Composing Inclusion – beyond tick boxes

ComposingAn analogy
I like equating the task of getting equalities/inclusion/access to work, when commissioning and then occupying a building (or an external environment), to composing and then conducting a piece of choral music with an orchestral accompaniment. Everyone needs to prepare, rehearse and then “play their part”. As with a major choral piece, not everyone sings or plays the same notation, but all need to be singing or playing parts drawn from the same overall “hymn sheet”.
In my own work, I have identified the principle range of project types (metaphorical choral pieces) that could form the basis of a particular project, and then identified the basic “notation” for the project type. I have also identified the range of potential players and the parts that they are most likely to play; coupled with parts we suggest each player should be aware of. Having done this, I have then indicated the selected project type and the resulting “notation” that advises the client, briefs the consultants and therefore invites feedback from the consultants and then instruction form the client, followed by each party undertaking the necessary action.

The Producer and Conductor
As far as the overall exercise is concerned, I see the primary Client Representative as being akin to the musical producer. They need to take informed decisions, based on the advice coming from those around them. The Facilities Manager is akin to the musical conductor, who is charged with organising the smooth running of the final result. Yes that’s right; this is because the facilities manager or their operations director are responsible for smooth of the environment when it is complete. They therefore need to anticipate the implications of the final “arrangement”, in order that they can achieve an appropriate result.

Arranger, Choral Expert and Lead Musicians
The Lead Consultant (Architect or Project Manager) is akin to the person who “arranges the choral piece” for the particular project in question, but is not necessarily fully familiar with all the nuances of the piece and will need to receive advice and foster a team effort in order to achieve the best result. The Access Consultant is akin to an expert in choral music who has collated the potential “notation” that informs this document and is available to advise the client and production team. Other Consultants are akin to lead players for each instrument within the orchestra. As such they need to be consulted by the Lead Consultant, in order that the “arrangement” takes full account of their expertise and “the playing out” of their particular part.

Printing and Publishing
The Contractor is akin to one who prints the arrangement of the piece. They should take great care to avoid “misprinting” the arrangement. The Graphic and Web Designers charged with publishing the information that accompanies the occupation of the project are akin to the recording studio. They need to enable clear and enjoyable communication.

Audience Participation
The users of the building are akin to the audience. The success of the exercise depends on their enjoyment and the extent to which the final result invites a wider “audience” than historically achieved. The client’s “Inclusion Duty-holder” (whether from Human Resources, Equalities, Customer Services or some other people orientated role) is akin to the production company’s community outreach worker and ought to be charged with enabling a wide audience interest, involvement and attendance. With this objective in mind the Inclusion Duty-holder needs to engage the communities that form the potential “audience”, to obtain feedback from key people by involving them whilst the wider project team explore potential themes within the emerging “arrangement”.
To take the above analogy further, some of the most enjoyable choral events are those where members of local communities are part of a production and where the audience have an opportunity to join in. In a similar way, some of the most rewarding and valuable projects for clients are those in which people (who will use the premises or environment) are engaged at an early stage.
Preparing the Musical Score
As part of the preparing for a project, there is a need to utilize a process that is equivalent to forming a musical score. I use a “Briefing Matrix” to advise each participant of what they need to focus on and what to be aware of when getting involved in the process. I also use what I call an “Inclusion Register” to record some bespoke observations made by the Access Consultant, track and obtain feedback from each of the project participants, stakeholder and to record decisions taken by the Client and identify actions taken by each party.

If you are interested in engaging stakeholders, then please contact Steve Maslin

The Inclusion Blog category compilation can be found here