For services to Diversity & Young People in the Construction Industry
2018 marked the 150th year anniversary of the RICS and what a timely occurrence to mark yet another ‘Surveyor-led’ milestone in what has truly been a period of resilience, transition and revelation.
The intrinsic sacrifice and personal challenges successfully overcome by DCS Founder & Chair, Bola Abisogun FRICS were of notable significance but yet, pale into insignificance when compared to some of the ‘day-to-day’ challenges endured by many of the young people that Bola has met along the way. During the last 16years, Bola has met many young people, industry leaders, seasoned professionals, credible academics, public sector officials, MP’s and a plethora of public policy practitioners – some good, some bad and then there were those that represented everything in between. However, when it came to the young people themselves, no-one individual was ever 'too much' to handle or ‘too challenged’ to articulate their plight. Given his dogged pursuit of ‘equality of opportunity within and across the UK construction industry’ which remains Bola’s key objective, it has become clear to many that there remains considerable room for improvement, in light of the multi-generational, systemic biases, that continue to co-exist.
Bola went onto say “….when I received the call from the Cabinet Office and then read that I was to be awarded an OBE by HM Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of my work through Urbanis – i.e. the pursuit of greater ethnic diversity in the UK construction industry, with a focus on young people; [refer to pg N10, click here] – I took a moment to pause and gather my thoughts as to why I had actually received such a senior accolade. On reflection, I felt compelled to immediately place this honour at the feet of every client and young person that has taken a leap of faith in me amidst my advice to them, since I started the firm in 2003. My view back then, as is the case now, is that EVERY young person simply needs to listen to their own voice in seeking to identify with and yield the true benefits of their own belief(s) and personal talent(s). We all need a shoulder to lean on at times, I refer to young people in general and young black men in particular – yes, they all deserve to be heard – and of equal importance, we need to make the time to listen to their cry. There is so much talent out there but very few ‘accessible’ opportunities, across the UK, particularly in London. All I have ever wanted to do was afford each and every young person, a bona-fide opportunity to realise their own ‘individual potential’ by simply connecting with 'their purpose'. If there is one, connecting with your purpose, is the ‘silver bullet’ to achieving personal equanimity, as a genuine barometer, of the ultimate 'career' success….”
After 16years, many have said that Bola’s work has only just begun, but even if that is the case, Bola remains indebted to every young person that came in to see him at his office in Nile Street, Hackney, N1 – based in the 'historic' Shoreditch NDC Area. Back in 2004, Shoreditch was located in one of the most deprived, dangerous and derelict areas in the country – [click here and refer to Case Study 11 on pg 50]. Despite the sprawling, urban decay during the early days of 2003/04, the young people came on their own AND in droves, although in the latter years – as word began to spread – they arrived with their parents, carers and/or advisers in tow, so as to ensure that any conversation was as wide and impactful, as practically possible. And, just for the record, some 16years later, Shoreditch has now become part of east London’s newly emerging ‘Tech City’......yet another 'successful' gentrification project. So, despite being born and raised in the borough of Hackney, was it intellectual foresight OR was it Bola, just simply pursuing a 'very risky' commitment to the young people of Hackney.......?
Notwithstanding, in accordance with the provisions of the ‘Public Services’ (Social Value) Act 2012 [and as a key component of any commercial bid submission from a Tier 1 Constructor, keen to tender for a public sector construction contract] Bola has overwhelmingly demonstrated the viability of the ‘UrbanIS BAME Model’ amidst a robust business case, presented to and successfully deployed across a number of London Boroughs. Local authority clients, opting to utilise private-sector led, construction supply chains, who had successfully bid [jointly with Urbanis] to deliver major CAPEX such as the Decent Homes programmes in Hackney, Lambeth and prior to that, Haringey - ensured that Bola was able to 'distill and quantify' the tangible, socio-economic results achieved at 'grass-roots level'; all in favour of the local community. Notably, all three London boroughs have had high [and growing] numbers of disenfranchised young people, in particular, young black men. The latter contingent became the sole focus of UrbanIS whose role [i.e. 'social value' and 'CSR' remit, as part of the successful bid submission and contract award], was to deliver.....Urban Inclusive Solutions. However, such was the method of local authority procurement, the 'Urbanis BAME model' required, unfailingly, that all parties to any contract, rigorously assist with the contract monitoring of all predetermined KPI's, the absence of which would mean that any inherent risk(s) would sit squarely with Urbanis. Fortunately, working with Sadiq Khan and the Mayor's Office [via the GLA] this pivotal pan-London work will continue to be delivered via Phase 2 of the Moving On Up initiative, co-founded by Trust for London and the City Bridge Trust, with overall administration and accountability undertaken by BTEG.
Henceforth, Bola is now setting his 'cross-hairs’ firmly, elsewhere, on an even bigger challenge. Commencing in 2019, his focus and attention will be on a key and well documented crisis that has engulfed the built environment professions. Through DiverseCity Surveyors, [founded in 2006 as a peer-to-peer network for BAME surveyors, who felt 'isolated' from their own profession] Bola will be administering robust and sustainable strategies with a number of ‘early-adopter’ clients, seeking to open up the Surveying & Planning professions to individuals that, ordinarily, have not considered such career paths. Clients, both public and private (including institutional), are much more discerning towards the value of ‘diversity of thought’. Such thinking also equates to ‘more diverse’ professional appointments, leading to successful construction projects managed by teams of competent professionals capable of delivering 'intelligent and sustainable' real estate solutions. This 'new dynamic' of inclusive project delivery extends far beyond any domestic client request in the UK and in fact, encapsulates any and all international requirements, that may exist or emerge across the globe. The future of the profession(s), truly is in the hands of the beholder.
As an inclusive network, DiverseCity Surveyors are genuinely committed to engaging with all stakeholders and sub-sectors, and remain keen to continuously raise the bar of excellence amongst the built environment professions. So please, do join us to progress the conversation across the sector and, watch this space.
Here’s wishing you a wonderfully productive and healthy, 2019.