Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is national governing body for dinghy, motor and sail cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIB and sportsboats, windsurfing and personal watercraft, and is a leading representative body for inland waterways cruising in the UK.
Faith Anyanwu, Marketing and Comms Manager at AKD Solutions sat down with Misha Engineer who sits on the Board of Directors at RYA, and Katie Loucaides the Safe Guarding and Equality Manager at RYA to discuss their DIAP journey so far.
Afternoon Misha, we understand you were recently appointed as a Non-Executive of the RYA. Why did you decide to join RYA?
Misha: The opportunity came about through the relationship between Sport England and Perrett Laver with whom I had signed up as a NED candidate. I was keen to take on this role as I had a previous history with volunteering as a mentor to disadvantaged children in London and as an informal Board member for the RISE Campaign at the Prince’s Trust. In addition, my motivations through my career as a doctor-turned-pharmaceutical entrepreneur have been on social impact and driving changes for positive societal benefit. I felt that the RYA was an excellent organisation in which I could contribute and bring my Executive and volunteer experience in order to improve opportunities for participation for those who may not have ever considered being active on the water or for those who may not have had the chance in life to do so at a leisure, grass-roots or elite level.
Can you please share some of the EDI challenges RYA is currently experiencing?
Misha: We have challenges around perception: the perception that sailing is for privileged members of society. There are also perceptions that sailing is an exclusive sport. The challenge is to ensure that our sailing clubs and environments are warm, welcoming and inclusive; where all feel comfortable to ask questions about learning new skills and barriers are broken down.
Katie: We are aware that there are still some groups and communities who continue to be underrepresented across the RYA in a variety of different areas. We are very fortunate that as a sport and recreation, boating has a wide variety of disciplines which means that anyone can have a go and get involved no matter their age, ability or background.
Misha: The RYA, through the launch of our new strategy is committed to increasing participation at grass roots and elite level from all sections of society. We want to ensure opportunities are available to those who may not have ever considered the sport or to those who may not have had the circumstances in life to participate.
Katie: We recognise that sailing and boating is an activity which might not initially appeal to everyone; however, we want to ensure that everyone that wants to get involved can and is welcomed. We want everyone to have positive experiences and an amazing time on the water where they will want to return time and time again.
How did you feel at the start of your DIAP journey and how has the process been?
Katie: As an organisation we were really looking forward to starting the process of reviewing our existing action plan to ensure that it was in line with the expectations of Sport England. Our strategy and action plan was launched in June 2021, so we were due to review it to ensure it remained relevant. We also wanted to ensure that we were maintaining momentum and continuing to challenge ourselves to push our EDI agenda even further forward.
Misha: We were excited at the prospect of working closely with the AGS consortium to produce a DIAP. This has been a wonderful opportunity for the RYA to put a plan in place to help shape our strategy.
Katie: Since the launch of the EDI strategy, we have been focussing our work on identifying the barriers to participation that some groups face when accessing on the water activities and finding ways to eliminate them. The DIAP journey so far has been really positive. Our conversations with the consultant have enabled us to focus our plans and priorities going forward, and offered a diversity of thought that has checked and challenged what we have done in the past and inspired us to be creative and bold for the future. We are now in the process of formulating the action plan and hope to have it signed off by the RYA board in a few months time. This will then become embedded within with our new organisational strategy where inclusion is a strategic imperative.
Have you experienced any challenges on your DIAP journey and how did you overcome this?
Katie: We have had a great experience so far; however we did have some challenges around the partner questionnaire. We felt that the questions were very black and white and didn’t really allow us to portray an accurate picture of what we do and how we do it. This area is very rarely black and white, so we fed back our thoughts on this process which was welcomed [RYA were part of a ‘go-early’ pilot group ahead of launch]. Throughout our process we were continually asked to feedback on our experiences to ensure the formal roll out went successfully. Other than that, we have been really pleased with the support we have been given.
What aspect of the DIAP journey has stimulated brilliance?
Katie: I think the discussions we have had with our consultant have really helped to formulate our thinking and gave us direction on our priority areas. It was following this that the DIAP started to take shape. We had so many thoughts and plans, all of which we felt should and could be a priority
, but by having those discussions, we were able to refine what we were trying to achieve. This included identifying our long-term ambitions and some quick wins that we could indicate progress etc.
What do you see as the benefits of diversity and inclusion?
Katie: There are so many benefits of diversity and inclusion. To ensure that sailing and boating is relevant for future generations, priority must be given to developing and growing in this area. Having amazing role models to inspire and empower is super important, along with listening to the lived experiences of our stakeholders, this gives us a platform for learning and developing. People now have higher expectations when it comes to their engagement with organisations and participating in activities and will look for them to be progressive, inclusive and sustainable. It is therefore imperative that we strive to meet and exceed those expectations, which will ultimately ensure the future of sailing and boating.
Misha: In my view, when you have an organisation that is more representative of society, it will be more effective at serving the community. So, at grass roots level, we will attract even more people to the sport. If we can create more opportunities for people from the whole of society to try our sport, there will be more people who come back and continue to develop, learn new skills and be part of a wonderful community. At the elite level, if we can attract even more talent drawn from a wider pool of the population, we can win even more medals. I believe that there is a sport for everyone. People just need to have the opportunities to try, develop their skills and be nurtured in that journey.
Brilliant, we couldn’t agree more. As we round up can you please share your hopes for RYA and how the DIAP will have an impact?
Katie: As an NGB, we want to change the narrative around boating and on the water activity to ensure that there is an environment and culture which supports inclusion and celebrates diversity. No matter who or where, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of on the water activity. We want to inspire people to discover sailing and boating, either as a sport or as a recreational activity by approaching their local club and having a go.
We appreciate that there is more work for us to do and with our experiences so far, the help and support of our consultant and our new DIAP, we are even more motivated to continue our journey.
We would like to thank the RYA team for their time and sharing their experience of the DIAP journey. To find out more visit the RYA website.