5 MINUTES WITH JESSICA GREGSON
Jessica Gregson is partner at management consultancy, Subsector, and founder of the anti-racism initiative ‘Open to everyone. Closed to racism.’ Gregson talks to Communicate about the campaign origins and how it can be used to help businesses make an impactful internal and external change.
The Open to everyone. Closed to racism initiative was founded by Jessica Gregson in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. The platform is aimed at businesses worried about doing the right thing in terms of diversity and inclusion. It helps by providing resources for brands to take a visual stand against racism and provides practical advice for employees.
What sparked the idea for Open to everyone. Closed to racism?
I started Open to everyone. Closed to racism because I wanted to do something that I hoped would have some long-lasting impact after so many anti-racism protests had happened around the world in 2020. A lot of the businesses I spoke to had an interest in showing solidarity outside of social media posts, but they weren’t sure where to start and the smaller ones didn’t have the budget, especially in Covid, or resource to create their own campaigns or inclusion programmes. I thought that if we packaged something up, instead of being unsure and doing nothing, we could get more people to do something.
Why is it important for organisations to take a clear visual stand against racism in their branding?
The campaign branding helps organisations to attract the attention of customers and staff and clearly communicates their standpoint. We hope the brand will become an instantly recognisable symbol as the initiative grows. It’s worth noting that this is one of three benefits of joining. These are campaign materials for your business, free education resources on anti-racism and inclusion, and your business provides a donation to grassroots organisations that are taking a hands-on approach to supporting the careers and businesses of people from underrepresented and marginalised groups.
How important were partnerships in the creation of the initiative?
Essential. Most important is the invaluable input from people with lived experience of racism, expertise in inclusion and those running the initiatives that we’ll fundraise for. They’re making sure we amplify the right voices, support the right causes and provide the best resources to businesses. The partners that we fundraise for will always be crucial. We have launched with ‘Create Not Hate’. Create Not Hate is an initiative to get under-represented young people into the creative industries by helping unlock their creative potential to tackle social issues that they live with every day. Our plan is to support ‘Mentor Black Business’ as a second beneficiary as the initiative grows. MBB provides free expert business mentoring for black entrepreneurs in the UK.
Partners such as Adnams, Halo, Tenfold and Creature & Co have all provided crucial support, from funding to design, content creation and logistics support. Utopia provided all of the research for the educational resources and are planning to develop some new training options for small business too.
How can leadership teams use the platform to implement change internally?
We’ve already had people in larger organisations tell us they are using Open to everyone. Closed to racism as a springboard for wider anti-racism and inclusion programmes in their organisations, which is great. Sometimes organisations need an external prompt to help them galvanise action.
A very simple start point is to read and distribute the welcome pack resource and encourage their teams to take time to read, watch and listen to the various content pieces. Going further they could facilitate structured discussions around this so their teams have to chance to voice their views on the opportunity for change in behaviours, systems or support structures.
If an organisation wants external help in implementing change, they can talk to Utopia who can point them to public or private workshops and tailored programmes. Leadership teams may decide that the organisation should get involved in one of the initiatives or fundraise independently for them, in which case we’d be happy to put them in touch.