ARC Project profile: EQUAL-Futures

EQUAL-Futures aims to help institutions and organisations to have a more gender inclusive environment. We chat with the founder, Roberta Guerrina from the University of Bristol, to find out more.

This project profile is part of the Aspect Research Commercialisation (ARC) Accelerator, Class of 2021. ARC (formerly SUCCESS) is now on to it’s second cohort of university-based ventures seeking to change the world through their innovative, creative and disruptive ideas.

Q: What’s your academic background and how did it lead to starting your venture?

I’m the director of the Gender Research Centre at the University of Bristol and a political scientist and policy analyst by training. EQUAL-Futures stems from my research looking at equality and diversity policies and approaches in national and international organisations.  What I’m really interested in is helping large companies and organisations to embed equality and diversity within their working practices in order to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

Q: What does your venture aim to achieve and how does it tackle the issue?

EQUAL-Futures is both a programme and a framework. It adapts and updates the “gender mainstreaming” approach which was launched and developed quite a significant traction following the Beijing UN Women conference in 1995. This approach revolves around one key principle: gender equality issues are not best addressed in siloed areas. What this means is that  in order to address inequalities we can’t just look at gender equality policies but it’s cross sectional and  affects all areas of policy. Therefore in order to have equity we need to start to consider the unintended, or potentially intended, gendered and racialised consequences of key decisions across all areas of work and business. 

“For example, the pandemic and lockdown measures led to increased levels of domestic abuse and that’s because the assumption was made that the home is a place of safety. That’s a very gendered reading of the social environment and safety.”

Roberta Guerrina, EQUAL-Futures

I have come across quite a lot of equality and inclusion training, which is now very trendy. Sadly, much of this is substandard. “Thin” approaches to equality and inclusion are not just limited in scope, they can also do harm. So, I want to develop a programme of work that promotes a more nuanced and deeper approach to equality and inclusion. And that’s what prompted me to join the ARC programme.

Q: How is the ARC Accelerator program supporting you in bringing your venture to life?

The program is helping me have a better thought out approach, a clear strategy for the social venture and a clearly defined set of partners who are prepared to go on this journey. It’s also helping me to develop a programme that would allow companies and organisations who are keen to embark on this on this journey to do so with well defined tools that allow them to understand the nature of the problem that they have in terms of equality and inclusion but also concrete measures that they can embed within their everyday practices.

The conversations in the ARC program are probably my favourite part. Meeting a very different group of people and, as a whole, the programme has really pushed me outside my comfort zone. It has forced me to think outside the box in terms of my own discipline and the kind of work that I do. What I really value about the programme itself is to think about why we do this research, which is to actually make the world a little bit better.

Photo credit: Magda Ehlers via Pexels

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