DIveIN: Sparking the conversation in construction

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The DIveIN programme is an initiative aimed at promoting equity and inclusion within the built environment industry that is delivered by BE-ST, and funded by the Workplace Equality Fund by Scottish Government. 


The programme had already provided D&I training in partnership with Radiant and Brighter Community Interest Company to one of the largest construction and infrastructure companies in the UK, Balfour Beatty, in 2022 to instil an inclusive culture, with a particular focus on ethnic diversity. 


After the DIveIN training, two members of Balfour Beatty’s leadership – Naila Akram, Head of Social Impact and Carol Milligan, Finance Director – saw a large impact on those who participated. They reported seeing colleagues have conversations about diversity and inclusion after the training completed, observing more openness and effectiveness in their day-to-day work. The training was a “10-hour investment into making the job easier." 


The challenge 


This phase intended to trickle this culture down throughout the organisation and instil an open and inclusive mindset within everyone at Balfour Beatty, including leadership and the operatives delivering on site. 


However, Balfour Beatty is only one part of the puzzle. Although it is 26,000 employees strong, it is only one company in an industry that has 99,736 individual businesses registered in the UK as of 2023. There was a real opportunity for BE-ST to bring the programme to the wider industry. 


Bringing the conversation to construction 


People are at the heart of the diversity and inclusion conversation. Through our previous DIveIN work we found that bringing people together is the most effective way to gain trust, empathy and understanding of one and other and make a tangible impact.  


BE-ST also has a track record of delivering landmark events which have become widely industry recognised as go-to days in the construction calendar. Therefore, creating a go-to event around equality, diversity and inclusion alongside Radiant and Brighter, one which could even extend across sectors, was the natural next step for the DIveIN programme.  

Scotland’s diversity and inclusion conference 


The DIveIN conference was hosted at City of Glasgow College on 29th February 2024, hosted by Danielle Miller and Kirsty Duncan, Heads of Stakeholder Engagement at BE-ST, and in partnership with Radiant & Brighter. 

The conference brought together thought leaders in this space, including Ollie Folayan, Aisha Janki Akinola, and Radiant & Brighter co-founders Pheona Matovu and Micheal Matovu. 

They shared real life experiences, case studies and leadership examples and prompted thoughtful conversation throughout the day’s keynotes, panel session and workshops. 

50 delegates, many from separate organisations, came together to discuss meaningful and sustainable organisational change.  


Attendees left with practical and actionable changes that they can make to improve their organisation's ED&I plan, and many voiced an active desire to connect again in another year for the next DIveIN Conference. 

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We saw that the experience left a large impact on those who attended. 


When asked about her experience at the Conference, Eleonora Vanello, Prosper, said, “I really like hearing from the speakers, learning about their experience and that makes everything so real. It's not just the learning concepts, but it’s understanding experience. And I had also a really good conversation around the table with the other attendees.” 


Keynote speaker Aisha Janki Akinola, a co-founder of the Black Ed movement, said, “It's been such an inspiring experience being in a room with people from all these different spaces within the construction industry who are actively doing the hard work of listening and trying to understand what the problem is. 


“It was so empowering being able to listen to Doctor Ollie talk about the work he’s doing at AFBE but also to see that there is an organisation like BE-ST within the Scottish ecosystem that is actively championing the work around this and is putting on events like these where anyone, people like yourselves, people who are curious, people who are interested in learning more, can come to and leave feeling really, really empowered.” 


Wider outreach 


We coupled the conference with The Accelerate to Zero Podcast to dedicate a series focused on equality, diversity and inclusion within the built environment. This was hosted by Kirsty Duncan and Danielle Miller Heads of Stakeholder Engagement at BE-ST. 


These episodes saw conversations with a number of key players in the diversity and inclusion space, including Chair of Women in Property for Central Scotland Aurora Tallon, award-winning EG&I champion Martin Griffin, and Kier Group’s Digital Construction Manager Richard Gwilt.  


The series covered topics such as their personal stories, the need for systemic change, the pace of progress, inclusive hiring and much more. We also coupled the podcast with a BE Better series, putting a spotlight on these conversations in the podcast and pulling out key lessons to make the series as accessible as possible. 


The road to diversity 


One challenge facing the creation of a wholly diverse sector is that the businesses who might benefit the most from adopting an actively inclusive approach are also those who we might have the most challenges in terms of engagement.  


While we recognise the challenges people and organisations face with work demands, it is imperative that people view creating inclusive and diverse spaces as business critical. 


Studies have consistently shown that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones, bringing a breadth of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to problem-solving. Inclusive workplaces are not only more productive but also attract and retain top talent, enhancing overall organisational performance.  


Therefore, while we acknowledge the hurdles individuals face in juggling work demands, it is essential that we view the creation of inclusive and diverse spaces not as an additional burden, but as a strategic imperative with benefits for both individuals and businesses. 


The goal of DIveIN is to get people in the room and try to make real change happen. We wanted the first ever DIveIN Conference to be about more than just talk – and it was. It was about bringing people together, sparking conversations, and making sure everyone walks away with practical ways to make their workplaces more inclusive. It's not always easy, but we're determined to break through those barriers and we're hopeful that by accessing more support through the DIveIN programme, the participants felt equipped to make a difference. Danielle Miller
Achieving diversity requires the inclusion of those who have both learned and lived experience. This partnership was an opportunity to bring together construction industry experts BE-ST and Radiant and Brighter who are currently leading the way in understanding ethnic diversity within the Scottish ecosystem to share knowledge and current learning around the challenges and how to achieve systemic change. This conference also enabled seldom heard challenging conversations with a diverse audience in a safe and reflective learning environment. Pheona Matovu