What we can do next after Firestarters’ ‘Building Back Equal’
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What we can do next after Firestarters’ ‘Building Back Equal’

For our first Firestarters event, we wanted to create a space to spark real change in the Liverpool City Region, and approach rebuilding in a more inclusive way following COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. Follow us as we discuss our findings from the event and what we can all learn from ‘Building Back Equal’.

What is Firestarters and why did we start it? 

Firestarters is a values-driven networking community focusing on sharing the voices of diverse speakers, exciting live events and relevant content. Firestarters first came about in response to the lack of authentic networking events that brought value to attendees, and set out to create an engaged community of purpose-driven ethical leaders, entrepreneurs and inspired change-makers, who all share the same goal: to actively make a difference to the Liverpool City Region.

What makes Firestarters so relevant now? 

Following COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Government’s Race Report for this year, it’s more important than ever to build communities like Firestarters and work towards achieving inclusive growth. But, what is it that makes Firestarters and ‘Building Back Equal’ so relevant at the moment?

In an article for The Guardian entitled “No 10’s race report widely condemned as ‘divisive’”, Director of British Future, Sunder Katwala, said: 

Black and Asian Britons in our society today face less prejudice than their parents or grandparents, they may well fare better than those in many other countries. But such comparisons make little difference to the lives of ethnic minority Britons in 2021.

Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future. 

This highlights one of the key short fallings from the Government’s Race Report which is the thinking that just because some progress has been made, that enough progress has been made. While it’s important that change has happened, it’s hardly reassuring when there’s still so much that needs to be done.

Firestarters ‘Building Back Equal’ event

‘Building Back Equal’ was the first public event for Firestarters, which brought together the Liverpool City Region’s community of change-makers to tackle the question of “How can the Liverpool City Region’s business community come together to champion diversity and build back equal?”. ‘Building Back Equal’ gathered together 40 of the region’s most influential stakeholders, all of whom had the same goal: the desire and capability to help the Liverpool City Region become the change that it wants to see.

During the event we heard from an incredible panel of diverse speakers including; Emeka Onuora (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority), Chelsea Slater (Innovate Her), Natalie Denny (The Anthony Walker Foundation & Skywriters) and Francesca Manca (Underwing) who helped to open up the conversation of how the region can approach fair recovery and start on its journey to creating positive change.

Emeka Onuora also gave a keynote speech that highlighted the reasons why more action is needed in the Liverpool City Region to create a plan to approach building back equally. He shared a study from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority which showed that black people in the Liverpool City Region are:

  • Twice as likely to be born into child poverty
  • Paid £1.10 an hour less than employees
  • Paid 10% less after graduating
  • 3 times more likely to be stopped and searched
  • Twice as likely not to own their own home 

It’s statistics like this that prove that there is still so much more to be done, which is why communities like Firestarters are so important to create the space to have necessary conversations.

What we discovered from Firestarters ‘Building Back Equal’ 

Not only were there key points highlighted during Emy’s speech, but there were also plenty of points that came from our panel discussions, including: 

  • The inequalities that exist in having access to advice, resources and funding as a black business owner
  • A need for measurable change that can be sustained
  • The importance of language when speaking about diversity, inclusion and equality
  • The issues that can come from focusing on competition rather than community
  • The need for unconscious bias training at the top of all organisations 

Some of the challenges we’ve found for black business include not having access to the same advice, support or funding, and not being able to grow and develop.

Emeka Onuora, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 

What’s next for Firestarters? 

Firestarters is just beginning and there’s so much more yet to come from its community. Following ‘Building Back Equal’ we’ll be speaking to our community about how we can go about actively making a difference and putting the key findings from our first event into practice. Based on what we’ve learnt from ‘Building Back Equal’, we’ve also set specific short, medium and long term goals that we set out to achieve.

1. Activists (short-term)

Challenge: Amplifying diverse voices in the LCR

Response: We’re going to run a social media campaign amplifying the voices of diverse stakeholders, helping to educate the region on the challenges they face and their experiences. The campaign will last six weeks and will focus on 10 Liverpool City Region stakeholders from diverse backgrounds. A blend of different content will be distributed across Matchstick Creative channels to provide some insights into the experiences of diverse stakeholders in the Liverpool City Region. 

  • Board level 
  • Employer Level 
  • Employee level 
  • Third sector 
  • Public sector

2. Business (medium-term)

Challenge: Change needs to be positive but also measurable

Response: We’re going to set a number of internal SMART objectives around equality and diversity. This will include introducing quotas for our speakers at Firestarters events and tracking the number of diverse businesses we support through Torchlight Talks. We will publish our SMART objectives and provide updates on our progress to encourage more open discussion around these challenges.

3. Community (long-term)

Challenge: Diverse business owners aren’t locked in the business networks they need to be for support and advice that will enable them to grow

Response: The expansion of ‘Building Back Equal’ to include three more events in 2021. The events will focus on building networks for diverse leaders in priority sectors and industries including hospitality and culture, health and well-being, and employment and skills. 

We’ll be sharing more information about our findings as well as announcing some exciting things over on Twitter so make sure to follow @heyfirestarters to join in the conversation. If you missed your chance to get involved in our first Firestarters event then don’t worry, you can watch the full ‘Building Back Equal’ event over on YouTube.