Having encouraged the sector to pledge their commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion with the Talk into Action movement, CEO Bridget Whyte now reflects on the experience of looking inward and evaluating Music Mark’s own operations and environment through the lens of EDI.
Following the research Sam Stimpson did for Music Mark in 2021, we felt that her call to move from talking about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) to taking action was crucial. Later that year, we launched Talk into Action. This movement encouraged our membership and the wider music education sector to pledge their commitment to taking action around EDI – whether through implementing projects or programmes, looking at who was engaging with them, or indeed who was leading and teaching them. We have observed a shift in mindset across our network and are hearing of some really innovative and exciting examples of what has been done.
But what about that great phrase ‘physician heal thyself’? Music Mark aims to support individuals and organisations, connect them into the wider sector, and influence on their behalf and we have done that as part of our Talk into Action campaign. However, it was important that we didn’t just encourage everyone else without looking at our own actions too.
Hopefully those who have been connected to Music Mark for a number of years will already have seen some of the changes we have made to be more inclusive and diverse. Examples include the topics and presenters involved in our programme of events, but we were aware that we should be looking at every element of our operations.
To do that, we turned to Music Masters and their I’M IN process for help. Labelled as ‘A Diversity tool created by and for the music sector,’ the I’M IN process provides a structured way for organisations to ‘evaluate how, where and why diversity and inclusion is considered within their strategy, structure, practices and policies and – crucially – to identify where improvement and change is needed’.
As a small staff team, we worked our way through the ‘tool’ together with one of our consultants – Gary Griffiths – and our ED&I Lead on the Board, Yogesh Dattani. There are 10 topics to explore, and I had thought that we would probably get through two or three in each 90 minute session. How wrong was I? Each topic asked a series of questions, and our discussions were so valuable we struggled to complete just one topic in the time we had booked. In the end, finding time to get everyone together to talk through each topic took us around nine months. I am pleased to say, however, that the outcome of the discussions has had a deep impact on Music Mark.
We recognised we needed to review many policies and processes with a diversity and inclusion lens, and we realised that there were aspects of our work we hadn’t considered, such as our approach to procurement, partly because of the size of the staff team up to that point. Often, we felt that we were beginning to instinctively change our approach, having learnt from leading the Talk into Action campaign or working with consultants such as Sam and Carmel Cardona, but had not formally recognized it as change or adopted that change universally.
A key moment for me in the process was when we talked about recruitment. The discussion was taking place just as we were about to advertise a role and we were able to work collectively to change how we approached both the job advert and the information we asked potential candidates to provide. We’ve gone further to consider accessibility to the complete recruitment process since then, but that initial discussion was a pivotal moment of change in helping us to be more diverse and inclusive as an employer.
Since completing I’M IN, we’ve had a meeting with the guide from Music Masters and identified two specific areas of our work to focus on initially. These focusses are ‘Organisational Culture’ and ‘User Experience’ – meaning we’re looking at our ‘collective values, expectations and practices’ as an organization and considering how ‘stakeholder experiences’ are accessible, engaging and welcoming.
As Sam Stimpson said to me once, ED&I isn’t something that you can do and tick off the list as ‘done’; it’s a journey without a destination. Music Mark is still learning and still has much to do, but we are certainly further along on that journey than we were before. I’m confident that this progress will continue as we intentionally transform our discussions into impactful, positive, and meaningful actions, ensuring that the changes we champion in the sector become a reality within Music Mark too.