How going virtual in 2020 helped D&I

The popular Dive In Festival took the decision to go virtual in 2020. The move enabled organisers to attract an entirely new audience, and boost overall attendance. Marc McKenna-Coles, 2020 Dive In Festival lead and former global D&I manager at Lloyd’s, reports.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to diversity and inclusion (D&I). Every country, every business, and every community has its own D&I challenges. While there have been many points in history where society reflects on these challenges, 2020 presented a real opportunity for change as organisations across the globe began to engage in discussions of racial justice and employee wellbeing.

Leaders have also seized the moment to consider their roles and opportunities to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within their organisations.

Driving these conversations forward is the Dive In Festival, a major insurance industry D&I event. Like most things in 2020, plans for the festival took a different direction as a result of the pandemic and in March the entire 144–event festival went online. As it turned out, a virtual festival came with surprising merits.

For the first time, participants were able to join events in 35 countries, regardless of their location. Event capacity was far greater than any room in London’s Square Mile could ever offer, resulting in almost three times the participation rate of the previous year. What’s more, the accessibility of virtual events proved a strong tool in engaging those who have previously been difficult to reach.

A pre-festival survey found that over 70 percent of those who had registered for Dive In 2020 had never attended before. We reached an entirely new audience, be it through new countries taking part or people attending events they might not have considered in other years.

The move to a virtual event made Dive In 2020 our most accessible and far-reaching festival to date.

“Event capacity was far greater than any room in London’s Square Mile could ever offer.”
Marc McKenna-Coles, Dive In Festival

How far has the industry come?

The insurance industry has embraced a festival for D&I wholeheartedly. Competing companies across the sector have come together to create a positive impact on workplace culture in a way that was unforeseen six years ago.

Over 400 volunteers from the full spectrum of the insurance sector give up their time each year, pumped with determination to make positive changes to our working environments. Dive In has helped the insurance industry tackle topics such as racial prejudice, transgender rights, mental health and even domestic abuse.

Within this time frame, we’ve witnessed a gradual removal of the stumbling blocks that have stood in the way of progress within the sector. The festival has proved to be a catalyst for change by giving the insurance industry the tools, inspiration, and advice for best practice in inclusive workplace cultures.

As the world faces increasingly urgent challenges demanding more global innovation and collaboration than humans have ever previously experienced, the value placed on having diverse perspectives has never been greater. That is why our theme in 2020 was ‘authenticity and perspective’—two essential qualities that enable us to bring our whole selves and our unique experiences to bear on our shared challenges.

A post-festival survey this year found that 95 percent of people think that our event has encouraged them to make a change within their organisation, and a further 95 percent stated they would attend a Dive In event again.

The past few years have seen a burst of brilliant diversity initiatives that have been introduced across the market. Aon, for example, has pioneered a flexible and agile working scheme. We’ve seen similar initiatives across the market, aimed at making workplace environments more inclusive and adaptable for their employees’ diverse needs.

Such progress is visible all over the world, which was made particularly clear through this year’s festival which allowed for a truly global perspective. With events held in 35 countries, the festival continues to break new ground in countries where D&I may not always have been a cultural norm.

For example, events in Nigeria have explored female empowerment in a male-dominated industry, while sessions in India and Singapore discussed the business case for D&I. This year events were also held in Israel and some Latin American countries for the first time.

“Our attentions are turning even more to the issues of racial inequality and neurodiversity.”

What’s next for D&I in insurance?

There is no doubt that the festival has made a lasting impression on the insurance space. But the journey is far from over and the conversation around D&I is ever-evolving. Our attentions are turning even more to the issues of racial inequality and neurodiversity. These are topics that have been addressed by Dive In many times in the past but the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor early in 2020 turned up the heat on the discussion.

In every challenge there is an opportunity and, for our event, that is the opportunity to bring a different topic to the table: to educate, inspire and move conversation into action.

In 2021 we want to continue the global connectivity and build on what we’ve learned about hosting an entirely virtual festival, while we hope to bring back some of the elements that worked so well in a physical festival, through a hybrid approach of digital and physical events.

Our mission is to accelerate the move to more inclusive cultures across the global insurance industry. But who knows, maybe this will be the year we move beyond the insurance industry and start making waves across the entire business ecosystem.

To find out more visit diveinfestival.com/

Image courtesy of Shutterstock: CK Foto

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