“Good Times”

On Thursday (25th February) after a very busy day at work, I attended The Great British Diversity Experiment (or GBDE — #diversityexperiment) GBDE Winners Announcement event with my good friend Peter (whom I work on the Muscle Owl with) at DigitasLBi UK’s HQ in London. Unfortunately, none of my team or my mentors could make it, but I decided to represent regardless and just have fun.

To my surprise, my team won the joint 3RD Place Prize! HURRAH. Though sadly there was no ramp to the stage for me to collect my prize on behalf of my team. It proves there’s still a long way to go and why it’s vital for people who happen to have a disability to be a part of the creative diversity debate, but this is just the beginning.

It was an amazing start to help build an increase of diversity (women, BAMEs, and people with disabilities) in the creative industries. Now let me just share my frank and full experience of the Experiment.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole Experiment, and I wish it could’ve continued longer, but here are my thoughts (in no particular order):
 + Team / Mentors — I had quite an excellent group and two good mentors (Caroline Pay, Deputy ECD at BBH London and Ash Amrite, Managing Director — Strategy at CORD Worldwide). However, I feel we all were a bit reluctant to challenge ourselves entirely during the experiment since we did not know each other. I would have liked if we pushed ourselves and our thinking further (to forget our baggage altogether and not let it get in the way) so we could have had a higher standard of ideas, but this is my fault for not speaking up with my group and sharing my thoughts more. Something I have learnt to do more of for next time.

Logistics — I wanted to meet up a lot more with my group, but being physically disabled it is often difficult to get around easily as I would like. I was unable to meet my group during the middle of our sessions due to prior creative and work commitments, but I was able to participate at the beginning and with the end presentation a lot. This challenge is where technology can help; this is a critical issue that needs to be looked at if we are to include people with disabilities in the creative diversity debate and seeking to change the culture within the industry.

Thoughts on being a lone wolf in a sea of dragons — Being someone from a Southeast Asian upbringing who has lived all over the world and who happens to have Muscular Dystrophy, it was a unique experience and for the first time was surrounded by like-minded, diverse people who understood who I am. It allowed me to start to push myself. The were times I felt quite isolated and useless during the Experiment, but that’s when I would focus on the positives and work even harder. People who happen to have a disability often are forgotten when it comes to increasing diversity in the creative industries; which highlighted in The Drum’s Diversity Census I discovered through their fantastic opinion piece on a British Muslim woman working in Advertising and The IPA’s recent “MakeTheLeap” initiative. I often feel that I’m a lone wolf in a sea of dragons too. I have never seen anyone like me in the creative industries and it’s scary to be amongst such amazing people, but most people that I’ve met are not dragons and have always genuinely been very kind to me including The GBDE team. I just push my boundaries regardless and always aim to proactively get involved in everything I am able, as I want to be a part of our community. I will not be out of sight and out of mind. I wish to have the same opportunity to be a part of the “wonderful world of communication.” We (as people who happen to have a disability) can be just as creative as anyone else and have unique insights into society; and we are capable of delivering innovative and original output, only if we had the right support and some empathy. Empathy does not mean sympathy or an easy ride up, rather being understanding of needs and providing assistance to accomplish our shared goals.

+ Winners announcement event — I had a fantastic time attending the event, but I still find it funny that there was no ramp for me to collect my prize on behalf of my team. It was also not the most accessible venue, and Jonathan (one of the founders of the GBDE) had to sign off on my life and be the responsible person to take care of me in case there was a fire or something. Often the case. My argument is if I want to take the risk of being in a fire I should have that right to decide that for myself like everyone else, and if the building electrics, etc. are all okay (and I they have emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers) the risk should be very low. Also, after the event, I was chatting to Nadya (another founder of the GBDE) and with my new contact Richard Robinson. Richard was stating that the winners’ announcement event was good but as a “middle-aged white man,” he did not feel “uncomfortable” in the sense that there was nothing to make him feel he needed to change the culture to increase diversity in our industry per say. I could not agree more, and I believe the thing that was missing was a “call to action.” The GBDE team and we as a community must look into in greater detail, as well as highlight this at the GBDE report and findings launch event in April.

+ The future — As I said, this is the first step (that made real headway) in building greater diversity within the creative industries. One way this is happening is by GBDE making all the winners founding members of the organisation, which is something I hope to support actively. Everyone who made the experiment happen is so awesome, and I am going to make sure I help keep the positive momentum going as much as I can. Concrete changes are tangible and insight, if we all use our creativity and collaboration to make it happen.

All in all, what an incredible adventure this has been and I cannot wait to work with The GBDE team more in the future.

Thank you so much to the entire The GBDE Team for inviting me to take part and for all your support too!


N.B.: If you’re interested, I was wearing my D&AD “Create, Agitate, Educate” badge I got last year from D&AD Judging Week 2015, and one of my bow ties (the Big Spur — handcrafted with real, rooster and pheasant feathers) from Brackish Bow Ties. See photo below:

Listening to “Good Times” by Ella Eyre

Originally published at blog.kinectricity.co on March 21, 2016.

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