne Nedd (race equality) and Jonny Benjamin (mental health).
Our podcasts were shared in a blog post by the U.K. government, as an example of best practice in equalities.
We responded to the Women & Equalities Parliamentary Committee call for evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on people with protected characteristics; and to both the Scottish and U.K. governments calls for evidence on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.
We looked internally and began working on our strategy and business plan… more on that later…
Thank you to the the staff, the Board, including the Chair and Treasurer, our volunteers, associates and consultants, our partners, our donors, our sponsors and, of course, our clients. We really couldn’t have done all this without you!
A very special thank you to our grant-funders the National Lottery Community Fund, Longleigh Foundation, Stonewater and South Gloucestershire Council. And to our long-term partners and supporters CVS South Gloucestershire, SARI and Southern Brooks Community Partnerships.
I’m looking forward to the year ahead and to the years ahead… but first I want to look back to the journey that Derek and I first started talking about whilst downing pints of Hoegaarden in the Dragon in Kemptown in Brighton in 2003. A journey which started primarily to help me in my own self-employment, establishing an entity and structure which has itself gone on to become an employer… I was shocked when I realised our income would reach six figures, this then doubled and almost tripled… dare I imagine, one day, we reach seven figures… this is a journey very much to be continued and we are strong and resilient, and we will keep on and carry on!