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Machel Bogues: Diversifying the profession

Machel Bogues is the RTPI's Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity Manager

It has now been just over three years since I joined the RTPI, as the first ever EDI manager for the Institute. I joined in the wake of the Institute having agreed a landmark 10-year CHANGE action plan to support  its vision for the planning sector:

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.

One third of the way through the action plan and with me no longer able to claim to be ‘new in post’, the time is right to review where we are, what we have learned and what that means for how go forward; after all the reality of delivery can often lay waste to even the best laid plans.

What we have done

The last three years has seen us undertake a range of activities that will help diversify the profession by encouraging young people to choose the profession, making the profession and sector a more attractive place to be by working with employers and industry partners and encouraging the creation of  more equitable work place cultures, implementing equitable recruitment practices and have robust and transparent EDI policies in place.   

This also includes two years worth of piloting an ‘EXPLORE’ work experience programme for 16-18 year olds, our collaboration with other professional membership bodies, engagement and support for member-led networks (BAME Planners Network, Neurodiversity in Planning, and Women in Planning) and the launch of our Inclusive Employer Framework. You can read more about these initiatives and more in our EDI hub.

What we have learnt

Delivering sustainable and meaningful CHANGE means making decisions by drawing from conclusions grounded in factual information and experiences. This should ensure a solid foundation for informed and effective choices that address the needs of our members and partners.

 We have recognised a number of key learnings to help shape the next phase of the programme:  

  1. Employers across the profession have very different levels of engagement with EDI.
  2. In the private sector recruitment can still rely on local or personal networks.
  3. Engaging with young people can “turn” them onto planning as a career.
  4. Improving the RTPI’s institutional capacity to engage with EDI more consistently is needed.
  5. The data that we have shows that around a quarter of enrolled students on planning courses are from UK Asian and Black Communities.

What we will do

As we continue to deliver CHANGE we will be building on this foundation and using that to determine and define interventions that will support employers to create and maintain inclusive environments and develop the RTPI’s capacity to engage with EDI across all our functions. To quote Rex Nettleford the former Vice Chancellor of University of the West Indies, we need to, "Increase our internal stretch to maximise our external reach."

Over the next 12 months headline areas of work include but are not limited to:

Internal Stretch

  • Launch of RTPI CHANGE Champions. A programme to develop an internal group of colleagues who will be trained and supported to “champion” EDI across the institute.
  • Improve diverse representation throughout the RTPI's governance structure (committees, panels etc).
  • Develop policy, guidance and training on delivering inclusive events.

External Reach

  • Develop and enhance our Inclusive Employer Framework with a particular emphasis on recruitment and inclusive workplace practices and professional development. This will subsume and replace our forerunner ‘learning partner’ scheme over the course of this year.
  • Develop our understanding of why there appears to be a gap between diversity in accredited courses and the profession.
  • With other professional membership bodies develop guidance and support organisations, individuals, and professionals working across the built environment to improve and maintain high EDI standards.

With the benefit of this real-world engagement now is the right time to restate our commitment and ambition to create an inclusive culture across the profession and the sector as a place where diversity is not only acknowledged but actively embraced and celebrated.

We recognise that this will be a long process; one of evolution not revolution, of CHANGE created through a series of value and principle driven small steps and continuous adaptation. Values and principles that will enable us to be both flexible and steadfast to help us as we go forward.

Values we can now express explicitly as: 

  • Collaborate
  • Holistic Approach
  • Attracting and retaining diverse talent
  • Needs and Evidence based
  • Good Governance
  • Educate & support members and employers
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