Disruptive Futures

The young people who are changing the face of the future of work and entrepreneurship

The brilliant new report Disruptive Futures starts with a snippet from a round table in 2019 from Shaun Danquah, Head of Community Engagement at TSIP and Founder of Centric.

“The creative and digital industries are the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy. Why aren’t there enough 16-24 BAME young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in these industries?”

My hunch is that this question came from a roundtable that we hosted at Somerset House in Autumn of that year, where we discussed themes and recommendations from a newly published research piece, Building the Future of the creative workforce of the future report.

If memory serves correctly, it was at this roundtable where discussion touched on why diverse groups were not represented within the sector – with conversation around a talent deficit. Having run umpteen campaigns, pathway courses and job initiatives that platform young talent into the sector, I know first-hand that talent shortage is not the problem, rather a major issue lies in the wider systemic unravelling that occurs with employers, who far too often place value and merit on qualification, educational attainment, or other like-minded culture fit criteria. Whilst I am not opposed to first-class degrees, nor to direct experience, the sector has a particularly woeful record of recognising and assessing the requisite competencies that job roles actually require and far too often default to perpetuating the status quo.

In this report, Shaun responds by rightly requesting to ‘stop asking why there aren’t “enough” young people from BAME backgrounds in the creative and digital industries’, as if these young people suffer from some kind of deficit or dysfunction that prevent their participation. Instead, (he posits) let’s reframe this discussion and ask more fruitful questions:

  • How can we better understand the competencies and cultural equity that young people have?
  • How can we build relationships and connections with young people who demonstrate these skills?
  • How can better understand how to appeal to these young people, to harness the skills and the attitudes they already have – especially given the potential pull and the perceived lucrativeness of alternative, illicit activities? Do traditional working practices need to be adapted to what these young people bring? Are we trying to push circles into square pegs?
  • What can corporate creative and digital industries offer to young BAME people, in return for their insights and innovation?’

In the months that followed our roundtable, Shaun and the TSIP team together with colleagues from Make Shift Create and A New Direction met to discuss this market failure and through which we (A New Direction) agreed to provide resources towards part funding the report.

This report aims to contribute to how the sector can shift its mindset to a place where we actively recognise, engage and build authentic and lasting relationships with the amazing talent that lives on our doorstep. We live in such an age of shift and uncertainty (queue disruption), that it is particularly timely for this report to champion the characteristics of disruptors: Cross-cultural dexterity, Cultural Integrity, Agile Disruptor Networks, Being Limitless. So fresh, clear and on the mark.

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, we are starting to come to terms with the effects and unknowns of digital transformation and the huge exponential growth of jobs roles yet to be envisioned. We are clearly yet to solve the massively entrenched inequities around us, but this report goes some way to highlighting a different approach.

I am really pleased to share this report on behalf of A New Direction, and look forward to continued partnership working with TSIP, Centric and Make Shift Create.

Oliver Benjamin

Director of Employment and Skills at A New Direction