Building a Legacy of Liberation at The Future Laboratory

type - features
category - gender
category - society
category - workplace
sector - diversity & inclusion
category - d&i at the lab
D&I coach Fox Al Rajim, traces our journey so far, and how partnering with educational organisations like The Other Box has empowered everyone to take on the work in their own way.

Translating the increasingly sterile world of diversity and inclusion into a meaningful legacy of liberation comes with its challenges, but the last 18 months at The Future Laboratory has shown it’s not impossible.

Finding a place for the marginalised

During my first week at The Future Laboratory, I had asked a colleague about the company’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives and how I could join them. They laughed and said that there wasn’t anything nor has there been much interest. If I wanted to do something, it was on me to do it. In truth, I spent the next year reassessing the decision I had made to join the company. If it was so uninterested in evolving its own culture, then is this truly an inclusive place for a disabled, first generation, Trans+, Muslim, migrant of colour with neurodiversities?

It wasn’t until Cliff Bunting, The Future Laboratory’s managing director, asked me in the resurgent wake of the Black Lives Matter movement whether we were a racist company that I saw hope in the openness and transparency of that question. I felt more hope when I was able to answer honestly for the first time in my career – yes, we are. On hearing his response, ‘Well how do we change that?’ I felt like that maybe this could be the place for someone like me.

Building a legacy at The Lab

We formed a passionate team comprised of myself and Alena Joyette, a senior account manager at The Future Laboratory, who accepted additional paid roles as D&I coaches for the business, supported by the brilliant Paige Owusu, our people and D&I assistant, and Fiona Anderson, the company’s people director. We set forth to build a lasting Liberation strategy of how our business would transform itself and create a legacy that we could be proud of.

Over the course of the next 18 months, we have developed, evolved and grown this Liberation strategy led by marginalised groups within The Future Laboratory and with total, enthusiastic buy-in from our senior leadership team. I found myself having conversations not just around racial politics and inclusion but also around power dynamics, critical race theory, prison abolition, what ‘ACAB’ means, how we address toxic masculinity and even how we can change the capitalistic ideas of productivity and presenteeism to build a healthier and more fulfilled working environment.

Published by:

18 February 2022

Author: Fox Al Rajim

Image: Photography by CottonBro


Photography by CottonBro

Post-urgency diversity

Despite this enthusiasm for radical change, it seemed like the world around us was constantly imploding. Each day, members of our team were confronted with the realities of being from a marginalised community. Our Black colleagues and colleagues of the global majority faced constant racial trauma in their news feeds. Women in our team were broken by the news of the Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa murders in the UK. Asian hate festered even more in light of Covid-19, While Trans+ people continued to have their rights stripped away, disabled people were excluded and forgotten about as the world re-opened. And so many more of us faced loss, grief and trauma in this collective experience of the pandemic.

Ultimately, building the Liberation strategy was easy. The real challenge was implementing it in a way that wasn’t driven by the trauma and grief we all felt, or in reaction to fear mongering news cycles. Reacting to such horror is normal, but it was having a clear vision that kept us from drowning.

‘Reacting to such horror is normal, but it was having a clear vision that kept us from drowning.’
Photography by CottonBro

The importance of deprogramming

Amid all this, as D&I coaches, we agreed to take a phased approach to our Liberation strategy – one that prioritised the deprogramming of our biases and prejudices and focused on learning and education. We did this through a collaborative programme with The Other Box, an award-winning inclusion consultancy led by people of the global majority, educating businesses on bias.

Having spoken to many other consultancies offering education programmes, we immediately felt that The Other Box would understand who we are and support our journey in a way that felt as radical and progressive as we wanted to be.

The Personal Privilege Fingerprint exercise – part of The Other Box’s Allyship in the Workplace course – was pivotal in understanding the concept of privilege. The vulnerability with teammates at The Future Laboratory shared their ‘fingerprints,’ that is, their privileges and marginalisations, led to eye-opening conversations and a new level of empathy, kindness and understanding across the company.

Our ensuing approach to the Liberation strategy was rooted in the idea that before we, as a privileged group of mostly middle-class, white people barge in to change the world, we must take a moment to realise that our privileges and unconscious biases may make things worse.

The Other Box’s training formed an incredibly important and necessary foundation on which we are now tackling our privileges and unconscious biases. Building on this, we host internal learning programmes through monthly all-company sessions. We run fortnightly internal lunchtime talks led by our senior leadership team and send a monthly D&I newsletter internally, with people across the business contributing to specific topics.

‘We must take a moment to realise that our privileges and unconscious biases may make things worse..’
Photography by CottonBro

A year of learning

Before we took these deprogramming initiatives and inclusion work, however, we conducted our first Climate Survey at The Future Laboratory, to understand the team’s current knowledge levels and comfort with engaging in diversity and inclusion. In 2020, 15% of our team felt like a total beginner when it came to D&I, with 56% feeling like they knew a little bit. Only 5% of us felt like we knew a lot.

About 12 months later, every single one of us had completed The Other Box’s Allyship in the Workplace training as well as engaged throughout the year on some or all of our inclusion and Liberation initiatives. When we re-measured our knowledge levels in 2022, we saw radical improvement. None of us (0%) feel like a complete beginner anymore, while those who feel like they knew a lot nearly doubled to 11.9%. A phenomenal difference in the space of a single year.

The survey also revealed the human impact of the work we were doing. All of us have taken these learnings and applied them not just to our work and our business, but to our lives and the world at large. As eloquently put by one of our team, ‘One of the biggest lessons was really discovering and understanding the true extent of how privileged I am compared to others, and how allyship requires speaking up against a system which might not be harming me personally.’

Photography by CottonBro

A future of liberation

Nearly two years of monumental global and internal shifts later, The Future Laboratory team have taken everything we’ve learned and updated our vision for the future: one that is collaborative, radical, liberated and empathetic. Our new non-linear approach implements a circular, consistent and constant process which seeks Liberation – structural and systemic change that is tangible, consistent and lasting – across four key pillars:

: Framework is the yardstick by which we measure our progress through regular surveys, KPIs, measurement metrics and impact tracking

: Deprogramming focuses on unlearning biases, challenging prejudice and building a new bank of knowledge lead by critical thinking, marginalised scholars and empathy

: Reformation seeks to change the structural barriers that prevent groups with marginalised intersections from accessing equitable, just and accessible opportunities

: Healing builds trauma informed safer spaces and opportunities for nurturing, wellbeing, and care

We’re not perfect, nor are we striving to be. Instead, The Future Laboratory is committing to be better not just for ourselves, but for every single member of our team who continues to face the grief of living in the kyriarchy. Our end goal is contributing to the future we want to see – one where we’re all not just invited to the party but invited to dance.

‘Our new non-linear approach implements a circular, consistent and constant process which seeks Liberation.’

Who are The Other Box?

Last year, The Future Laboratory joined a collaborative programme with The Other Box, an award-winning inclusion consultancy led by people of the global majority, educating businesses on bias, founded in 2016 by Leyya Sattar and Roshni Goyate.

Through their training, consultancy and brand partnerships, they are the bridge to facilitating an honest conversation to better understand the importance and value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Find out more