While in the process of analysing data from public sector partners, Bristol City Council discovered a sector-wide lack of diversity, it stepped up to embed best practice diversity and inclusion talent management into every major organisation across the city and beyond

Its ambitious response to this widespread issue was an innovative and expansive Stepping Up programme touted by Baroness Ruby Macgregor-Smith as on track to become the blueprint for the rest of the UK.

As Stepping Up architect and programme director Professor Christine Bamford puts it: “Councillor Asher Craig [deputy mayor] and myself are committed to changing the diversity landscape of Bristol. We want to embed diversity in its widest form into the DNA of the region.”

And that’s what they’ve done. Spearheaded by Bamford and Craig, the team started out by establishing key milestones that would enable the incremental and thorough implementation of the transformational scale model. These included the establishment of ecosystem partners across the public, private and voluntary sector, engaging them in the project by demonstrating best practice in talent management, as well as sourcing core funding through sponsorship.

The collaborative programme provides 27 days of development interventions for all participants: leadership development programme (12 days); external mentoring (one day); project assignment (six days); action learning sets (six days); ILM/MBA option post programme via levy and mentoring/career workshops (two days).

Employers across the region have so far championed and supported Stepping Up by searching for internal talent, supporting participants, committing to embed diversity at all levels and promoting career opportunities.

So far 50 employers such as the fire and police services, as well as local NHS organisations, have pledged support and actively participated in the delivery of the programme, through mentorship, venues, stretch assignments, speakers and wider development opportunities.

The results have been astounding. External evaluation found that half (50 per cent) of participants have moved into a more significant role, 100 per cent reported increased confidence and improved leadership capabilities, and the programme is on track by 2023 for 400 diverse leaders to take their place at all levels of leadership within the region.

An unexpected and positive outcome has been the impact on civic leadership, with participants becoming magistrates, councillors, trustees and non-executive directors.

The impact on organisations has also been notable: half (50 per cent) of the 50+ participating employers in the SU Consortium have reviewed their D&I strategies and 100 per cent of stakeholder governance board members have made improvements to their D&I strategies.

Judges said that the programme is simply “inclusivity at its best”.