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We’re back and feeling awesome

We’re back and feeling awesome

It’s been over a year since I published my last blog post for Inclusive Networks. My previous post in February 2017 was full of enthusiasm and outlined my plans for the year ahead. But something was missing and the year ended very differently to how I first thought it would. I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

It’s not like I was suddenly doing anything different or something significant had happened to make me feel this way. It hadn’t. My drive and focus for Inclusive Networks had got lost somewhere between my previous post and the weeks that followed. I still can’t pinpoint what this was, but it happened.

Around this time I’d just returned from working with the Adidas LGBT+ staff network team in Germany and I was approached by two of the UK’s biggest companies who were interested in supporting Inclusive Networks. They loved what we’d been doing over the last few years. An amazing opportunity, but one that didn’t get me excited like it had done before. I believe if you’re going to work with others you need to be 100% invested and ensure your sponsors and supporters get real value for whatever support they give you and they have your full attention. I’m not one for doing things by numbers and that has never been the Inclusive Networks way – we do things differently to others in the diversity and inclusion space. I said no to these opportunities. The time wasn’t right for me, and it wasn’t the right time for them to support us either.

I was in a fortunate position that I could press the pause button and go off and figure out what it is I wanted to do, with Inclusive Networks or not, and pick things back up if that’s what I wanted to do. It was time to put my own health and wellbeing first too – something I had neglected for sometime and something that had really been getting me down. I was confident that if I did want to return to Inclusive Networks that I’d established solid foundations that I could build on. And Inclusive Networks is just me so I didn’t have to think too long and hard about the risks disappearing for a little while might have.

“Over the last year I have learnt a lot and have realised that taking a break and putting yourself first is ok and it’s something I probably should have done a little earlier.”

Inclusive Networks is still only a few years old and I sometimes forget that as engagement, support and sponsorship, collaborations and recognition came pretty quickly, which I am thankful for – but also worked hard for. In the last two and a half years organisations as varied as PayPal, Crabbie’s, Fujitsu, Action for Children, Manchester Pride and EY have sponsored our events, the likes of Tesco, PwC, Vita CoCo, Transport for London, Cardiff University and UK Parliament have advertised with us and big brands such as The Co-op, Joe & Seph’s, Barefoot Wine, Fake Bake and Kiehl’s have supported our events. This level of support is beyond what I ever imagined and is something I never take for granted. It is also a sign that we have been doing something right and something that appealed to a wide and diverse audience – our organic social media following of almost 30,000 people also reinforces this.

Around the time I decided to put a hold on all things Inclusive Networks, aside from the occasional website article and social media post, I was in the midst of one of our biggest ever initiatives, The Awesome 100 list and awards – celebrating everyday heroes in our communities and workplaces who support inclusion and diversity. In fact the nominations had closed, the judging had been completed and I had an event at Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh booked and planned to celebrate. I took the decision to postpone the awards. I didn’t want to just announce the list half heartedly and then for things to go quiet with Inclusive Networks in the weeks that followed – and I knew this was going to happen at this point. Everyone recognised deserves more than that and we’ll be celebrating and making lots of noise about you all soon. I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to nominate, all 1000+ of you, and to our awesome judges who took the time to decide our award winners.

Throughout 2017 I was given many fantastic opportunities and I said no to the vast majority, and I should have probably said no to the ones I said yes to also – my mind wasn’t on anything in the D&I space at this time. Sorry to anyone I disappointed or let down with my absence. Over the last year I have learnt a lot and have realised that taking a break and putting yourself first is ok and it’s something I probably should have done a little earlier. Thank you to the friends who I have met since launching Inclusive Networks who reached out to me during this time, even just to say “Are you ok?”.

So writing this post…I’m feeling fabulous. I’ve lost over two stone (and still going), I’ve been planning my wedding to my fiance Matthew, moved home and have realised that Inclusive Networks is exactly what I want to be doing. I’ve missed it and can’t wait to get started again. I’m back and I look forward to sharing more in my next blog post.

See you soon!

Thomas Anderson
Founder, Inclusive Networks

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 was a judge for Scotland's biggest diversity awards, The Icon Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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