By: Sara Shinton, Katie Nicoll Baines & Cheryl Hewer

We’re looking forward to joining you for the UKRI’s FLF Annual Conference in a few weeks and hope that many of you will opt to attend our session on Embedding Diversity in Inclusive Research and Innovation Design. The aim of the session is to explore what inclusive research is and understand what you need to inform the development of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)/FLFDN Roundtable on Thursday 25th November and ensure that you have the right support to fully engage.

Inclusive Research and Innovation Design is at the heart of UKRI’s vision, which sets out an ambition for a research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit. For this to happen, we need to create inclusive and safe environments where the quality and integrity of research and innovation is not compromised. Research benefits from involving people from outside the research community in a process of shared learning and discovery. This may happen in a variety of ways – co-production, collaboration or participant and public involvement. But the evidence[1] is overwhelming in that a diversity of people, ideas and knowledge enables a healthier culture, which in turn can result in research and innovation that has the widest benefit. When research and innovation is truly reflective of the diversity of the population as a whole, the credibility and relevance of that research and innovation is enhanced for all.

Some of you will already be familiar that this is part of a global movement particularly noting the introduction of Gender Equality Statement that forms part of applications for International Development Funding. (Whatever your level of familiarity, you might find the Gender Sensitive Research toolkit from Gender.Ed, an interdisciplinary hub focused on gender and sexuality studies, useful).

Additionally, teams focus on different aspects, including across UKRI where we are starting to pilot and embed diversity in research and innovation for example, through including equality questions in the application process for Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and other large programmes. However, we want to explore embedding diversity in all aspects of research and innovation and what this means at each stage, right from the early concept of ideas to who is able to participate, and who benefits (see diagram below).To embed EDI principles, all aspects of research and innovation must be inclusive. From its concept and planning, to the design of the questions, value and participation of people, to fundamentally thinking about the data, literature and methods. We would encourage early thinking – is it inclusive? Does it consider who may be impacted? Will it be representative of all parts of society or am I limiting who can participate and benefit? This also extends to considering the composition of the research team – is it diverse and does it represent the people in which should benefit from its impacts? Would you know how to start a conversation or how to navigate potential biases? These questions may at first be quite daunting or for some disciplines, feel irrelevant altogether. However, this is not about being proscriptive, we want to work with the FLF+ community as a key co-design partner in this work to ensure this feels relevant and generative.

Building on the work internationally through the Gender Equality Statements, there is a need to continuously build practical tools and experiment with this in practice. We have created an opportunity to explore and discuss how we can better support you and embed inclusive research and innovation design, as well as understand what this means to you and your work. We are therefore inviting you as our future leaders, to help shape this next phase of work and help conceptualise and shape what good inclusive design might look like.

We hope that you will want to learn more about Embedding Diversity in Inclusive Research and Innovation Design, particularly if you have never considered this in your own work and aren’t sure how it relates to you. To help as many FLFs as possible be fully involved in this process, we’re putting in place a short, flexible programme of webinars and drop-in sessions in the few next month to help you come to the roundtable with an understanding of the concepts and how they are applied.

Following the session at the UKRI FLF Annual Conference there will a drop-in coffee morning on October 28th at 10am. This will be an informal chance to learn more about UKRI’s plans and what’s ahead.

In November, we’ll be sharing a short series of webinars with researchers and innovations from a range of fields, talking about their inclusive design approaches and their impacts.

On November 25th from 10am – 1pm we’ll be running the Roundtable where you can help UKRI understand the support you will need and the contributions you can make to this process.

After the Roundtable, we expect some of you to want to continue your conversations and will support you in setting up a network to keep these going. We will also encourage you to think about using the Plus Funds to develop these ideas.

This partnership illustrates the distinctive approach of the FLFDN. In addition to the mentoring, training, coaching and individual support the network offers, we are working with partners in the research and innovation community to create opportunities for FLFs to shape our sector. The conversations with Cheryl and her team at UKRI are part of a wider set of discussions which are going to generate similar opportunities. If there are any opportunities you would like the network to explore and broker (with funders, industry, policy or other partners), just let Bridget know by emailing hello@flfdevnet.com

[1] Why diversity helps to produce stronger research (nature.com)

A brief introduction to Critical Race Theory by Dr Udeni Salmon of the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network.

“I want to speak about a dangerous trend in race relations that has come far too close to home in my life, which is the promotion of critical race theory… I want to be absolutely clear that the Government stand unequivocally against critical race theory… We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt. Let me be clear that any school that teaches those elements of critical race theory as fact, or that promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

Kemi Badenoch, Equalities Minister, House of Commons debate, 20 Oct 2020

Critical Race Theory has been denounced by Kemi Badenoch and Donald Trump as an inaccurate portrayal of history, promoting blackness as victimhood, and making white people feel bad. Badenoch’s criminalisation of teaching Critical Race Theory above was immediately condemned by UK academics and teachers. But what is Critical Race Theory? The concept originated in Black Feminist studies in the 1970s and was further developed by the legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw who argued that racism is not simply a matter of individuals being unpleasant to each other, or of acts of violence between groups, but is systematic, historical and structural. Critical Race Theory (or CRT) argues that the historical legacy of empire, slavery and segregation are deeply embedded in our systems of housing, education, justice and policing systems and public health.

So why has this CRT attracted such hostility? One conclusion derived from CRT is that telling individual stories of success in the face of adversity becomes less important than understanding the narrative of subordinated racial groups. This means that Badenoch’s story (which is that her personal success as a politician means that structural racism cannot exist) becomes less important than understanding why there are so few non-white politicians in the UK overall. Another conclusion is that white people, whatever their personal views on racism, automatically benefit from white privilege. For example, Ísis Aparecida Conceição has argued that “reverse racism”, the concept that white people can be the victims of racism, would be considered impossible from the standpoint of CRT: her point is that while white people can be the subject of nationalism (such as Polish groups who live in the UK), they also benefit from white privilege, which are the social and financial benefits and courtesies which accrue from being a member of the dominant race.

So what are the benefits of teaching CRT in schools and universities? The first is that it empowers us to understand that, given the prevalence of racism in our schools, workplaces, and wider society, we will absorb racist messages from birth. Unpicking racism in ourselves and around us is a lifelong task. A Black woman I recently interviewed described how an understanding of CRT helped her navigate the racism she faced as a student:

“When I get stopped by the security guard and asked for my ID, again, I can be confident in speaking to them, saying that not everyone gets treated like this. These ideas (CRT) are helpful in understanding why I got stopped, and not being afraid. These ideas are so important in understanding the world.”

While there will be some social scientists who focus on race, I would argue that theories of race are relevant to research leaders, whatever their field. Theories of race, including CRT, are a powerful mechanism for non-white people to understand the history and politics behind our lived experiences of racism. For white people, CRT is an entry point to understanding the issues faced by their non-white friends, family and colleagues. Understanding CRT helps white research leaders to become better, more informed managers of racially diverse teams.

For more reading on Critical Race Theory, try the following links:

udeniI am very excited to join the FLF network in a dual capacity: firstly as board member with a shared responsibility for oversight and governance, and secondly as lead for EDI where I can share my EDI expertise, maintain an EDI focus when project planning and connect the project with EDI experts and social justice networks.

Race and gender within organisations is the current focus of my research. My work has has moved some way since my mixed methods PhD, awarded in 2017 and which examined innovation in family firms. My subsequent research interests apply race and gender theory to issues of social justice, including modern slavery in family firms and precarious labour during the COVID-19 crisis. I am currently working on an EPSRC-funded project investigating barriers to inclusion in STEM research careers at the University of Lincoln. I was a member of the feminist anti-racist collective Building the Anti-Racist Classroom from 2017-2019, which proved to be a crucible for my work and views on activism in academia. I continue to be actively involved in feminist, anti-racist organising.

As a post-doctoral academic, I have worked collaboratively to develop inclusive teaching and learning techniques for UG, PG and Executive Education programmes. Working together with colleagues, students and the wider community, I have contributed to justice initiatives at many academic institutions through initiatives such as the Race Equality Charter, student-led decolonisation work and organising with minoritised staff and students.

Prior to my academic career, I was a senior manager at large, global organisations such as IBM, Deloitte Consulting and Leonard Cheshire Disability. My mixture of public, private, and voluntary sector experience, in addition to my academic career, gives me a unique perspective. On a good day, I relish the a wealth of experience I can bring to the sector. On a bad day, I get imposter syndrome!

I hope to bring issues of justice, equality and accountability to the forefront of FLF planning. As future research leaders, you have the power to change research for the better: to create jobs for those who have been systematically excluded from academia, to destabilise racist, gendered, homophobic and anti-disabled knowledge production, to listen and learn from Black, indigenous and minoritised scholars who have long been critiquing existing power structures. I look forward to a shared journey together in which we will generate a cross-generational shift in thinking and working in the field of academic research. In a time of pandemic, mental health crises, the mainstreaming of far-right thought, and a closing down of borders, your research and actions can be a force for good in the world. I look forward to getting to know you.