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Delivering CHANGE means being small but mighty

Machel Bogues is the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Manager at the RTPI

I joined the RTPI in November 2020 in the near aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the resulting calls, and demonstrations, against racism and for social and racial justice encapsulated in Black Lives Matter.

I joined an organisation with a commitment to EDI that predates Floyd’s killing. Our vision “to be, and promote the planning profession to be, as diverse as the communities it represents, to act inclusively, treating everyone fairly and seeking to provide a culture which delivers the best outcomes for the diverse society in which and for whom we work” was ratified in 2018 and being followed shortly after by the commissioning of Brook Graham, a leading EDI consultancy to give us an EDI check-up that resulted in our CHANGE action plan.

Immediate RTPI President Dr Wei Yang signing an MoU with the Helen Fadipe MRTPI, founding member of BAME Planners Network

RTPI is a small organisation, with less than 100 employees but both our vision and our action plan sets us the necessary and ambitious of transforming the planning profession. Anyone who witnessed the incredible success of the Jamaican Sprinters at the 2012 London Olympics might recall the phrase, oft repeated as yet another medal was secured, “Wi likkle but wi Tallawah”, which essentially means we are small but we are strong; we can achieve anything. This is the mantra that informs our approach at RTPI.

To be clear the wi (or we) means not just colleagues and volunteers but also partner organisations, Women in Planning, BAME Planner Network and Neurodiversity in Planning whose support, enthusiasm will be vital if we are to affect CHANGE. In this context, two highlights of my time thus far are the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with BAME Planners Network in October 2021 and partnering with Women in Planning to deliver an event on International Women’s Day celebrating successful women in planning whilst keeping our eyes firmly focused on the need to keep working to break the bias. I am looking forward to working with both over the coming months and years on critical issues of representation in and entry into the profession.

“Wi likkle but wi Tallawah”, which essentially means we are small but we are strong; we can achieve anything.

In this same spirt of “wi likkle but wi tallawah” RTPI is now working on a new initiative that will encourage, enable, empower planning consultancies and other employers to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Through this initiative we are seeking to support the wider profession by providing a clear framework for employers to follow and demonstrate action, pointing to advice and support packages, and if necessary, access to expertise. By working in this way our aim is to put organisations in a strong position to achieve their own EDI objectives.

Whilst our immediate activities and support are for the planning profession, we recognise that our members not only engage with other built environment professionals but also work in a range of contexts so being “likkle but tallawah” means finding to ways to have influence beyond our membership.

On that front it is pleasing that we are a key founding partner of a group of professional membership bodies alongside Chartered Institute of Building, Institute of Civil Engineers, Landscape Institute, Royal Institute of British Architects and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors looking at ways together to create a consistent, coherent, and constructive approach to EDI for the wider built environment sector.

We have a vision of creating a diverse and inclusive profession and by embracing the mantra of wi likkle but wi tallawah and with the support of all our partners we can, slowly but surely, channelling the attitude and success of Jamaican athletes, realise that vision.

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