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Design Lab promoting ‘equity-centred design’ for a Greener Economy

Posted: 28th February 2024

Dr Bola Abisogun OBE

Founder and Chairman

DiverseCity Surveyors

The cultural change required by built environment ‘professional services’ firms is akin to that now required to drive and adopt a more agile, data-driven and somewhat disruptive business model.

The convergence between traditional and new business models in a post-pandemic new normal, is calling for bolder leadership and much less risk aversion to any ‘known unknowns’.

As Chair of the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee at the Construction Industry Council, I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many industry change-agents. Fortuitously for me, my network extends far beyond the built environment, and I remain deeply and dutifully connected to the office of the Mayor of London, largely through my work with young people, particularly those from ethnic minority groups including those under-served from under-represented groups. As the ‘umbrella body’ for the professions, I am convinced that each one of the member firms associated and regulated by one [or more] of our professional institutions, remains absolutely committed to #EDI. However, our obvious and wider challenge is to ensure (and measure) that our quarterly discussions via the committee, permeate into all corners of every regulated business, exist at every level of seniority and touches or ‘positively impacts’ every member of staff. My own ambition is largely reflective of the entirety of the CIC #EDI committee, although there are a plethora of nuances - technological, legislative and procedural - in seeking to deliver our work; all of which have co-existed my entire professional career, now some 30years [so no quick fix I’m afraid!].

Notwithstanding, last year I was fortunate to have caught up with colleagues at the Mayor’s Office who provided me with an insight into another meaningful initiative that is an unapologetic attempt to conflate all the above. Called the Mayor’s Design Lab, the Leadership team [a great group of industry allies!] are looking for ten leading companies that are keen to ensure that whilst we co-curate and bring to life the true manifestation of a meritocratic, culturally competent workplace, we do so in recognition that we all need to protect the planet too. As built environment professionals, we must also seek to provide an equitable ‘Green Economy’ whilst driving the ‘structural, systemic and cultural’ change(s) required to meet and sustain a net zero future. We can only lead on and deliver this ambition with our best people, which means and includes EVERYONE who is willing to participate, regardless of their ability, race, gender, sexual orientation; with due recognition and consideration of an unbiased opinion of their digital maturity. The commendable work of the Workforce Integration Network [or WIN Team] – is key to matching workforce demand to the talent supply within and across London.


The Mayor’s Design Lab is a 10-month advanced Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) programme for employers to tackle the underrepresentation of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic groups in London’s labour market. There is a special focus on the Black, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi communities with an emphasis on women. The Lab targets London's large employers and fast-growing SMEs in the Mayor's key six sectors, including the Green Economy. The Design Labs will work with 60 employers across these sectors during 2023- 2025.


The Lab focuses on employers with existing EDI strategies to help them achieve their diversity and inclusivity ambitions, accelerate change, and go from “good to great”. The approach is called equity-centred design - a combination of best practice EDI and participative methods of engagement. The programme has been designed to be strategic and engaging without being overly time intensive. Over a 10-month period member companies are involved in a series of workshops and Coaching sessions and join a wider community of industry best practice.

Current cohorts: Health and Creative Industries

With support from the NHS Confederation, the programme is up and running with the Health sector and has 11 of the major London hospitals on board including Great Ormond Street, Imperial, Kings, Barts, and Guy’s. The Lab is also working in the Creative Industries with leading names in the screen, post-production, video games and cultural organisations.

The Green Economy

The Green Economy remains a priority as a cohort for 2024. The focus is on businesses that are driving the shift to net zero (broadly, Low Carbon Environmental Goods and Services) including renewable energy (e.g. geothermal, wind, and photovoltaic) and district energy networks, construction, and engineering businesses with expertise in building technologies, and energy efficient retrofitting etc.


Participation, valued at around £30-40k, is fully funded by the GLA. Participants receive practical support from the research, tools, Coaching and peer-learning as well as wider benefits of association.


To join prospective companies first register interest (takes 2 minutes) and they then meet a member of the Coaching team, complete an application with their pitch to join, and sign an MOU to confirm their commitment including executive support. The Lab accepts ten companies per sector cohort on a first come first served basis.

Happy hunting and the very best of luck to all that are successfully elected to the 2024 Design Lab cohort!

Dr Bola Abisogun OBE

Founder and Chairman

DiverseCity Surveyors