Establishing Inclusion Champions
Historic England recruited Inclusion Champions from across the organisation in 2021. They continue to receive regular training and support from the Inclusion Team.
What are Inclusion Champions?
Inclusion Champions are members of staff who have committed to helping embed positive changes within our work and workplace. They do this by developing initiatives to ensure our work is as inclusive as possible and that our environments are welcoming for everyone.
Inclusion Champions will:
- Be a visible local contact, working to increase understanding around diversity and inclusion
- Be part of a professional network of like-minded people, sharing learnings with other Inclusion Champions and our Staff Networks
- Participate in Inclusion Champion meetings
- Play an active part in communications regarding inclusion, diversity and equality initiatives
- Help to develop and organise events
- Identify areas in their work (and in the work of their teams) where further inclusion and diversity initiatives could be undertaken
- Make sure that the activities of groups and teams are as inclusive as possible
- Prompt colleagues to think and do things differently to effect meaningful change
The Inclusion Team at Historic England
The Inclusion Team at Historic England is small for a large organisation. When we started to work on our Inclusion Diversity and Equality strategy, it was essential that it was seen as an organisation-wide responsibility.
Historic England’s Inclusion Team established a cohort of Inclusion Champions to help deliver our ambitions for Inclusion and Diversity. In total, the recruitment process took six months.
The opportunity to become an Inclusion Champion was advertised through our internal communications update, as well as through the message boards and meetings of established Staff Networks. To benefit from the widest range of voices and diversity of thought possible, the Inclusion Team sought to build an Inclusion Champion cohort representative of a variety of pay bands, departments, geographical locations, expertise and contract types.
The Inclusion Team monitored the initial interest from teams, offices and major projects across the organisation. They then sought out potential Inclusion Champions from underrepresented areas, gaining the cooperation of group directors and department heads to promote the opportunity. Leaders also nominated individuals who they felt would benefit from - and bring their experience to - the Inclusion Champions cohort.
People interested in becoming an Inclusion Champion were invited to send an expression of interest to the Inclusion Team. This helped the team achieve balance from across the organisation, manage the numbers for the cohort, and understand the unique skillset individuals could bring to the programme.
The Inclusion Team held many one-to-one conversations over the phone. They also fielded queries by email about what the role of Inclusion Champion would entail. The Inclusion Team recognised that as this was the first time the Inclusion Champion programme was being rolled out, to some extent the roles would evolve organically. However, it was identified that training to bring everyone to the same baseline would be the starting point, and that regular meetings and a communal space to network online would be key parts of being an Inclusion Champion.
Welcome Briefing sessions
The next step was to bring everyone together at several Inclusion Champion ‘Welcome Briefing’ sessions in March 2023.
Attendees were told in advance:
Be ready to introduce yourself, tell everyone why you’re interested in becoming an Inclusion Champion, and say what you think a Champion does. There will be opportunities to ask questions throughout the session. We hope you will leave the Welcome Briefing feeling connected and inspired.
Following the Welcome Briefings, we matched everyone up with one or two other Champions to create a buddy (or 'critical friend') system. We surveyed everyone to find out what Inclusion, Diversity and Equality (IDE) subjects they were most and least confident in, and matched people up to contrast knowledge levels.
We also set up an online discussion space using Microsoft Teams, starting with a chat but then adding a Teams site for the sharing of documents, information about meetings, and conversation threads that were useful and appropriate to retain.
The Microsoft Teams chat proved popular, but some people were less able to engage with it than others. We began to put together a newsletter that summarised the key themes from the chat, as some people still preferred to receive save-for-later information in their inboxes, and so the series of newsletters were saved to the Microsoft Teams site and also emailed to the Inclusion Champions.
Both the Microsoft Teams site and chat function have provided the Inclusion Team with spaces to get answers and opinions from across the organisation, on a range of subjects. They have also been a source of volunteers for professional development opportunities, such as the chance to train as Project Assurance Officers on the new Everyday Heritage Grants.
We identified an external training company specialising in IDE training and collaborated with them on designing a training series for all Inclusion Champions, in order to bring everyone to the same starting point. We knew that the cohort were at different points with their familiarity of IDE, and we wanted the training to recognise and reflect this. We discussed this with the Inclusion Champions and encouraged peer support between those with varying amounts of experience.
The training provider sent slides, training notes, a reading list, and further support resources to the Inclusion Team, to be shared with the Inclusion Champions and added to the Microsoft Teams site.
A challenge with the 'IDE basics' training was the all-too-common issue of scheduling times when everyone was available. We encouraged catching up through the buddy system and online discussion spaces for those who were unable to attend.
After basic training, the Inclusion Champions were given priority registration to the inclusion training that was available to the whole organisation.
Since the first Welcome Briefing sessions, and throughout the Inclusion Champions' and the organisation-wide Inclusion training, the Champions and the Inclusion Team have met monthly to discuss training feedback, and how they each have been able to be active as Inclusion Champions.
Inclusion Champions have made an impact across the organisation. Some examples of this include:
- The creation of a system for tracking the inclusivity of content produced across Content and Marketing, particularly the range of voices and perspectives highlighted.
- Centering inclusion and diversity in the design and objectives of new and emerging strategies.
- Influencing accessibility design in our office spaces through clearer signage, contrast strips on the stairs, repositioning of the doorbell to a wheelchair accessible height, and making period products available in all toilets.
- Leading and facilitating training sessions for teams to share learnings from external training.
- Establishing working groups with colleagues across teams, exploring how inclusion and diversity can be built into existing
- We need to develop and share the plans for the Inclusion Champions from the beginning of their journey, so it’s clear how they will be able to be active in their roles and measure impact.
- We are beginning to gather case studies from Inclusion Champions who can give evidence of applying their training learnings to their professional life, so that everyone can model and learn from their experiences and hopefully empower more Champions to recognise what they are doing as furthering inclusion, or recognise and take up opportunities to further inclusion and help us to achieve the actions on our strategy.