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Machel Bogues: Building a more inclusive future

Machel Bogues is the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Manage at the RTPI.

25 May was the anniversary of the death of George Floyd. The RTPI hosted the Chartered Institute of Building, Landscape Institute, Institution of Civil Engineers, Royal Institute of Architects, and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors at our refurbished Botolph Lane office to review progress that has been made on the MoU and Action plan that we signed in the Spring and Summer of 2002.  

While this event was not planned to coincide with this anniversary, there was a quiet symmetry. Mr Floyd’s tragic death and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed precipitated unprecedented levels of introspection, reflection and commitment to tackle inequity. Nothing exemplifies this more than the explosion in EDI roles across the country. The built environment was no exception. The RTPI started on that journey in February 2020, but the summer of introspection meant for the first time there was a cohort of EDI leads and specialists in professional membership bodies for the built environment. We are all working to make our various professions and the sector more inclusive for our members.  

What quickly emerged was although there was/is some unique challenges facing our members and professions, there are some critical areas where our work would overlap so in April 2022 we signed a MoU followed up in July with a 42-action plan that committed us to working together on:  

  • Data Collection
  • Fixing the leaking pipe between education to employment 
  • Improving EDI confidence and behaviours 

Inclusive cultures are built on solid foundations and with sound evidence-based decisions. Both require good quality data that allows us to identify challenges and develop targeted interventions. For membership bodies, this starts with having a clear understanding of our membership and being able to understand our membership in relationship to other professional bodies and the sector as whole. A consistent, collective approach to data collection will allow us to do this. Perhaps not surprisingly, this was a priority action in the action plan. Working together, we have agreed to collect data on race and ethnicity, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, and religion.     

RTPI members will start to see these questions towards the end of the year our primary goal to increase response rates for our members. Currently, nearly twice as many members have chosen not to declare (or perhaps avoided the question) than have declared their race and ethnicity. Less than 300 members have identified as disabled. When you consider that 17% of the UK population is disabled, this does suggest that whatever reason a significant number of members have chosen not to share this information with us. To help build comfort with sharing data with we will the questions will be accompanied by detailed information on the approach we have taken and how we will use the data and most importantly how our members can control their data. 

A successful and thriving progression needs to have a consistent diverse pipeline of talent. In addition to the work the RTPI is leading through the EXPLORE work experience project for young people, we will be working with our MoU partners to build our understanding of what blockages there might be in the pipeline for graduates from accredited courses successfully moving into employment and future Membership.  

In 2020-2021 some 28% of UK domiciled students were from Asian, Black and minority communities when compared to our membership data of just under 10% this suggests that something is not quite right. Our MoU partners face a similarly puzzling and troubling picture. The reason, or more likely reasons, for this are not immediately clear, but by working together we are hoping to identify what the issues are and develop appropriate and targeted interventions.  

This new initiative should provide a real opportunity to develop and share relevant CPD training, resources and guidance; and explore opportunities for cross profession action learning sets. 

We will shortly be sending a survey to employers to learn more about their experiences hiring diverse candidates through their graduate recruitment schemes or direct from Higher Education institutions. This will survey will be followed up by some workshops and complimented by data we get from Higher Education Statistics Authority on retention rates, post-graduation employment and awarding rates across the built environment disciplines. We expect to update on what we have learnt in December. 

The final element of the MoU centres on how we can support our members to be confident on EDI both in terms of how they might run their business but also how they might deliver their services. For the former, the RTPI already offers the Inclusive Framework benchmark through which we work with and support employers to build inclusive cultures within planning. For the latter, the RTPI will work with its MoU partners to both promote and support all our members to engage with the soon to be released RIBA Inclusive Design Overlay for the architectural Plan of Work Stages and how that interlinks with the other elements of the planning, design and construction processes. This new initiative should provide a real opportunity to develop and share relevant CPD training, resources and guidance; and explore opportunities for cross profession action learning sets.  

We have covered a lot of ground since we signed the action plan last year, but the anniversary of George Floyd’s death is a timely reminder that there is still a long way to go.  

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