As one of very few LGBT+ leaders of a professional organisation, Dan Cook takes equality, diversity and inclusion seriously. In this blog, he speaks about the Institute’s EDI journey to date, and our next steps on this important path.

    Image from Fira's 40 Years of Place-Making anniversary book. © Fira/Soda

    28 September to 4 October is National Inclusion Week.

    As one of very few LGBT+ leaders of a professional or membership organisation, I take equality, diversity and inclusion seriously. I’ve always enjoyed working within diverse teams and cultures, and there is a wealth of research demonstrating the value that diversity brings to organisations.

    I’ve worked in a range of organisations that have strived for a more inclusive workplace, and have learnt a great deal about the positive steps companies can take.

    2020: a pivotal year

    The Black Lives Matter demonstrations this year were a pivotal moment for society. Following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on 25 May, as many as 26 million people in the United States alone participated in protests against police racism and brutality. The largest civil movement in US history became a global rallying cry. Millions more took to the streets, often in defiance of COVID-19 quarantine rules, in solidarity.

    I was the first person on either side of my extended family to complete higher education. I’ve always been thankful to my parents for this. But growing up in a mostly white community in Australia afforded me the opportunity to do so. This year has taught me the need to acknowledge and reflect on my privilege, and the fact that not everybody shares it.

    It’s also taught me to question the systems that many of us take for granted: the rules, requirements, processes and cultures that govern our lives. How starkly do these benefit only one group?

    I ask each of you reading this to reflect on your own upbringing and experiences. Consider  how much harder it might have been for you to find and take the opportunities you have taken if you were subject to systemic racism and injustice.

    I also encourage you to ask these questions of us, of your employer, your educator, and our governments and institutions. Start those conversations about what needs to change.

    We have. I thank those members from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds who have come forward to share their experiences with the leaders in our profession. It’s uncomfortable listening. But it’s helping to make change. It’s going to be a hard journey ahead of us, but an important one.

    Looking forward

    When I arrived at the LI four years ago, it was clear that equality, diversity and inclusion hadn’t been a high enough priority. I am proud that our team has started working towards a better future for our organisation.

    • We’ve established a Diversity and Inclusion forum and working group.
    • We’ve conducted research to understand the current make-up of the profession.
    • We’ve ensured the LI has diverse panels and speakers at all its events, and turned down engagements that don’t feature diverse speakers.
    • I’ve personally spoken and written publicly and widely about the need to attract, retain and progress different groups within the landscape profession.
    • We’ve supported events and awards that honour the contribution of leading female members of the profession.
    • We supported the first ever LI Black History Month event, in partnership with the University of East London, in 2019.
    • We’ve held our first ever events for LGBT+ members and worked with the Design Council, CIEEM and the Institute of Place Management (IPM) to create Rainbow Places, a dedicated network for these practitioners.
    • We’ve actively encouraged diversity through our recruitment and elections, as a result seeing improved diversity on our Board of Trustees, Advisory Council, and our employee team.

    Is all of this enough? No.

    Next steps

    We’ve already committed to new action to continue to drive real change. Our current President, Jane Findlay, has made equality, diversity and inclusion a priority item for her tenure, and it’s great to be working with her on new initiatives:

    • We’re embedding equality, community engagement and inclusive environments as core topics in the new LI competency framework.
    • We’re implementing better training for our volunteers and team members.
    • We’re engaging employers on the topic of diversity and supporting the creation of new landscape apprenticeships.
    • We’re working to deliver a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, with a focus on addressing racism and injustice.
    • We’re creating a new network for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic practitioners.
    • We’re continuing to use our platforms, events and digital channels to champion diverse voices and perspectives.

    What can you do?

    Get involved with the LI’s equality, diversity and inclusion work. Email us at diversity@landscapeinstitute.org to find out more. Tell us your ideas, share examples of great diversity and inclusion work and initiatives, and let us know if you want to write for the Landscape Institute blog.

    Ask your employer what steps they are taking towards equality in your workplace. Encourage them to do more, and better.

    Engage, recruit and support more diverse voices across everything you do.

    Join us at our annual Jellicoe lecture on 13 October, Diversifying a Profession: An Opportunity for Change. This online event takes the form of a Question Time-style, expert-led panel, and is free to attend for all.

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