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SDF Award Winner 2021: University of Bristol – Elevate

A cross-institutional leadership development programme for individuals who identify as female from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds has been heralded an unmitigated success and is this year’s joint winner of the Staff Development Forum’s Developing Excellent Practice Awards.

Initiated by the University of Bristol, the universities of Cardiff, Bath and Exeter worked together to commission an innovative pilot, which was led by Yvonne Field and a highly experienced facilitation team.  This creative programme sought to acknowledge and celebrate the history, culture and diverse lived experience of academic and professional service staff across the 4 institutions.  It aimed to encourage participants to reflect, explore and grow through connecting and building solidarity together and to centre the lived experiences and development needs of women.

Over just 7 months, throughout the height of the pandemic, the online programme offered an engaging and bespoke combination of interactive online webinars and resources, Action Learning Groups and cross-institutional Mentoring.  Additionally, participants were buddied up and worked on a personal development project of their own choice, that would support their career development and have impact in their organisation.

Feedback and immediate outcomes have been significant.  In July 2021, 10 out of the 30 participants applied for new roles with 6 being successful.  Three people reported working more strategically in their roles and working with senior leads whilst a further people have introduced new projects into their institution.

Evaluation feedback demonstrates impact on self-esteem, confidence to challenge existing beliefs and barriers and the development of networks.  “It has given me the confidence to go for jobs I previously wouldn’t have had the confidence and self-belief to go for”.

Overall experience is described as “empowering, challenging, enriching, uplifting”.

Longer term impact is key to the programme and how the institutional learning is being listened to and enacted.  Examples of this include participants meeting with the Deputy Vice Chancellor and providing guidance on what needs to change; becoming actively in local staff groups for People of Colour and participating in the Race Equality Action Plan and initiatives such as Reciprocal mentoring.

An alumni network has been set up and some participants will be involved as mentors or Action Learning Facilitators for the next Elevate cohort, which will now include a fifth University: UWE.

None of this could have happened without the commitment and close working of all the institutions.  They continue to actively partner with their alumnae and existing participants on the programme and are committed to continually listening, learning and to support active structural and cultural change for inclusive environments that embrace all people of colour.

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