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21 October 2019

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A campaign is underway by the Innovation Agency and the AHSN Network to increase diversity in health innovation.

A series of pledges have been agreed by all of England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) to ensure the UK’s diverse population is reflected in innovation leadership and in the products being spread across healthcare systems.

The Innovation Agency – the AHSN for the North West Coast – has appointed a diversity champion to lead the work in this region.

Jen Kohan, Head of the Innovation Agency Coaching Academy, has a strong background in advocating equity as a teacher in America where she studied race theory, lobbied for policy change and co-ordinated an anti-racism programme for 90,000 educators in her home state of Minnesota.

Jen said:

“I could not be more honoured to serve staff and partners of the Innovation Agency as an equity and inclusion representative. I am excited to learn more about the equity challenges that our AHSN Network can collectively address, as our collaborative work will ultimately ensure greater impact than any of us could accomplish alone.

“As a Minnesotan, I am grounded by the words of our late senator Paul Wellstone: “We all do better when we all do better.”

A report from the AHSN Network, ‘Diversity and innovation – a celebration of BAME innovators and our pledges to do more’ shares the stories of innovators from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and sets out pledges to further support the diversity and innovation agenda.

It presents the business case for increasing diversity; for instance, a team with a member who shares the ethnicity of a client is 152 per cent more likely than another team to understand that client. Also, 19.1 per cent of staff in the NHS identify as BAME, underlining the importance of supporting transformative ideas from these individuals.

Innovation Agency Chief Executive Dr Liz Mear said:

“We want to champion diversity in every aspect of innovation; in leadership roles in organisations like the AHSNs and the wider NHS; in the innovators we support whose products are improving healthcare; and in the development of those products – we need to ensure they meet the needs of everyone in our population.

“Increasing the representation of BAME colleagues in innovation is the first stage in our mission to promote diversity.”

The Innovation Agency and fellow AHSNs are part of the NHS Confederation’s BME Leadership Network. A video about the AHSNs’ campaign can be viewed here.

The AHSN Network pledges include committing to:

  • Implementing a recognised process to self-assess and improve equality performance in each of our organisations
  • Empowering and supporting staff to be positive role models for equality and diversity
  • Understanding the impact of our work on all members of our communities and ensuring our work reflects the equality and diversity within these communities.

The report ‘Diversity and innovation can be found here.

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