February 7, 2022

Laying the Foundation For Better DEIB with Black History Month

Melissa Malec

To be completely candid, we haven’t gotten Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) right yet at Learnerbly. But we’re working hard to improve and as we grow, we know how important it is that we invite everyone to dance and spark inspiration in our own people to lead initiatives that help us get there.

A few months ago, we brought in a People Partner who would focus on improving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at Learnerbly. And ever since, People Partner Marie and the People Experience team have been busy changing the way Learnerbly talks about, supports and champions DEIB. 

So far, they’ve introduced Circles, created a cross-team project to coordinate initiatives internally and externally, and created a platform for people-led initiatives to take root and blossom with the guidance and full support of the People and Leadership teams.

It is that platform, our fostering of psychological safety and our value ‘Invite everyone to dance’ that sparked a group of Learnerbees to take over our weekly Friday Fun and turn it into an educational, inspirational and thought-provoking session on Black History Month. 

What is Black History Month (UK)?

In the UK, October is known as Black History Month. It is set aside as a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black people, to educate ourselves on the often-overlooked history of those of African and Caribbean descent, and to reflect on how we can better highlight Black history in our curriculums and worldview. 

What has Learnerbly done for Black History Month (UK)

Friday Fun Takeover

Friday Fun is Learnerbly’s weekly company-wide virtual gathering. We don’t talk business but instead take the time to socialise and unwind after a long week of work. 

The first Friday in October, our 30-minute Friday Fun was lengthened to an hour. It was also repurposed into an educational and interactive session where we learned about Black history. Faisa, Rag’e and Gillian led this with the collaboration and support of the People Experience team.

The why

It kicked off with our why - why we were taking this hour to celebrate and acknowledge Black History. For many of our people, their history lessons in school and wider society would have been centred around whiteness but not because black history didn’t exist or intersect with history as a whole. It just wasn’t told to us in the same way the achievements of white people have been.

This Friday Fun takeover is in the spirit of creating habits that last past Black History Month. We want continuous learning to take place amongst our people and to have a place where people feel empowered to share experiences and personal and professional achievements from marginalised communities. 

In order for this to have taken place and for future initiatives to unfold, the People Experience team had to create space for the Friday Fun takeover to occur. 

To this point, Rag’e said, ‘Most of the time, these kinds of events are done solely by the marginalised group. But in my opinion, I felt it was a real collaboration. Marie listened to a lot of the feedback we said about what the tone of the Friday Fun should be.' 

Putting the fun in Friday Fun takeover

We also had a quiz where we were all tested on our knowledge of Black history in the UK and beyond. We focused on the UK because we are a primarily UK based team. Some of it was fun and lighthearted while other facts shared, such as the rate of black women who die in childbirth, were sobering. 

Bringing the quiz to you - who is this man and what is he known for?

The quiz was followed by a video. We watched the incredible and inspiring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speak about the dangers of the single story. The video was chosen to highlight how blackness often becomes an overarching identity marker that erases the other parts of a person’s identity. A person is a sum of all of their parts, not defined by any single characteristic but in society, we often see each other within a single story.

I recommend watching the video for yourself as the single-story is something that impacts all of us (the video can also be found on the Learnerbly platform). 
Immediately after the takeover, everyone was sent a survey asking if they felt they had learnt something. Out of 22 people, 19 answered the survey. 18 said ‘definitely’ and 1 answered ‘probably’. The survey is an important component as it can help shape future Friday fun takeovers, lunch and learns and other platforms for DEIB initiatives.

Blogs, playlists and more

Remember how I said the People Experience team had created cross-team collaboration around DEIB initiatives? My writing this blog is part of that. We want to share our initiatives, our learnings and our shortcomings with you. 

We also want to enable users of the Learnerbly platform to continuously learn and discover stories of marginalised people so our content team created a few playlists of resources and shared two newsletters focused on Black History month resources.
Here is a preview of one of the playlists:

And of course, we have shared both this article and details of our initiatives on social media because we want the impact of our work to be even bigger than we are. 

Internal resources

We now have a host of notion pages within our internal employee guide that helps us understand our DEIB initiatives and where we can get involved. 

One of these open-sourced pages exists specifically for Black History Month which explains what it is, why it matters, how you can make a difference and a list of resources. 

We hope you’ll learn something from it, and of course, feel free to take inspiration there and share feedback at any point. It’ll remain on our Guide well past October.

What’s next?

The occasion of Black History Month served as a great jumping-off point for our DEIB initiative but nothing we do is one-off, and the things we create and do are documented so that they can be referenced and built upon all year round. 

What’s next is really up to our people but the People Experience team will be there to support and help facilitate change and education every step of the way.

Remember, October is just a landmark and change starts with you - spark something.

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