SPARK DEI 1 Year Anniversary
European society has taken positive steps towards racial equality in recent years but still much remains to be done.
PROBLEM: One poignant issue present in our everyday lives is that people from Global Majority communities often still face discrimination and lack of access to social capital in the professional world across Europe.
‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ may sound flawed, but a strong network really is priceless. Let’s look at corporate referral schemes: companies pay employees a bonus for recommending people in their network. And the world isn’t that different for the self-employed and freelancers - they all tell you that endorsements and referrals are vital currency.
While discussing ideas for what would eventually become SPARK Communities, Kim Smouter (Director, ENAR and ENAR Foundation), Izabela Jurczik-Arnold (Development & Granting Officer, ENAR Foundation) and I were amazed something like this didn’t already exist. How could there be no pan-European network or community for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) professionals, racialised or otherwise? There was clearly a gap in the market, and a strong interest from people we spoke with informally.
OUR SOLUTION: ‘We’re creating a community that aims to add value, help fast track careers, and build structures of solidarity for racialised individuals,’ Kim wrote in a blog post published in August 2022.
That’s when this notion of building professional communities for racialised people across Europe shifted from ‘vision’ to ‘reality’. That summer I conducted a needs assessment to understand what would create value for our target audience. Then after months of careful planning we tested our ideas with future members, refined the model, and officially launched the first community, SPARK DEI, on January 31, 2023.
In collaboration with future members, we chose 'SPARK' because it captures the energy and excitement of something new. It also recognises racialised people’s innate worth and ability to ignite change together. We’re in the driving seat, tapping into our collective social power and acumen to create great things for us all.
Today the SPARK family has 90+ members across 17 European countries. And following the successful launch of SPARK DEI for diversity, equity and inclusion professionals, I’m thrilled to share the recent launch of SPARK Teachers, with SPARK Academia coming soon too. There are plans for further expansion, so watch this space.
Getting a community off the ground is not easy; this first year has been a steep learning curve for all of us. Highs: 21 members spending two incredible days together in October 2023 for our first in-person meeting, and Spark DEI being shortlisted for an award that recognises meaningful contributions to society. A low: realising SPARK isn’t always the intersectional, safer space for all members that it should be, and starting the challenging work to make this right. But the most important thing is that we’ve come through everything together as a community, and we intend to keep it that way.
Happy 1st birthday, dear SPARK. Here’s to you, to your present and future members, and to celebrating many more milestones in the years to come.
Part 1: First of its kind pan-European philanthropic actor. ENAR Foundation Initiatives
- Liane R
- 3 Jan 2024