Five things we learnt at Black Leaders Conference

Friday 20-11-2015 - 17:13

NUS’ first ever Black Leaders Conference took place in Sheffield last week – it was a great opportunity for Black officers and staff to focus on their own leadership and explore the need for more Black leaders in the student movement. Here are a few things we took away from the event.

Black Leaders Conference took place in Sheffield on Wednesday 11 November and was the start of an incredible journey that gave Black SU staff and officers across the UK the chance to hear from inspirational keynote speakers and take part in bespoke workshops.

This was a historic event and so many people from across the movement got involved to support the day. Simon Blake, NUS Chief Executive blogged about the importance of the conference here.

Here are five ideas we picked up from the conference…

1. Mobilise, mobilise, mobilise

It’s probably safe to say – we’re stronger together. The Black Leaders Conference really highlighted and celebrated the immense diversity and inspirational leadership shown by those in the movement. But it was noted that we still have a long journey ahead and one of the ways to ensure we increase Black staff and officer representation is by mobilising Black students in the movement.

2. Believe in your ability

The inequality experienced by Black people can at times lead to a lack of self-belief. The conference provided a space for Black leaders to recognise the skills they had, take ownership of their leadership and feel empowered by their leadership purpose.  One of the speakers advised delegates to know everything there is to know about their role and responsibilities, to put your hand up, seize the opportunity and get involved in the spaces you are entitled to be in.

3. Advancing your career in the student movement

The workshops throughout the day were absolutely key in giving delegates the skills and techniques required to develop their leadership and further their progression within the student movement. They got delegates to think about the steps they want and need to take. As well as practical tips to deal with the opportunities or lack thereof and some of the barriers faced by Black people in the workplace.

4. The power of the collective

Bringing Black staff and officers together for the first time provided a transformative space to build networks, feel empowered and share the struggles and barriers faced within the movement. For example, when asked how the day had gone, Brandon from Roehampton University Students’ Union said: ‘Today was a brilliant event. It was culturally enlightening. It reaffirmed some of my beliefs that I often kept quiet about. It’s helped me be more confident in how I approach racial situations. As a leader, it’s given me the insight on how to be a better leader.’

5. Increasing Black Representation IS possible!

We have seen a great increase in Black representation within policy making bodies such as NEC in recent years. But with still only five Black Chief executives across over 600 students unions there is still a lot of work to be done. The conference and the Race Matters report has certainly put the lack of ethnic diversity on the agenda like never before. We have the opportunity to really make a difference and the conference was just the start in bringing together Black staff and officers to talk about what matters, discuss how we can move forward and use as many networks and channels to get our voices heard.

A final thought

The opportunity for Black officers and staff to come together and think about leadership personally and also within their students’ union is key when thinking about trying to increase Black representation. To take this work further we need the commitment and support from all leaders in the movement. We are pleased to announce the Race Matters Summit will be taking place on Thursday 3 March 2016, which will bring together a range of leaders and influencers to think about the continuation of all this great work and make the student movement a truly representational body that is welcoming for all.  


Black, Features, Union Development

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