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Innovation

Trailblazing for Change One Year On: The Impact on Plus X

Written by 
Rosie Murphy
 on 
March 8, 2023
Plus X Innovation
Brighton
10
 min

Trailblazing for Change was born at Plus X to champion and advocate for women and marginalised gender groups in business.

Temp

Trailblazing for Change was born at Plus X to champion and advocate for women and marginalised gender groups in business. Knowing that more could be done to support these groups, we started this movement to empower those in our team, our spaces and beyond. To hold ourselves accountable to the campaign, in 2022 we laid out a set of commitments that would act as a roadmap and provide us with tangible outcomes to ensure that change was made.  

One year on, we are taking this opportunity to reflect over the past 12 months and highlight just some of the impact that the campaign has made on the Plus X community and beyond. We will continue our hard work in building upon the Trailblazing for Change campaign and are excited to see how much further we can go in forging brighter futures for those in business who are so often overlooked.

In our Innovation Hubs

One aspect of our pledge work has been to cultivate supportive environments in our innovation hubs, working to eliminate bias and boost the movement for gender equality.

We firmly believe in making product development a more equal playing field for every innovator who passes through our doors and have spent the past year improving this in our hubs. At our West London innovation hub Central Research Laboratory, we are proud to have supported 61 female founders in our EDRF projects through nine CRL Accelerator cohorts and BOOST workshops and programmes, driving change in the often male-dominated world of hardware.

We have also set up a partnership with the Global Academy, which has seen us help nurture young female students with their promising entrepreneurship skills and introduced them to our unparalleled network of established business owners and innovators.

In our Brighton hub, we have also pushed for lasting change. Pioneers is a fully funded innovation programme on the BRITE project. It provides support for like-minded business leaders who want to create positive impact with industry partners, run by a set of diverse speakers. Over the past year, we have doubled the number of female-founded businesses taking part in the programme. Before the campaign launch, only 12 participants were female-founded businesses, while after the introduction of Trailblazing for Change in 2022 this number grew to 31.

Pioneers cohort three group photo

In Our Programmes and Our Partners

The partners for our programmes were identified due to their innovative expertise and commercial experience. For Pioneers, we particularly wanted to focus on sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and driving positive social impact in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These experts developed bespoke workshops for the programme and brought with them a wealth of combined knowledge which they generously shared with the Pioneers cohorts.  

  • OLIO’s Head of Impact, Anne-Charlotte Mornington, created an original workshop for the programme around how to build sustainable, impactful business models that are also profitable, enabling ongoing and scalable impact.  
  • Watch This Sp_ce Co-Founder, Mo Kanjilal, has been involved with Pioneers since the beginning, delivering diversity and inclusion workshops around incorporating the correct D&I strategies into your business, how to communicate that journey externally, and how to engage with partners to accelerate impact.  
  • The Good Business Club’s founder Sara Sophie Osterholzer developed a workshop for Pioneers focusing on establishing a purpose-driven entrepreneurial mindset.
  • The Joyful’s Head of Purpose, Lucy Freeborn, developed a bespoke workshop for Pioneers, centred around the Impact Wheel framework. This was designed to drive the cohort to establish a positive business purpose and encourage innovation around business models.
Lucy Freeborn, The Joyful, presenting at Pioneers

In Our Events

We have hosted a range of events highlighting the successes of women and marginalised genders over the past year. This part of our events programme champions diverse sets of individuals that are enacting industry-change in the face of adversity. We will be continuing our work to improve this as a crucial part of our ongoing strategy.  

Through our events, we have collaborated with countless organisations to galvanise and inspire the next generation of innovators, connecting young founders with organisations who have overcome hardship and found success. This includes the University of Brighton’s beepurple Residency Competition, which saw young entrepreneurs pitch their business plans. Among the winners were two female founders who received complimentary working space at Plus X Brighton to progress their businesses.  

Our ongoing partnership with UrbanFlo Creative has seen Plus X become the home to several community-funded art exhibitions centred around intersectional approaches to equality, diversity, and inclusion, including the NeXus exhibition. Together, we formed the Otherwise Engaged event, led by Allison Lapper, MBE.

Photo of Chris Jepson's Identity Project Exhibition at Plus X Brighton, showcasing LGBTQ+ members of the Brighton community.

We have also celebrated women in film. Through a collaboration with Gusto.film and InspoHub, Plus X Brighton hosted the Matchbox Film Awards and Trailblazing Women in film, which gave women in the film industry a dedicated space to get inspired and connect with other filmmakers.  

Run with Diverse Sussex, we hosted an insightful diversity and inclusion workshop for leaders and decision-makers to answer the question ‘How to make a workplace more inclusive.’

We have been proud sponsors of the Brighton Digital Festival in the past and, together with Brilliant Noise, have run events with them aimed at inspiring inclusive and forward-thinking marketing practices.

Continuing with our commitment to make gender equality a priority last #MoreThanJustADay, we are committed to ensuring representation of all genders among our event speakers. Yesterday, our latest Soapbox event in Brighton became a women-only special, with three brilliant female speakers sharing insights into their lives. We’d love to hear from even more speakers that fit into underrepresented gender groups for future events – please speak to the local Front of House team to register your interest.  

Superb March #SoapBox : ladies led with the amazing 🤩 Kerry as the super Host and guests Callie , Lara & Emma#InternationalWomenDay celebrating 🥳, go ladies @plusxspace !!!! 🙏🏻❤️ #sustainability #genderequality #innovation #creativity #design #creativemindset #digitallove pic.twitter.com/BFPJV18ze7

— João Bocas,🗣The Wearables Expert ™⌚️#ViVE2023 (@WearablesExpert) March 7, 2023

[Thanks João Bocas for these brilliant photos!]

In Our Outreach

Throughout 2022, we have provided young people with opportunities, ranging from hosting inspiring events focused on overcoming barriers, to supplying access to Plus X innovation hubs, helping them to reach their goals and make their ideas a reality. This has been developed with our partner, the Girls' Network, who aims to inspire and empower girls from the least advantaged communities by connecting them to mentors and networks of professional role models who are women.

We have worked closely with The Girls’ Network over the last few years, developing a strong partnership which has seen us deliver several events aimed at inspiring girls and young women and introducing them to the power of entrepreneurship and leadership.  

Plus X workshop with the Girls Network for a local Brighton group of school children

In 2022, Plus X hosted and supported The Girls' Network inaugural ambassador event, ‘BeYou’, which saw over 120 disadvantaged girls and young women attend. At the event, attendees received help from opportunities to network and attend workshops, helping to increase their skills and confidence.  

We have also designed and delivered in-school interactive workshops to Girls’ Network mentees centred around the theme of adopting an ‘entrepreneurial mindset.’ Together, Plus X and The Girls’ Network are connecting young people, SMEs, female role models and industry players to solve challenges in an impactful way.

In Our Team

We are empowering the Plus X team to make inclusivity a priority, ensuring every employee can affect change and push for gender parity both within their role and throughout the wider Plus X culture.

We are now working with inclusion consultancy Watch This Sp_ce on an ongoing basis. Over the past year, the diversity and inclusion experts audited our business and are continuing to deliver on our D&I priorities. The priorities identified include: recruiting a more diverse range of talent (keep an eye out for upcoming roles on our Careers page!); ensuring the recruitment process is fair and equal for all; developing constructive conversations between line managers and the team; and internal policy updates including parental leave and flexible working.  

From this, our prototyping workshops are actively seeking to reach and engage under-represented groups with recruitment processes designed to create wider opportunities.

Our group of D&I and Wellbeing Champions meet regularly to discuss the Plus X D&I priorities and celebrations and implement strategies that improve and support wellbeing across teams. Wellbeing sessions and frameworks have been created to support the team and their welfare, ensuring everyone feels included and supported.  

Plus X Brighton team members wearing lanyards with pronouns

We have created lanyards for all our Brighton team members to wear that include the wearer’s pronouns. This is helping to improve the experience of marginalised genders on our workforce, normalise conversations around gender, and improve communication – as well as helping our members better spot our lovely team around the hubs!  

Regular volunteer days and mentoring opportunities are made available for our team to take part in. Several Plus X team members have mentored with the Routes Collective, who support and champion women who have experienced the UK Asylum System to grow in confidence, build relationships and access opportunities.  

In Our Wider Communities

We continue to connect with women and marginalised genders from diverse backgrounds outside of our hubs and in wider communities to provide people from all parts of the country with the skills and opportunities to grow.

Opening the BRITE project in the last year to non-membership SMEs has helped to remove potential barriers to access our diverse range of programmes. Marginalised communities are actively encouraged to use our physical spaces through our open and inclusive culture at Plus X Brighton, BRITE and CRL.

As part of our commitment to breaking down the barriers to our spaces for those who may usually not have access to these environments, and to share the knowledge that lives in our buildings, we regularly supply free or heavily discounted space to community initiatives. We ensure that the organisations we provide space for align with the goals of the Trailblazing for Change campaign, as well as other purpose-led causes. If you are part of an initiative or organisation that is looking for space in Brighton or West London, speak to our team and we will see if we can make it happen.

Looking Ahead

We will continue to build upon the work of the last year, where we established impactful partnerships, put D&I at the heart of our internal operations and held space for founders and businesses from marginalised groups and genders to grow and thrive. Whilst we are incredibly proud of the work we have achieved over the past year, we know we have much more work to do to improve.

As a business, we are committed to making each and every one of our pledges a reality and are determined to actualise our vision of ensuring that every bold thinker in business has the access they need to flourish and succeed. We will continue to put equality at the heart of every decision we make and will do the work to enact positive change in our sphere of influence and beyond.  

For more information on the original set of pledges, head to the Trailblazing for Change hub, where we will be continually reviewing our progress and implementing new plans to build on our current work.  

If you would like to get involved in Trailblazing for Change – whether you have ideas you would like to share, want to appear at one of events, or are thinking about hosting your own, we want to hear from you.

Rosie Murphy

Content + Social Media Manager at Plus X Innovation.

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min read

Tough economic conditions can actually be beneficial for startups to exploit market gaps.

Innovation happening between members in the Plus X Innovation Workshop in Brighton
The Case for Collaboration: Why Corporates Should Work with Startups
Insights
2
min read

Startups exist to be disruptive. Corporate-startup collaboration can bring benefits to both parties. Learn how to make it work.

Coworker from above working at a desk in Plus X Brighton
How to Utilise Underused Office Space
News
4
min read

The hybrid working revolution has brought with it many positive changes for teams - but changed requirements for office space.

People collaborating in a meeting room
Why is Collaboration Important in the Workplace?
Insights
3
min read

Collaboration at work is about so much more than water-cooler moments and team meetings.

The third cohort of BRITE Pioneers at Plus X Innovation Brighton
BRITE Pioneers: The Third Cohort Driving Impact
News
9
min read

Meet cohort three of BRITE Pioneers.