My personal connection to our local athletics club, Herne Hill Harriers, took on a whole new meaning in June 2020, when the President of our club, Keith Newton, shared his reflections on the tragic murder of George Floyd, and called for volunteers to explore the way in which the club approached D&I.

10 of us held up our hands. And this is our story.

We are the founding D&I working group of the club. Since 1899, HHH has seen many talented athletes train with its volunteer coaches, for road, track or field events, many going onto national and European Championships, and some even the Olympics. But we also support the wellbeing, skills development, connectivity and personal achievement of three generations of people in our community.

The remit was to review what we are already doing to increase diversity throughout the club, and what further opportunities and action could be taken. The D&I working group was formalised on 27 June 2020 and, alongside the executive committee, hosted an open forum for all members.

We acted quickly to hold a mirror up to an organisation with a membership that is comprised of a diverse ethnicity, in a diverse community, and to identify areas where change would positively impact learning, attitudes and understanding. We set out goals are to achieve the club’s intention to enable a ‘one club’ feeling, where everyone feels welcome to be involved, through Accountability, Clarity & Structure.

After reviewing England Athletics (EA) & UK Athletics (UKA) club support documentation on governance & inclusion, our first actions were: assess what inclusion means to the club and ensure our governance reflects our diversity intentions, update our demographics capture process, draft and publish a D&I Charter in partnership with the club’s executive team, review and offer education courses by UKA and EA, and review and update representation in club communications.

In between, we had some deep conversations. When the Sewell Report was published in the UK, one of our working group members, Gilbert Anderson, wrote a response. And we discussed it as a team and shared our combined reflections with the club’s executive.

When Liz Purbrick and Donna Fraser from EA and UKA asked us to contribute to the process for their application to achieve the Equality Standard for Sport Advanced Level, we discussed it as a team, and input our perspectives to the independent assessor from UK Sport.

When one of the EA London Regional Council members, Olympian Mara Yamauchi, contacted the club to understand how EA could do more to help, our President asked for the D&I working group to input. We discussed it as a team and contributed to the conversation.

This year we are working on a member perception survey, onboarding processes, and building up our diversity representation that reflects our community across all groups. We also are working to provide access to those who may not know about the opportunities to get involved or funding available.

We brought many different work and life stories to the table: lawyer, property developer, teacher, tax consultant, marketeer, film producer, grief counsellor, sports fashion designer, social development professional, student. After decades thinking about how to knit together cultures around the world, I was pleased to be able to share my experiences in D&I with the team, and learn from theirs.

Last week we achieved a dream goal, of coming together with other clubs around the country to talk about improving club diversity and inter-club inclusion.

I was struck by the comments of one participant. She listened to our story and commented how evident it was that we had worked as a team. She realised she was trying to do many of the same things, alone.

We feel fortunate to be part of a club with strong support for active education and continued change. We are grateful to have an athletics governing body that encourages inter-club learning across the nation. We are working to drive further social cohesion across communities involved in athletics through good governance, practical goal setting (we are all volunteers) and grassroots teamwork. Not alone. Together.

If you are interested in joining this UK movement, or have experiences from other countries to share, message me or @LizPurbrick.

#payitforward #teamwork #diversityandinclusion