Monday evening came around and I headed to Google HQ for a rather special assignment – to join 19 other people as mentors for The Great British Diversity Experiment.
If you’ve not yet heard of The GBDE, it’s an initiative that’s putting diversity into action and taking it beyond the debate. How? Well, that’s what we were there to find out. Read more about the Experiment and who’s behind it.
After meeting my fellow mentors and greeting some good friends who are part of this brilliant idea, the floodgates were opened and in came 120 people, all from different backgrounds and bringing different experiences along with them. And it was totally diverse – in terms of race, gender, sexuality and age. It was awe-inspiring to see.
And then came the brief.
It’s not a small, insignificant brief. No, it’s huge. It’s the kind of brief you hope to get to work on at least once in a career, because solved well it could have an effect on the entire UK population, and perhaps beyond. And I’m not using hyperbole, either.
The brief comes from BBH and Tesco, and is seeking to find solutions to food waste. See, I said it was big. If our diverse teams can find ways to change behaviour, changes that can reduce the 18 million tonnes of food that’s chucked out each year (almost ten million of those by consumers) then that will be great.
The main idea behind the experiment isn’t just to find good ideas. It’s too find new ideas, ones that are borne out of diverse teams, people who have new experiences to bring to the world of creativity, and those that wouldn’t normally be exposed to this kind of experience.
As a mentor, it’s exciting. I’m fairly sure it won’t be an advert that wins. And it probably won’t be a complete thing, either. I have a thought that the winning idea will be something that opens up a whole new tranche of thought for Tesco and BBH. It will be appealing because it’s open-ended and as big as the challenge it’s seeking to overcome.
And it will resonate with every community, regardless of demographic groupings around age, location, earnings, etc. It will be universal.
That’s the real point of this experiment. At least, that’s my takeout from being part of the experience.
One Other Thing
I only saw one person with a physical disability at the event. One. That chap was Sulaiman Khan of Kinectricity. As someone who spent many years working on web accessibility when no one wanted to hear about CSS and sceenreaders, it was slightly disappointing that diversity still had a long way to go, even as part of what is something very special.
This isn’t the fault of the organisers. It’s not, perhaps, the fault of the industry. It’s the fault of society.
Maybe we need to get another brief out there?
There are going to be more events from The GBDE team in the coming months. In Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh and elsewhere. Follow the Twitter feed, sign up for updates.
As someone who, for a time, had lost faith in the business I’d spent half my life working in, I found Monday evening an energising experience. And I can’t wait for the team I’m a co-mentor of to get cracking with some thinking.
Winners of The GBDE will be announced on 24 Feb, with the results of the experiment released as a report in April 2016. Watch this space.