The MJ awards

Celebrating Innovation in Building Diversity & Inclusion – The MJ Awards

I am thrilled to share insights from this year’s MJ Awards, where we proudly sponsored the “Innovation in Building Diversity & Inclusion” category again. The awards provided the platform to celebrate achievements in the sector up and down the country. The joy of our job now as a sponsor is showcasing the fabulous work from our shortlisted entries. Their work over the last 12-18 months does go beyond tick-box exercises and genuinely looks to embed Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) into their core operations.


Headshot of Frazer Thouard GatenbySanderson

Frazer Thouard,
Regional Lead – Local Government,


MJ awards

Embracing Unique and Innovative Approaches

The MJ Awards highlighted several Councils that have demonstrated pioneering approaches in ED&I. For instance, Aberdeenshire Council‘s Tackling Poverty & Inequalities Lived Experience Forum provided a safe, confidential online space for underrepresented voices to participate in service design and budget allocation. This initiative has evolved through annual feedback, continually adapting to ensure that the voices of underrepresented communities are heard and acted upon.

In partnership with the NHS, Brent Council’s Brent Health Matters (BHM) programme addressed health inequalities through a community-centric approach, involving a diverse network of volunteers and fostering inclusivity. BHM’s approach of ‘working with,’ as opposed to ‘doing to,’ communities ensured that diverse populations were actively involved in shaping health and wellbeing outcomes. These examples underscore the importance of innovative thinking and the need for adaptive, responsive strategies in our sector.

Building a Culture of Belonging

A common thread among the award submissions was the emphasis on creating a culture of belonging and inclusivity. This is evident in the success stories of various councils. Brent Health Matters exemplified this by co-designing services with local communities, ensuring that diverse populations were actively involved in shaping health and wellbeing outcomes. This approach was mirrored by Westminster City Council’s Fairer Westminster program, which worked directly with residents and businesses to build a more inclusive city. By addressing pay gaps and promoting equal opportunities, Westminster set a precedent for fostering a culture where every individual feels valued and included.

Kirklees Council’s Assistive Technology (AT) Project for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) also highlighted the importance of creating a culture of belonging. By engaging with children, young people, and families, Kirklees ensured that their services were inclusive and responsive to the unique needs of their community. These initiatives illustrate the profound impact that a committed focus on belonging, and inclusivity can have on communities.

Partnership and Collaboration

Effective ED&I initiatives often hinge on strong partnerships and collaboration. The winning initiative by ECL in partnership with the East of England Co-op stands out as a prime example. This Inclusive Employment initiative supports people with learning disabilities and autism in achieving their ambitions of meaningful, paid employment. Impacting the lives of 400 individuals so far, the program has demonstrated what can be achieved with senior leadership, political trust, and an inclusive mindset. The collaboration between ECL and the East of England Co-op is a testament to the power of partnership in driving successful ED&I initiatives.

Another notable example is Tower Hamlets Council’s Treatment Referral Team (TRT) and Women’s Criminal Justice Pathways (WCJP), which partnered with various stakeholders to break the cycle of addiction and criminal behaviour. By providing tailored support for women in the criminal justice system, these partnerships addressed specific needs and ensured that services were inclusive and effective. These examples highlight the essential role of partnership in driving successful ED&I initiatives.

Lessons and Best Practices

Reflecting on the initiatives showcased at the MJ Awards, it is clear that sharing best practices is crucial for our sector. However, it is not enough to merely share these practices; we must actively embrace and learn from them. The success stories from all of our shortlisted Councils demonstrate the transformative power of innovative, inclusive approaches. These initiatives highlight the importance of community engagement, partnership, and a commitment to sustainability in driving successful ED&I efforts.

As a sector, we need to internalise these lessons, fostering an environment where continuous improvement and adaptive strategies are the norms. At GatenbySanderson, we are committed to promoting these exemplary efforts and supporting the dissemination of effective practices across local government and beyond. We can collectively drive meaningful change and build a more equitable and inclusive society by embracing and learning from these best practices. We must look beyond the boundaries of our organisations to be the organisations our workforces and communities deserve.



Congratulations to all the finalists and winners for their outstanding contributions to building more diverse and inclusive communities. These initiatives reflect the local government’s innovative spirit and serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for future endeavours in ED&I. Together, we can create a more equitable and inclusive society for all.

If you’d like to discuss your current priorities and challenges linked to ED&I with Frazer, or how our integrated executive recruitment and leadership development services can benefit your people strategy, please do get in touch.

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