This summer, I interned at one of the leading agencies in diversity and inclusion executive search and advisory and research, Inclusive Boards.
The first time I found about Inclusive Boards was through the Managing Director, Samuel Kasumu, last summer at one of their events.. The African Caribban Alumni Network (A-CAN) Leadership Summit, one of the flagship campaigns of the organisation. It was a day-long training on leadership with keynote speakers and panel discussions, and as a newly elected president of the African Caribbean Society (ACS) at Bangor University. I was invited along with other ACS presidents to take part in the training for free. The purpose of the training was to support us in leading the ACS society in the upcoming academic year. As an ACS president at the time, it was an incredible experience to network with other young black leaders and to receive valuable skills on leadership and event planning. It was also my first experience of an organisation working to cater to this demographic of ambitious young people. Soon after, I was invited to join a group chat made of the other presidents who attended the training. This proved to be a great channel to bounce ideas on how to best engage our members, with a variety of events to suit the diverse needs of our members. Over the summer, I collaborated with Inclusive Boards to host another one of their initiatives at my university, the Great Debate Tour (GDT). GDT is a national debate tour that takes place on UK university campuses every year during Black History Month. GDT engages ethnic minority student population on university campuses to discuss current topics. With a panel, the audience is encouraged to express their opinions on subjects in a way that very few other outlets permit. GDT has become the UK flagship Black History Month event, with its finale taking place in the House of Commons and attracts high profiles from the Black British community. I was recognised for my effort in organising the GDT at my university and I was awarded “Best Community Engagement”.
This collaboration increased my interest with the organisation and I enquired if there was an opportunity for me to intern after I graduate the following summer with a focus in organising GDT 2019. After attending another A-CAN event in March, the A-CAN Progress Summit, I was able to speak with Samuel directly about joining his organisation and help with GDT and I started on the 10th of June.
I moved to London to start my internship. The adjustment period was relatively short. Upon starting, I got introduced to the business of Inclusive Boards, its mission and its reach. I was really impressed by the amount of work the relatively small team was accomplishing. As a Research Assistant, I was to support in the student engagement department.
My first task was to organise the A-CAN Leadership Summit for this year’s crop of newly elected ACS leaders. As lead on this project, I got to change a few things, based on last years’ experience and feedback from my peers. Some of my changes included:
- The audience of the summit: we expanded the target of the summit to include other committee members as well as presidents, as the skills learned on the summit will further prepare them to effectively run their societies.
- The activities: In addition to the already inspiring keynote speakers and panel discussion, we added workshops to the summit. The workshops were to give them the space to learn some of the skills in a more interactive fashion. We had two workshops, one dedicated to them developing habits that drive productivity, and another one to improve their collaboration skills by giving them a crisis scenario where they need to work as a team and share tasks to overcome the problem at hand.
- The catering: Because the event gathered African – Caribbean young leaders to acknowledge and celebrate their potential to become world leaders in their decided sectors while keeping their identity, my colleague Norma and I advocated for an African – Caribbean caterer to be used for lunch. The idea was to appreciate African – Caribbean food in a corporate setting. It was a challenge but we successfully delivered, with the restaurant AGOGO, to the delight of the delegates and the speakers who attended.
- The career options: The summit was also an opportunity to reaffirm to the leaders that no career choice should be looked at with less respect. We put the emphasis on unconventional success stories. Some of the panellists were not corporate seniors or straight A’s students, but they had inspiring life stories and had made great accomplishment that should be celebrated.
- Delegate pack: Norma designed a delegate pack that included a list of tips to help them. The pack contained ways of securing a sponsorship, CV templates, a quiz to find the style of leadership they practice and a few mental health helplines and safeguarding guidelines to help their members if in need.
The summit turned out to be a huge success. We had over 80 delegates representing over 30 ACS from all over England, Wales and Scotland. And the feedback from the delegates was extremely positive, with 95.6% of them rating the event Good or Very Good.
From that first contact with the society leaders, I was able to start implementing the cluster system for the organisation of the Great Debate Tour 2019. The cluster system was designed so that universities near each other (ranging from 5 to 15) could collaborate to host a Great Debate Tour stop at one university where they will converge to attend. This is to increase the turn-out of each stop, with the minimum attendance set at 250 people per stop. Coordinating the ACS presidents was a lot of fun, they had a lot of questions that I took pride in being able to solve. They wanted to know what GDT was, how it is set up, what the target audience is, and mainly, how they can get involved. In assigning them into their clusters, they all understood the logic behind it and were very collaborative. I enjoyed each of my interactions with the presidents, whether it was when I was headhunting them to add them to the ACS Nationwide presidents group chat, or when they will ask me questions about A-CAN related activities.
Over my internship, I got involved in a few activities. I helped in the “Women in Charity Leadership Conference” at the Institute of Directors, which left a positive impression of how significant Inclusive Boards is, looking at the guests list and the rate of attendance.
I will be heading for a Masters in Psychology over the next year, and I am keen to start this next chapter of my journey. I thank Inclusive Boards for the opportunity I was given to develop my skills and I look forward to engaging with A-CAN again in the future.