Co-designing a programme

In the first of our blog series we hear from Jane Hatton, CEO of Evenbreak and author of books ‘A Dozen Brilliant Reasons to Hire Disabled People’ and ‘A Dozen Great Reasons to Recruit Disabled People’.

Over the past year Jane has been working with the Empowered Employers Expert by Lived Experience campaign working group and senior decision makers from a range of sectors from across the county to co-design a learning programme for employers.

During the design phase of Empowered Employers, people with a lived experience of disability have examined and developed multiple aspects of the campaign, from the accessibility of the website to the messaging and strategy, and as Jane describes below, the training program.

In our first blog Jane talks about why people with lived experience should have a seat at the decision-making table.

“When discussing anything around equality, diversity or inclusion, the value of lived experience cannot be over-estimated. For generations, we have seen white people deciding what’s best for people of colour, and men deciding what’s best for women. It’s the same with disability – non-disabled people deciding what’s best for disabled people. History tells us that this doesn’t work, for any group.

Traditionally, training programmes are designed by the training provider, who are, after all, the subject matter experts. I was asked to deliver some training for employers in the Cheltenham area on a programme called “Empowered Employers”, aiming to help employers be more confident and competent around employing disabled people. Something I’m absolutely a subject matter expert in. I’m an employer, and a disabled person, and I employ disabled people. I’ve even written books on the subject.

Being a subject matter expert has its drawbacks. It makes it too easy to make assumptions. Whilst I might know my subject, I don’t know the specific situations of the particular employers on this programme, nor the lived experience of disabled people looking for work in this location.

Fortunately, the charity organising this training, Barnwood Trust, know a thing or two about co-production, and also have strong relationships with both disabled people and employers in the local area.

My own experience of delivering disability equality training to employers gave me a rough idea of what might be useful, so armed with some broad outlines, I met with a group of disabled people, known as ‘Experts by Lived Experience’.  This was a diverse group of local people with a wide range of conditions and employment experiences. I asked them what they thought local employers should know about, or do differently, or put into practice, to become more attractive and inclusive to disabled candidates. Together, with the support of Barnwood Trust, we designed the content for a programme to bring about that change.

A recurring theme from these conversations was around accountability. Employers attending a training programme changes nothing, unless they actually go on to remove disabling barriers and implement better practices. Together we decided on an accreditation process which meant that the participating employers would be assessed on their intentions and actions.

It was also important that the programme reflected the needs of the employers, and so meetings were held with the participating organisations to establish their priorities, aspirations and constraints. The employers are also diverse, in terms of size and sector (from small social enterprises to large manufacturing companies), and so it was crucial that the content of the programme could be tailored to implementing best disability inclusion practice in a range of employment settings.

The final programme is currently being delivered, and continuously evaluated so that learnings can be taken from it to inform future programmes. Feedback from participants on the programme (all senior people who can influence practice within their own organisations), suggests they are already implementing changes which are reaping successful results.”

Photo of Jane Hatton, CEO of Evenbreak

Jane Hatton