Black Lives Matter – ICO Equality, Diversity and Inclusion action plan

Following the events of summer 2020, specifically the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests worldwide, we have been developing an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion action plan. To do so, we invited ideas from all ICO staff and explored them further in an internal working group, with feedback from external critical friends (to read more about our process, click here). We have now refined our plan, a summarised version of which appears below.  

A living document, this plan will evolve with the ICO, the wider sector and the world at large. Like the ICO, it is fully open to comment and critique, and we warmly welcome feedback of any kind from anyone who has it (click here to email us). 

The discussions in our working group and with our critical friends have been challenging, energising and inspiring. We began with aspirations of creating an anti-racism action plan. We now understand that our plan as it stands describes a shift towards greater equality, rather than active anti-racism; however, this remains our ultimate goal. A truly inclusive sector benefits everyone and all artistic projects, and we are excited to work creatively, thoughtfully and responsively in helping to realise it.   

We want to ensure we are challenging under-representation within all our work and that we are offering everyone the care and support they need. Our plan primarily addresses Black Lives Matter and the need to address the racism and inequality experienced by Black people who are either already working in the sector or trying to enter it, as we recognise that Black people are disproportionately affected by racial violence, injustice and lack of opportunity. However, we take an intersectional view of matters relating to equality and inclusion and understand an individual’s multiple social and political identities (race, class, gender, disability, sexuality, religion and others) overlap to influence their experiences of racism. We will keep all viewpoints in mind as we work towards change.  

Defining our terms 

We recognise that communities and individuals have specific experiences, including specific experiences of racism. Because of this, we aim to use specific terms in appropriate contexts and not to conflate people or groups who may experience discrimination differently. However, where solidarity and shared solutions exist, it makes sense to organise collectively; whilst also acknowledging that within all defined groups, individuals have different experiences as a result of other factors such as gender, class and ethnicity. Subsequently, the term ‘Black, Asian and ethnically diverse’ is here used to describe people who are racial and ethnic minorities in the UK (though part of a global majority) and underrepresented in the UK film industry.  

We are a small organisation, and opportunities to join our staff are rare. However, as set out below, we will strive to interrogate and change our recruitment policies to ensure they offer equal opportunity to all. In addition, we know that Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people are currently more likely to be working in the film industry as freelancers. Subsequently, we have included plans for how we can work better and more collaboratively with freelancers as well as partner organisations.  

Please note: the plan below is a summary. Some initial actions (an audit of the staff and Board, the appointment of an independent HR advisor) have been taken already. The ICO’s Anti-Racism Working Group will continue to meet regularly and this plan and its progress will be updated in May and October each year. If you would like more information on any point or to feedback, please email us. 

ICO Equality, Diversity and Inclusion action plan

Organisation

  • By 2030, increase the diversity of people employed by the ICO and appointed to our Board of Trustees through future recruitment so that they more accurately reflect the ethnic diversity of the UK population (based on 2021 UK census information).  

Current staff and Board

  • Publish on our website a full anonymous audit of our current staff and Board (completed Nov 2020).
  • Recruit an independent HR advisor for staff support (completed Nov 2020).
  • Provide unconscious bias training and follow-up support to staff and Board (scheduled May 2021).
  • Supported by an independent HR advisor, undertake a comprehensive review of ICO staff support structures, including our annual and quarterly staff reviews (completed March 2021).
  • Be transparent about ICO staff pay scale and options for regrading jobs (completed Feb 2021).
  • Highlight our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion plan in new staff inductions and to freelancers we work with.
  • Establish a staff mentoring scheme to support professional development.
  • Undertake an honest and thorough assessment of ICO staff feedback processes and how we can make space for new ideas to be heard and carefully considered.
  • Explore a partnership with Inc Arts UK to offer mental health support to employees who experience racism.
  • Explore ways to make ICO organisational culture more welcoming and supportive for all; including considering models such as reverse mentoring and bystander training and committing resources for an annual away day to discuss ICO organisational culture and strategy to aid the inclusion of all staff.
  • Commit to carrying out exit interviews with best practice advice from an independent HR advisor (began February 2021).

ICO recruitment, working with freelancers

  • Supported by an independent HR advisor, re-assess all aspects of ICO recruitment including our job descriptions and recruitment packs; the workload required of applicants and awareness of available ICO support; where we advertise; and how to offer greater clarity on ICO recruitment processes (completed March 2021).
  • Include information on ICO staff payscale and options for regrading jobs in recruitment packs (completed March 2021).
  • Independent HR advisor to advise on shortlisting of applications (completed March 2021).
  • Commit to recruiting more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse freelancers to work on ICO projects, offering them free desk space for the duration of the project(s).
  • Complete evaluations or formal debriefs with all freelancers we work with.
  • Continue to pay all freelancers promptly (ongoing). 

Communications 

  • Seek funding to research and commission resources for the ICO website advising cinemas on how to approach anti-racism from relevant individuals or organisations.  
  • Audit our website language to ensure it is welcoming and accessible to all. (by October 2021)  
  • Develop our overall website, social media and blog strategy to better highlight the anti-racism work of others. 
  • Research and commit to a regular social media takeover to amplify the viewpoints of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people on all topics.  
  • Encourage the submission of new blog proposals and continue to directly commission ICO blogs from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people on all topics.  
  • Commit more staff resources to direct outreach for event recruitment and film marketing to broaden the people and groups we reach. 

Influencing

  • Hold ICO-wide conversation about our organisational ‘voice’, whose voices we currently centre in our ideas, work and events, and how this should evolve. Secure funding to work with an external consultant to gather opinions from external partners and wider industry colleagues. (by October 2021) 
  • Lobby for exhibition employment data to be collected and made public. 

Activities

Distribution 

  • Commit to including at least 30% work from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse filmmakers (especially films with Black writers, directors or producers in their creative team) in all our tour packages. (by April 2021) 
  • Commit to partnering with more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse freelance curators on touring projects (seek funding to provide access to key older films made by Black creative teams to facilitate bookings in UK cinemas).  
  • Investigate the possibility of funding and partners for new Britain on Film heritage programmes focusing on the history of anti-racist activism in the UK.

Programming

  • Draw up a charter for our programming clients outlining our ambitions for programming with relation to race. To be discussed with distributors. (by October 2021) 
  • Agree a bespoke, measured commitment from each ICO programming client to show more films made by and about Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people. (by March 2022)
  • Use the above as leverage to persuade distributors to acquire more films made by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people for theatrical release and work with distributors to provide our venues with better marketing resources when they do.
  • Commit staff time to creating a resource sharing information about UK rights and materials availability for films made by Black creatives.
  • Commit staff time to researching our programming selections and how they currently relate to race.

Training

  • Commit funds to an independent evaluation of the ICO’s FEDS scheme to date to ensure an improved experience for future trainees (undertaken by an external consultant or ex-FEDS themselves). 
  • Invite FEDS alumni group to help co-create the next edition of the training scheme. (first meeting to be held in April 2021) 
  • Commit funds to developing and formalising the aspects of the FEDS scheme that provide ad hoc advice/coaching to employees of the organisations who take on trainees, about how to offer a more inclusive and welcoming workplace for all. 
  • Invite more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse speakers onto our courses and champion their work, as well as actively seeking to widen this pool of experts, including from outside film.  
  • Raise funds to employ an external evaluator/collaborator to identify and address aspects of institutional whiteness present across our training portfolio, in our application processes, courses and evaluation methods.
  • Seek funding to further expand our audience development training, looking at how we can move these conversations outside the training environment into people’s working practices across the sector. 

Screening Days

  • Undertake a comprehensive review of current Screening Days format and marketing and adaptations we can make to encourage more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse attendees and new discussions. (by October 2021) 
  • Commit to showing at Screening Days events at least 30% (currently around 20%) of films from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse creative teams which may include showing more feature films that are not within the current new release schedule or shorts packages. (formally began in November 2020)
  • Commit staff time needed for promotion and marketing work to attract a higher number of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse attendees.
  • Research and evaluate how I.D. (Inclusion & Diversity) Screening Days could work in the future, maintaining it as a valuable space for community, discussion and debate but inviting more fundamental collaboration with Black, Asian and ethnically diverse partners earlier in planning.
  • Consider the potential for further Screening Days collaborations, guest curators and/or ‘takeovers’ more broadly.
  • Seek expert advice on removing bias from/challenging assumptions in our Screening Days evaluation methods.
  • Create a new safety policy/enhanced Code of Conduct for all ICO event attendees.

Film Hub South East

  • Commit staff time to outreach and research to find new partners in the region we might not yet be engaging with. 
  • Commit staff time to holding more onetoone meetings with community groups and other grassroots organisations led by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the region. 
  • Carefully consider our strategy for collaboration and seeking partners in the region for mutually beneficial partnership opportunities. 
  • Research a pilot project and potential funding to support organisations led by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the region to move to the next level of resourcing and sustainability. (by October 2021)
  • Research new opportunities for collaboration between cinemas and organisations led by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the region. 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion action plan update May 2021

Changing our recruitment processes

In April 2021 in consultation with our freelance HR Advisor we created a new recruitment pack for our Marketing and Communications Manager – Maternity Cover vacancy in order to try and make the process of applying for a position at the ICO as transparent and fair as possible.  The recruitment pack included a job advert with a new statement about our commitment to being an equal opportunity employer:

“At the Independent Cinema Office we are an equal opportunity employer and we believe that a diverse workforce leads to an organisation that is more creative, innovative and gets better results, we want our workforce to represent the diversity of the people and communities in the UK and we want to see these reflected on our screens. We also want our workforce to be one where different experiences, expertise and perspectives are valued and where everyone is encouraged to grow and develop. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian, ethnically diverse, and disabled candidates as they are underrepresented within the ICO.”

The document also gave information on how the recruitment process works to ensure people are aware before applying of what is involved in the process, what will be asked of them, how applicants will be shortlisted, what feedback they will receive and the timelines we are working to. We also created a revised job description focusing on transferable skills and competencies rather than sector-based experience and we removed the requirement for a university degree. We had a revised application form, removing barriers and requests for information that might be discriminatory for example, the year qualifications were taken and previous salaries. We provided a point of contact for applicants to email if they had questions about the role or application process, and we clearly stated that we were looking for different types of experience:

“If you have any questions about the job role or the application process, please get in touch at info@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk and we’ll do our best to help. If your experience looks a little different from what we’ve identified, but you still think you’d be great at the role, please get in touch to discuss. Many of us employed at the ICO don’t come from a film background; please don’t be put off from applying because you don’t have experience in the sector.”

We researched new recruitment sites to advertise the roles to reach a wider pool of candidates including www.inclusivehires.com and www.diversifying.io.  We publicised the pay scales of all jobs at the ICO in the recruitment pack. We operated a ‘name anonymous’ recruitment process, which means applicants names and personal details are not visible to the recruitment panel in the shortlisting process.

Establishing the FEDS Co-Creation Committee

The ICO’s FEDS training programme has been running successfully since 2015, recruiting ambitious trainees from groups currently underrepresented in the UK film industry and providing them with paid work experience in the film exhibition sector alongside career coaching, networking opportunities and industry training sessions. The vast majority of our trainees stay working in the sector, and alongside providing longer-term support to the alumni group we have been keen to evolve the model for the scheme. In March 2021 we established the FEDS Co-creation Committee in recognition that we would like to actively involve the alumni group in the strategic decisions that will shape the future direction of the programme. We want to embrace a more nuanced approach to evaluation of the trainee experience, industry working practices and attitudes in the wider sector, with a view to supporting lasting change and positive impact.

Virtual Screening Days

In December 2020 and March 2021 we hosted our first Virtual Screening Days events. We have committed to showing at least 30% of films from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse creative teams at Screening Days and met this target at both events with 50% of features at the December event and 30% at our March event.

Updating demographic data for our current staff and Board of Trustees

In May 2021 we surveyed our staff and Board of Trustees and the information can be downloaded here.

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