Happy New Year everyone! After a welcome rest and opportunity to recharge my batteries I am ready to go once again. There was reason for despair over the festive period as Liz Truss really tried her best to dampen my spirits with a bizarre equalities speech. Though parts of it have been deleted upon uploading to the Government website the general thrust was that systemic racism doesn’t exist in the UK. This, coupled to the realignment of Brexit to the ‘levelling up agenda, reminded me of this political cartoon:
Pitching the white working class against the black and brown population is an old trick. It is a diversionary tactic designed to divide and rule. Though racial equity is the focus of this illustration my reflection got me thinking more broadly. How often do our policies ignore or negatively impact our minoritised communities, whilst ironically simultaneously benefitting an even smaller minority of the population? The latest promised vehicle for delivering economic equity and tackling disparity is the ‘levelling up’ agenda. The challenge is that it is yet to be suitably defined. But I started wondering what if we hijacked the phrase and defined the term very clearly and precisely with our own interpretation? What if we collectively sought to popularise what levelling up could and should mean for us within the social policies of our companies and the actions of our local councils?
We have seen both parties struggle with tackling regeneration over the past 20 years. My personal feeling is that this is because we do not address the causes of hardship with a misplaced belief that a new town centre (often a grey one with plenty of steps and an overpriced collection of flats nearby) is the secret to resolving all ills. To truly level up we need to look at how we balance the inequality in our education system, the marginalisation of certain groups, issues of poverty, destitution and homelessness as well as delivering strong economic returns. The Centre for Social Justice and The Equality Trust have both produced compelling evidence that tackling poverty and boosting economic performance are not only compatible but actually necessary dual policies. I am committing to boost my knowledge of this agenda in the coming months and will endeavour to find a guest blogger from one of those organisations to share their opinions with us.
As we start the New Year, I thought I would be cheeky and ask two questions of you all. The first links to the theme of this blog and simply asks what does ‘levelling up’ mean to you? If this is the language our Government is using for a key political agenda that will impact on equity in the Britain we should all have an opinion on what it means. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The second is a wider question related to a new year and new goals and aspirations. From an equity and inclusion perspective what area of your knowledge or understanding are you looking to develop? Confidence is an important attribute for all allies and it provides the foundation that enables us to act and support others or lobby for equity when we feel it is absent. I have found that confidence can be grown from a single strong starting point. So for those of you who may not want to post I simply encourage you to pick one area, develop a plan of how you will improve your capability confidence and then monitor (and most importantly) celebrate your progress.
There is huge amount of opportunity for us in 2021 and after a good rest over the festive period #ImNotTired. Are you?