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BURA’s Regeneration Equality And Diversity Network Has Lift-Off

February 20, 2008

Today (20 February 2008) saw the formal launch of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA)’s Equality and Diversity Framework and Network. The event, at the Abbey Community Centre in Westminster, was attended by people from across the regeneration world, and produced much discussion about how BURA and its partners could move forward.

In my role as BURA Champion for Equality and Diversity I was lucky enough to join our President, Sir Jeremy Beecham, and other colleagues, in presenting and discussing initial ideas about this challenging issue. Your views too are welcome. To begin the debate, this is what I said:

BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework Launch
Wednesday 20 February 2008, Westminster, London

This event was set up, as Sir Jeremy explained, because of serious concerns which the BURA Board has about inclusivity in regeneration.
The evidence is before our eyes; the top of the profession is overwhelmingly populated by white men.
Regeneration fits the white male stereotype for leadership in Britain only too well; and the stereotype extends even to the BURA Board itself, where Directors are elected from amongst our hundreds of members.
Something has to be done. No-one disputes that, as regeneration practitioners, we must address inclusion; but few of us have articulated how this intention fits in with regeneration. And fewer still I suspect, are sure how to do it.
The BURA Board has therefore decided to invite your help and support as we move forward on this challenging issue.

What is inclusivity and why does it matter?
A look at the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission gives us a good feel for what an inclusive society might look like.
It would be a society in which people had safe and secure opportunities to enjoy a happy and healthy life.
In this society people of every sort would find themselves in positions of influence and leadership, and able to work towards a situation which in turn releases the potential of others.
This would be a society in which we, as regeneration practitioners, understood the impact of our work on all our fellow citizens, and then applied that knowledge across all our activities.
It would be a society in which, say, Asian women in Bury had as much opportunity to develop their interests and employment potential as white men in Cheltenham. It would be a society in which families in both these communities were equally likely to see their children born healthy and strong, with an equal expectation of a long and happy life.
In a nutshell, it would be a society which is stable and sustainable.
And if regeneration isn’t about achieving socio-economic stability and environmental sustainability, I don’t know what is.

Regeneration is more than the sum of its parts
I believe firmly that the task of today’s regeneration practitioners is to work themselves out of a job. We need to believe at a very deep level that ‘regeneration’ is not the same as ‘construction’, or ‘remediation’, or even as ‘planning’.
Critical though these callings are, real regeneration is much more than that.
After 30 years of regeneration in Britain, we should now be seeking very actively to reinvent ourselves as ‘sustainability practitioners’, as professionals who work to maintain an equitable, healthy and safe environment for everyone.
This reinvention of ourselves would require massive changes in the way we work, in our collaborations across disciplinary boundaries, and in our perceptions of how fellow citizens who are not exactly like ourselves experience their lives.
We can’t do that if we don’t understand how to achieve inclusivity, and why it matters.
But there is a very long way to go.

What is BURA doing about itself?
* Firstly, we have undertaken a thorough audit of our own organisation.
* We have looked at the gender and ethnicity of all members of staff and the Board, going back for three years, and for staff we have correlated this with salary bands. We shall report these findings to the Board when it next meets, and post a summary of this information at the appropriate time thereafter on our website.
* We will also decide as a Board, in consultation with, we hope, our new Chief Executive, how much more data it might or might not be appropriate to record about the Board and staff.
* And we shall consult too on whether and, if so, how we need to look at the ‘inclusion’ characteristics of all BURA members.
* We would hope at the same time to start research on these characteristics as they apply to the regeneration sector as a whole, and to see how this compares with the data for the British population overall.

What is BURA doing to support progress in regeneration overall?
* Importantly, we are not seeking to compete with anyone; we are offering a supportive network which encompasses the whole spectrum of interests – inclusive, not competitive, with the sole aim of moving this positive agenda forward.
* Also, we recognise that no-one as yet has all the answers; we are simply trying, with everyone else, to identify both the challenges and the opportunities.
* We are launching today a Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework, an ‘umbrella’ group welcoming people and organisations from every part of regeneration, ‘professional’ to ‘community’, to address a wide range of issues around equality and diversity.
This group will not seek to undertake work already done by others, but will help to link together the inclusion themes which regeneration good practice must address.

Some examples of what the BURA E&D Framework seeks to achieve
* We will support the exchange of information and views about what are the most immediate challenges for Equality and Diversity in regeneration in the UK.
* We will seek to collaborate with government at local and national level, and with research bodies already examining aspects of Equality and Diversity.
* We will develop the BURA website as a free open-access resource, available to all, hosting weblinks to legal and professional aspects of regeneration practice – including equality and legal audits – and enabling wider discussion between BURA members and partners.
* We will offer practical help and support to people from different communities who wish to become involved in regeneration – perhaps for instance by offering bursaries and work placements – in a collaboration between BURA and our members and corporate partners.
* But most of all, we will seek to work with all of you to make the BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework not just a talking shop, but a vibrant and positive reality.

In for the duration
This is however slow-burn. We’re asking the questions but we don’t as yet have many of the answers; everyone here today can help. The BURA Board are unanimous that we must work hard to make our Equality and Diversity Framework a reality, not just an ambition. We very much hope that you will want to be part of this reality.

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