Interview : Simon Brooksbank, Planning Out

Interview : Simon Brooksbank, Planning Out

Photo : Simon Brooksbank, Co-Founder and Chair of Planning Out | Credit : Michael Chapman

Planning Out is a professional network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people and allies working in or connected to the Planning Sector. The network was founded by Simon Brooksbank and Rob Krzyszowski. Simon tells us more.

WHAT WAS THE CATALYST FOR LAUNCHING THE NETWORK?

The network was launched in July 2016. The key factor that led to its launch by myself and Rob Krzyszowski was the value we saw in developing professional networks in our careers. With the likes of Young Planners and Women in Planning, we saw that networking events were most effective where they catered for a particular subgroup or demographic where people were brought together through a shared experience or background. We therefore saw the value in bringing together people who identified as LGBT+.

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF THE NETWORK?

Planning Out is about winning hearts and minds in the ʻsecond waveʼ of LGBT+ rights, where LGBT+ people can lead their lives in the workplace and wider society with the same level of acceptance and dignity that straight people enjoy. Despite huge advances over the past 20 years, thereʼs still lots of room for improvement.

The key purpose of Planning Out is to encouraging greater acceptance of LGBT+ issues in the workplace. This has a direct impact on LGBT people’s levels of self confidence and life chances. Through having this network, we hope it will help make LGBT+ workers more productive and effective in the workplace.

In the longer term, we aim to encourage more LGBT+ people to consider planning and its related fields as an attractive career choice due to its enhanced reputation for inclusivity and acceptance. This will widen the pool of talent from which future planners will emerge.

HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK INTER SECTOR NETWORK GROUPS ARE TO SUPPORTING, AND DEVELOPING, MORE INCLUSIVE AND DIVERSE WORKPLACES?

Having networks within companies to promote acceptance and diversity is very important. We partner with companies like Turley and British Land who have these networks in place. We would encourage our members to be active in these networks.

“Planning Out is about winning hearts and minds in the ʻsecond waveʼ of LGBT+ rights, where LGBT+ people can lead their lives in the workplace and wider society with the same level of acceptance and dignity that straight people enjoy.”

HOW IS THE NETWORK COORDINATED?

Planning Out has a Committee of six people. The network is led by myself (Co-Founder and Chair) and Rob Krzyszowski (Co-Founder and Vice-Chair). The Committee meet on a bi-monthly basis to discuss up and coming events and strategy for the network.

WHAT TYPES OF EVENTS AND OTHER ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVES DO YOU HOST AND ARRANGE FOR YOUR MEMBERS AND ALLIES?

We now have over 200 members, and have had three events so far, each with on average 60/70 professionals in attendance. We were honoured to have a Parliamentary Reception in January with Helen Hayes MP as as our guest speaker.

We are planning an interesting variety of events this year. From breakfast seminars to a Summer Gala. Later this year we are exited to have a City Hall event planned with James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, as well as Amy Lamé (Comedian and London Night Czar), amongst others as our guest speakers on protecting LGBT venues. We have a lot in store for 2017!

We aim to be an inclusive network for the whole LGBT network by having speakers who are representative of the whole community. We are also signed up to the Diversity Pledge to ensure that our panels are balanced with men and women represented. This is reflective in our committee and membership which has a healthy balance and men and women from across the Planning related industry.

IF SOMEONE IS READING THIS AND THINKING ABOUT BECOMING A MEMBER, WHY SHOULD THEY GET INVOLVED WITH PLANNING OUT?

Planning Out is open to anyone supportive of the cause – not just those who identify themselves as LGBT+! Anyone passionate about equality and diversity is very welcome. We are thankful for the significant support already received from the RTPI, The Planner Magazine, Future of London, Stonewall and Women in Planning. We’re always on the look out for speakers or sponsors so do get in touch if you would like to support.

Photo : Selection of pics from Planning Out’s Parliamentary Reception in January | Credit : Michael Chapman

DOES THE NETWORK COLLABORATE WITH OTHER NETWORKS OR COMMUNITY GROUPS?

Not at the moment, but we are actively exploring this going forward.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO FOR THE NETWORK TO HAVE VISIBLE SUPPORT FROM SENIOR LEADERS IN THE SECTOR?

It’s very important. We’ve been very grateful to have received support from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) as well as from the heads of many of the leading Planing consultancies. Having support from the top of the industry is instrumental in bringing about culture change in the industry.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A NETWORK?

We’ve experienced no major challenges as yet. The key is to stay focused on our goal, which for us is to achieve greater acceptance of LGBT+ people in the Planning Profession.

“Having support from the top of the industry is instrumental in bringing about culture change in the industry.”

IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE TWO PLANNING OUT HIGHLIGHTS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

The first highlight was our launch event. Whenever you start something new, you never know what reception you’re going to get. However, right from the start, we have been overwhelmed by the support that we have received from the likes of the RTPI as well as several leading Planning Consultancies who have sponsored us.

The other highlight would have to be our Parliamentary Reception. We were honoured to have Helen Hayes MP as our host and guest speaker. The event itself sold out in a day and we were delighted to have such a great mix of Planners from across the profession in attendance.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE NETWORK?

Our next event is a free breakfast seminar hosted by Fieldfisher LLP in London on 28th March. The seminar, ‘Planning 2.0: How Technology is Revolutionising Planning’, will look at the types of emerging technologies that are transforming the way developments are designed, consented, implemented and managed, such as 3D printing, 3D laser scanning, virtual reality and augmented reality – and how these are already being deployed across a wide range of projects. The second part will look at the clear consenting and legal benefits that the use of these technologies can bring, in terms of both securing and de-risking planning permissions. We have some great speakers.

We have limited tickets available. Sign up here!.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 5 TIPS FOR SOMEONE THINKING OF STARTING A NETWORK GROUP

  • Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve from the network, and keep communicating this
  • Have a good Committee in place to assist in the running of the network
  • Have buy in and support from senior figures in the industry (your workplace)
  • Use a variety of social media forums to get your message out – we’ve found twitter particularly effective
  • Have fun and enjoy it!

Photo : The awesome Planning Out Committee | Credit : Michael Chapman

KEEP CONNECTED :

Sign up to the Planning Out mailing list by emailing planningoutlgbt@gmail.com

Nobody is more influential when it comes to communicating your company’s brand and workplace culture, than the employees themselves. If you’d like to share your workplace, employee and community engagement and network group news and updates with our readers, then we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us here!

About The Author

Thomas Anderson

Founder and MD of Inclusive Networks. Thomas was Chair of the award winning LGBT network for The Co-operative Group, ‘Respect’ (2011-14). Thomas named the network and designed and managed all of the branding, communications and engagement until he stepped down from the role of Chair in March 2014. He also created the branding, name, was Editor of the quarterly magazine and developed the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘CheckOUT’. He contributed to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 5 Year review. In recognition of his work in the diversity field he was shortlisted for ‘Diversity Champion of the Year’ at the 2013 European Diversity Awards, shortlisted for ‘Role Model of the Year’ at the 2012 Lesbian & Gay Foundation Homo Heroes Awards and shortlisted for the ‘Positive Action’ award at the 2013 Asian Fire Service Association Fair & Diverse Awards. He also won the 2012 ‘Pride of The Co-operative’ award. He is a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards.

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