The Reality of being a Changemaker

head and shoulders portrait
Fay Jennett

Our Senior Delivery Lead Fay Jennett reflects on her personal experience as an EDI lead that contributed to the creation of our new Tonic Changemakers programme.

As Senior Delivery Lead for Tonic, my job is to make change in the arts, to support cultural organisations achieve greater equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).  

I am also someone who has previously worked in another changemaker role, as an EDI Lead for a large arts organisation. It was this experience that means I know first-hand why Tonic Changemakers is needed.  

Back then, I had a busy producing role, and took on additional EDI responsibilities alongside my main job. On reflection, I began this journey perhaps naively, fuelled by passionate determination and the courage of my convictions. Crucially though, for the most part, it was a solo crusade. I wish I had had the chance to participate in a programme like Tonic Changemakers which supports individuals by providing company along the way. I would have loved to have had the support and camaraderie of a network of people doing similar work to me – with a similar passion to mine – in other arts organisations. 

While the title ‘changemaker’ might be grand, evocative of revolution, gently implying one might possess some kind of superpower, the reality is slightly different. And while I won’t do myself down – I do sometimes feel like a wizard – the reality of making change is not as glamorous as the title suggests. It doesn’t happen quickly and takes more patience and tenacity than I ever would have thought.  

I took the role of EDI Lead on top of my main responsibilities. This meant making change had to be fitted around my job and that was tough. The changemaker’s day-to-day often involved cajoling, motivating, and occasionally gently reproaching colleagues in our EDI working group to make good on their commitments.  It also involved waving my brand spanking new equality action plan in the faces of any captive audience – I later learned after joining Team Tonic, the subtler skills of meeting colleagues where they were as opposed to where I was on my change journey. This all makes the changemaking role a complex and nuanced one – you have to learn when/where/how to play your cards and of course, choose your card very carefully for maximum impact.  

Often, self-appointed changemakers are from a marginalised group and frequently underrepresented in the organisation they are trying to change. This brings me to another consideration – the identity of the changemaker. My experience of the world, mirrored in the workplace, made me incredibly passionate about issues of inequality. Inclusion isn’t a ‘nice to have’ for meit is necessary for me to thrive at work. When I threw myself wholeheartedly into accepting EDI responsibilities, I could not have foreseen what an isolating experience the role would have been or how it would feel to have a debate and/or face apathy towards something I didn’t see as an optional extra.  

Tonic Changemakers seeks to fill the gaps (in knowledge, support and community) for those who have already taken up the gauntlet of making EDI related change in the arts. For me, it is a privilege to be a changemaker for Tonic every day and actually, I do have a superpower – it is simply believing in the business of hope.   

Written by Fay Jennett
October 2023

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