Introducing Tonic Changemakers

Lucy Kerbel

Are you the person responsible for driving Equality, Diversity and Inclusion-related change in a performing arts organisation? Tonic Changemakers could be for you. Our Director, Lucy Kerbel has written this blog about our new programme.

In recent years a new specialism has begun to emerge in the arts – that of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) changemaker.  Whenever I go on LinkedIn nowadays, I see salaried roles advertised with titles like ‘EDI Coordinator’, ‘Head of Social Purpose’, or ‘Director of Diversity and Inclusion’. From my work with arts and cultural organisations across the UK, I know there are also many people doing this work in combination with their ‘day job’. They may be the Head of Marketing or the General Manager, but they are also the Chair of an internal Diversity Working Group, or lead the Staff Inclusion Forum.  

It’s great to see these EDI-focused roles emerge because it signals that arts organisations are committing resource to their EDI aspirations. Rather than simply being full of good intentions, they are putting their money where their mouths are.  

But as this specialism grows – and I very much hope it will – the people working in it will need support and professional development if they are to stand the best chance of being successful.

At Tonic, we’re launching a new programme, Tonic Changemakers to deliver this. It is a membership scheme which will offer year-round support to the people doing these roles. 

First up, we’ve created it to provide training. There are currently few places to go to receive training on how to make effective change at an organisational level and even fewer where the focus is on the specifics of EDI or the arts. So we thought: why not create it? At Tonic, we’ve spent over a decade developing tools, methodologies and tried and tested approaches to making long-lasting and deep change in relation to EDI in the arts. We want to share these with others.  

But Tonic Changemakers is not just about learning, it’s also about building a community. Doing EDI work can be tough; you’re likely to be dealing with resistance from colleagues, engaging in highly sensitive – sometimes combustible – issues, and taking a lot of responsibility onto your shoulders. Yet often the people doing these roles are working in isolation: they are frequently a ‘department of one’. Tonic Changemakers will give its members a community by connecting them with the people who are doing the same work as them in other organisations. Because we all benefit from having people around us who get what we’re doing, who can be our sounding boards, confidantes, cheerleaders, and remind us we’re not alone. 

Finally, Tonic Changemakers is about spreading good ideas. By bringing together the people who are doing this work in different organisations, we’ll be enabling them to share with one another how their organisation is approaching things and what’s working for them. There is currently no forum for this – much internally-focused EDI work necessarily happens ‘behind the curtain’ and so it can be hard for the people leading it to know how others are approaching it, or to check their progress against others. Through Tonic Changemakers we’ll be building that forum and creating opportunities for these people to spark off one another.  

A lot is riding on these nascent EDI roles; organisations have created them, invested in them, and have high hopes for what they will achieve. Through Tonic Changemakers we want to give the people doing them the very best chance of success. 

Written by Lucy Kerbel
October 2023

Tonic – For greater equality, diversity and inclusion in the arts