Inclusion Not Isolation – Mid Covid19 2020 Lockdown

Back in late February, I started to write something around Inclusive Growth before the Covid19 pandemic and response to the crisis took over our lives.

It was my attempt to merge a number of strands of work – around Equity and Inclusion, around the sustainable development goals, and important initiatives happening locally in Bradford and Leeds – that seemed to me to have a common thread, but weren’t quite fusing at the time… but a few short months later it seems almost zeitgeist!

I share them now as I think we have reached a moment when a choice seems possible: that could transform the way we live, work and play together.

We all need Inclusion and Diversity


It is a basic human need – to be included, to belong, and to feel that our contribution is valued. Without diversity of contribution, variety of opinions and voices, we exist in our own echo chambers – which is in itself isolating.

It is my honour to be CEO of Leeds Community Foundation and Give Bradford. We are the largest independent funder in Yorkshire, one of the top 100 grant makers nationally, and we work hard to provide opportunities for all: brokering relationships between businesses, individuals, public sector and the community sector.

We fund – and resource in other ways – community initiatives that tackle local issues and empower local people, convening partners, and providing ‘honest brokerage’ if needed. The community perspective is increasingly gaining recognition around local decision-making tables, at the forefront of civil strategy and shaping local society.

Public and private sector colleagues locally are increasingly acknowledging communities as crucial in co-designing and co-implementing local investments. A focus on the state of the sector shared summary findings in March was well received and noticed.
This is most welcome: communities know their localities best, and help everyone think about diversity, equity and inclusion.

Sometimes it can feel ‘too difficult’, to include others. And sometimes we think diversity is for ‘others’ and not us. But if the inclusion of others into our world brings us resilience and strength, opening our eyes to others’ points of view, and ultimately nourishing and fertilising our society’s growth, it is worth every effort imaginable.

Conversely: when people are not included, society starts to unravel.

Not only do social costs ratchet up as unhappy isolated people tend to be angry, unwell or unable to work… but even more importantly, we collectively squander people’s potential. Their many and varied contributions get lost – absorbed into ill health, inactivity and low self-esteem.

For this reason, I’m proud and shouting about being an ambassador for Inclusive Growth with Leeds City Council, and the Diversity Champion on the Board of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership. I’m also hugely excited that we are engaging with an important national intiative around  Equity and inclusion, and also the UN sustainable development goals – Sustainable Development Goal 10 explicitly talks about inclusion for all.

Important initiatives such as these and strategic developments aim to include all our communities, to find ways to reach out and deeply into our communities and encourage their confidence, and voice and aspiration to participate. These are worthwhile ways to develop our local aspiration of opportunity for all.

Ultimately, aspiration only becomes a reality when there is true equity of engagement in this work and resources are invested to ensure that equity is real. That equity ensures that community voices are really heard, and are recognised as equal partners, key contributors and shapers of the conversation that needs to be had right now: about what we need to do together to ensure our cities, communities and people flourish.

Banner Image and Blog Image sourced here.