Inclusion and Diversity

Black Lives Matter, bias and new beginnings: Firstport’s journey with Diversity and Inclusion in 2020

In January this year, Firstport pledged to make this year the year we put diversity first.

In January this year, Firstport pledged to make this year the year we put diversity first.

Not long after, the global pandemic and Black Lives Matter Movement brought into stark focus the true life and death impact of systemic inequalities. And we realised that to truly deliver on our commitments, we had to be prepared to get uncomfortable.

Since then, we have redoubled our efforts around diversity. At the end of a tumultuous year, we are proud of how far we have come but recognise that we are only at the beginning of our journey.

Here is a recap of our 2020:

Priority 1: Strengthen our capacity to support individuals from all backgrounds

The events this year crystallised the need to educate ourselves. We commissioned training on disability (we became a Disability Confident employer), race, LGBTQI+ issues, unconscious bias and facilitation*. We shared podcasts, books and blogs on Slack. And our Diversity and Inclusion working group provided an invaluable space to have some tough conversations.

We also tried to get a better grip on our data. We now record the gender identity and sexual orientation of our clients and have started asking about the leadership of the organisations we fund too. We have committed to being more transparent about our own diversity data too: you can now find stats about our staff and board on our website.

Our recruitment process are now a lot more inclusive:

  • Advert language is pre-assessed for gender bias. We are upfront about the format of the interview and any access limitations, and make clear any alternative options.
  • We proactively advertise among diverse communities, using our networks and platforms like EvenBreak
  • Our application form has gone from a PDF to an accessible online from, with alternative formats available
  • Shortlisting is blind and we have committed to using a diverse assessment panel

Our current vacancy is the first opportunity we have had to try our new processes and will be a test of how far we have come and how much more we need to do.

Priority 2: Build relationships with Scotland’s more diverse communities

This year, we’ve tried to be more deliberate in encouraging and supporting aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs from ethnically diverse communities. We have worked with grassroots organisations to offer advice surgeries and dedicated networking events for BME entrepreneurs, and with CEMVO to increase access to our programmes.

We have also used our platform to promote more diverse entrepreneurs. You’ll now see more diverse case studies on our website and diverse speakers at any events we run. We have committed to no longer speaking on all-male panels, and instead using our position to suggest more diverse alternatives.

The early results of this work have been positive. The proportion of applicants who identify as disabled has increased from 6% in 2019 to 9% in 2020. Applications from ethnically diverse communities have increased by the same amount, showing a positive early response to our work.

Priority 3: Influence a more diverse social enterprise ecosystem

Looking back, influencing the sector was an ambitious target for our first year. We found not everyone had the capacity or appetite to take action. Despite this, we helped raise the profile of the diversity and inclusion in the sector, and created links between interested groups and individuals.

We co-founded the Diversity in Social Enterprise Group, a collection of individuals passionate about diversity. The sector-wide workforce survey ran by the group provided proof (if proof were needed) that we need to do more to become representative of all the communities we serve.

We also helped facilitate workshops held by Social Enterprise Scotland and CEIS, where we heard from so many individuals who have been championing these issues in their organisations and communities for years. The popularity of these events demonstrated a real appetite for change in the sector, but also demand for greater support in finally making that happen.

Challenges and Our Plans for 2021

It hasn’t been all plain sailing. While members of our Working Group became passionate advocates for diversity, it was difficult at times to ensure this rippled out equally to all areas of the organisation. Over the next 6 months, we are going to work harder to embed inclusion and diversity equally across our strategy, programmes and teams.

We also struggled with balancing our focus between changing hearts and minds and policies and practices; while thinking alone won’t get us far, treating this work like a check-box won’t create meaningful change either. In 2021, we will continue to try to balance both as we move towards the Investors in Diversity award.

We are a small organisation and talk of diversity targets has proved a knotty issue. It wasn’t easy to agree what good should or could look like, and establish processes to track this on a day to day basis. But we got there in the end, and we are now at the early stages of working with the Scottish Tech Army to develop better visibility around our diversity KPIs.

The end of the beginning

Over the coming months, we will be working hard to ensure diversity and inclusion continues to get the profile and scrutiny it deserves, in our organisation and the social enterprise sector more widely.

While there will (hopefully) never be another year like 2020, we know that the lessons we take forward from this year will make us better able to support aspiring social entrepreneurs from all walks of life for many years to come.

*Thank youto all our excellent trainers: