“When your focus is social change and not financial change, why wouldn’t you want to share that openly? Innovation only succeeds when it’s shared.”
I love that quote from architect Cameron Sinclair. There is no doubt that our members understand the competitive advantage of creating inclusive workplace cultures. We see that again and again as the disabled employee network leaders work in partnership with their Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) leads across the UK and globally: working together to build a more meaningful dialogue about how we get in, and then flourish, at work – and for organisation gain.
But the thing that really strikes us at PurpleSpace is the capacity that network leaders have to innovate across networks - their desire to collaborate and create new solutions to age-old problems – and to a higher, more social, purpose.
Whether that is about working hand in glove with their disability champion, whether it’s about encouraging people to share their story of difference to normalise the experience in the context or work – or whether its about working tirelessly to improve the workplace adjustment process. They are forever coming up with fresh ways to promote change – and then passing it on to others. The process of sharing can often smooth the rough edges to ideas. It can also create bigger, bolder ideas and facilitate a step-change in both the recruitment and retention of disabled employees. They work to a social purpose, as well as commercial advantage.
As we move into our second year at PurpleSpace we have been making an appearance at many sector specific and regional events – our role is to create the space required to enable network leaders to innovate and think the thoughts that haven’t yet been thought – or squished away amongst the hurley burely of competing D&I priorities. It was at one of these events that I overhead one of our members from a large investment bank talking to a network leader in a small local authority. She said “we are not that different if you strip away the obvious – we are both trying to create our own ‘mini-movements’ to support enough people impacted by disability and ill health to stay in work, to build their inner confidence and then create a tipping point to support change from the inside out.”
It sums up who we are at PurpleSpace and what we do. And we will be doing more.
There have been a number of highlights for me over the last few months. On 7th March we convened network leaders who were awarded the Equal Approach / PurpleSpace Bursary
, together with some of their mentors from Shell and KPMG. Building the capacity & reach of networks in Whitehall is an important part of the change strategy for Disability Champion, Philip Rutnam, Home Office and Janet Hill, Civil Service Disability Inclusion Team, Cabinet Office. At this exchange meeting we heard about the exceptional contributions that network leaders are making across government departments and agencies.
Many of them are supporting their own people to share their story of difference to help normalise the experience – and to profile the amazing purple talent in the civil service. There is much focus on blogging, and role-modelling and we are sure that the bursary holders and all the great network leaders that comprise the Civil Service Disability Network will be part of building the purple narrative across the UK. Read Ben Merrick’s (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) story here.
And of course using ‘role-modelling’ techniques are not for everyone or every organisation and most of us learn to build resilience by absorbing the stories and journey’s of many people. Keep tuned into our events programme for further details about how you build #PurpleTalk
in an organisation. And don’t forget to use our Purple Stories guide
to support your own people share their story of disability to build #ourdisabilityconfidence
Another highlight was joining the conference organised by the university umbrella network, The National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NADSN) on 17th March in Edinburgh. NADSN is an informal network of individuals and organisations working in the tertiary education sector (universities & colleges). And like other umbrella networks in the public sector they have no funding to bring their members together, find it hard to network with other sectors and often lack the backing of senior disability champions.
Though there is no shortage of innovation. On 3rd April Professor Nicki Martin, Head of Research at London South Bank University published a stimulus paper “Encouraging disabled leaders in higher education: recognising hidden talent”
to explore the experiences of disabled leaders in UK Universities. Drawing from some of the results in Secrets and Big News
she carefully examines the experience of disabled leaders working in the tertiary sector. Of her conclusions she cites the momentum and role of PurpleSpace in bringing network leaders together across sectors, and the role of networking.
In response to the needs of different organisations we are launching a new range of membership packages to enable network leaders in public sector organisations tap into our professional development leadership hub – check out our new membership packages to get signed up. We look forward to continuing to support the work of NADSN and welcoming their members too
On 2nd May I am back to Edinburgh, this time to speak at Purple Foundations event, kindly hosted by our members at RBS. We will bring new and emerging network leaders together to learn about the growth of networks and how to shape their purpose and operating principles.
We are particularly pleased to have John Brady, co-chair of the Enable network to join us and tell us of their work and their role in supporting the business to take a ‘whole organisation’ approach to cultural change. And we have Bela Gor from Business Disability Forum
join us too.
Then I am on to Leeds. On 19th May I am addressing the NHS Employers Disability Summit. NHS Employers represent NHS Trusts’ in England on workforce matters. I will be talking about the importance of disabled staff networks and resource groups – and encouraging the internal change agents in NHS Trusts to learn directly from their own colleagues. As ever Paul Deemer, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, NHS Employers, and his colleagues continue to promote the need for imaginative & innovative change in the NHS and we look forward to hearing more about the outcomes from the NHS Employers Workforce Task and Finish Advisory Group that will support and shape the introduction of the Workplace Disability Equality Standard.
And before we pause from our mini “roadshow” in the summer, I will join PurpleSpace members at KPMG in Birmingham on 8th June as they launch “MidlandsAbility” – a new employer network to promote Disability Confidence within the Midlands region.
I just can’t help myself when it comes to promoting the role and value of employee networks in building confidence from the inside out!
In addition I will get to spend time with our wonderful networks leaders at KPMG – Mark Russell and Liz Jessop, as well as Richard Day. The KPMG disability network ‘Workability’ continues to build its capacity – and of course KPMG network leaders helped to conceive the #PurpleTalk
campaign along with partners at Fujitsu and Shaw Trust.
And finally, as I close, I just wanted to welcome our I would like to welcome our latest PurpleSpace members from: GSK, Shaw Trust, Shell, Thomson Reuters, EY, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. We look forward to supporting your continued innovation to support disabled people into work, and to flourish.