A challenge to our whole industry by the end of 2022

Can everyone at your agency complete the IPA D&I Essentials Certificate?

Across the Pond are the only agency to have 100% completed the IPA D&I Essentials Certificate in the space of the year – here’s their Global Head of Brand & DEI Anna Brent on why she hopes that accolade is short-lived.

I recently posted on my LinkedIn about how proud I was that every single person at our agency, Across the Pond, had achieved the IPA’s D&I Essential Certificate in the space of just one year – a feat which we believe is an industry first.

When the IPA got in touch and invited me to blog about our effort, I really wanted to use it as an opportunity to share my enthusiasm for this particular course and let you know how worthwhile my colleagues and I found it.

I’d also love to challenge other agencies to set themselves the 100% completion goal in 2022, and I’ll explain a very unexpected reason why later. But first, here’s why I think the D&I Essentials Certificate is a really good choice.

It’s designed for our industry so has a lot more practical applications than other DEI courses I’ve done – for example, modules often present real-world good practice in client work – and it has been created to be relevant whether you’re in your first job or head a global network.

If any participants need some extra motivation, the fact that IPA training is recognised throughout our industry is a big plus (and in fact this certificate counts towards the wider MIPA qualification).

It’s comprehensive in the seven areas it covers, very well researched and up to date (read the course outline here). I’m confident in saying no matter how much DEI related reading and study you’ve done, it’s still going to teach you something, whether it’s practical information about terminology or something more personal, as feedback from a colleague in London revealed:

In the past I would've confidently said that I don't have any biases towards people of any race, gender or ethnicity and left it there. This course has helped me recognise my own unconscious bias that I have learnt through the teachings of the society we live in and in turn I continue to work on those to make sure I can be a better ally.

It’s interesting and empowering. As soon as I’d finished it, I recommended it to my CEO, Julie Cohen, and as soon as she finished it we came up with the idea of the whole agency doing it.

The content is presented as a mix of written and video, including content from the likes of Labour MP David Lammy and Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg. There are also interactive quizzes and other tools to help make the learnings stick. And of course, there are provisions to ensure it’s accessible.

While it’s ostensibly a ‘work’ related course, it encompasses some of the most sensitive, personal issues – sexuality, identity, the bodies we live in. It also has a section looking at masculinity, part of which explores ways men are negatively impacted by traditional ideals.  I was moved when one of my colleagues shared this feedback:

As a nervous, cis white man who is eager to get it right, but mindful of getting it wrong, I found it particularly helpful as a safe space (albeit solo) to really be able to take the time to understand terminology, for example the classifications and names around gender and sex.

I love the honesty in this reaction, and it reminds me how powerful and liberating it can be to admit to uncertainty.

It’s relevant to learners both in and beyond the UK, incorporating research and insights from many countries and touching on topics like colonialism and slavery. Feedback from our teams in Asia and the US was positive, with a colleague in Singapore reporting there were ‘lots of takeaways that are useful in my DEI work in APAC’, while one of our San Francisco-based team said it ‘opened up my world to new nuances across the globe’.

I imagine agencies in some markets will find it particularly useful that the course includes plenty of evidence supporting the business case for diversity.

Back to my 2022 challenge to other agencies... for those of us who are motivated by accountability it was really helpful to know the December 31, 2021 deadline was there, and by having us all on board, it meant we were invested in each other’s success. In fact, every time someone completed the course we made a big deal about it, via celebration slides in our all agency weekly meetings.

Our decision to have everyone at Across the Pond complete the course in just a year came from a sense of commitment to DEI and enjoying having an ambitious goal to achieve. So I have to admit that the most gratifying consequence of this decision was not something we had anticipated at all – the incredible sense of unity it created. Here are just some of the reactions from my colleagues: 

I do love that we all did it. The feeling of us having a shared understanding and language is valuable not just from a knowledge perspective, but also from the feeling of being on this journey together.

It felt like a family learning to grow and evolve where past belief systems were unravelled, which initiated a movement towards a culturally evolved, sensitive and safe space to create meaningful work.

It's a great feeling knowing everyone in the group is doing the course, watching/reading/listening through the same materials and share the willingness to know more and take more action.

The whole experience has given me a newfound appreciation of the people with whom I’m lucky enough to work. I’m not sure you can ask more of a course than that and I really want everyone else to have that experience too.

So get on board and make sure that when 1 January 2023 arrives we at Across the Pond are no longer able to brag about being the only agency to have received 100% attainment in a year. It’s one accolade I’d be more than happy to lose.

Sign up for the IPA D&I Essentials Certificate

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 08 February 2022