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The Inclusivity Project

Published on 27 August 2020 02:32 PM

The Inclusivity Project is a part-research, part business-innovation project aiming to increase diversity, wellbeing and prosperity within small, Cornish businesses.

A team led by the University of Exeter are looking into new ways that small businesses can adapt to make the most of all the untapped local talent pools, by employing (and holding onto) more people who are older, who have a long-term health condition, and/or a disability.

The Inclusivity Project is financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund


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Why is inclusivity crucial to Cornwall’s small business future?

Inclusivity is an issue that affects every business, whether they realize it or not! Because of the upward trend in the UK’s older population. The older population is swelling more sharply in Cornwall’s rural population than in urban areas. We’re experiencing the ageing population shift ahead of some other parts of the country, so as a region, we need to get ahead of the curve.

Of course, illness, mental illness and disability, which often develop while people are at work, increase with age too. And, of course, there are young people who are disabled, or who have a long-term health condition, who want to work and can’t find work too, so we’d like local businesses to realize this untapped talent.

Recruiting and replacing key team members is costly, and staff absence can hit small businesses very hard, so it’s vital that Cornwall gets its SMEs better at adapting, becoming flexible, and developing retention strategies that support prosperity for all.

Research – creating evidence for the most effective policy change.

The ‘research’ part of the project looks at the employment gap from three angles – analyzing where policies could most effectively have a knock-on effect on the whole system; looking at recruitment processes that help iron out unintentional discrimination; and collecting first-hand stories in detail. The aim is to create a body of evidence for a direction of change, both for policymakers and local government too.

Innovation – your ideas + our expertise = workplace wellbeing products and services.

The ’innovation’ part is about working directly to support local businesses in developing new ideas, products and services that increase workplace wellbeing. Rather than being a standard training or a one-size-fits-all approach, our process is bespoke to each business. When a business makes contact with us, we first try to understand challenges they face around inclusive employment and workplace wellbeing, or in the services they offer in these areas. Then, we give them support together with university expertise to help them develop and bring to market any workplace wellbeing solutions they have come up with – particularly digital, technological or internet-based solutions.

So, for example, we are working with local company Infinite Choice on their staff health self-assessment platform, and we are also discussing ideas with people for apps, health trackers, toolkits, 3-D space imaging, podcasts, and more. We support them by running focus groups, helping them with market research, giving grants, buying tech equipment, helping them evaluate their product’s effectiveness, and connecting them with key experts from our university knowledge base.

If you’re a small-to-medium (<250 employees) business, based in Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly, you can explore working with us here.


What about practical help for businesses with workplace inclusivity, disability, mental health, and more?

The Inclusivity Project works alongside the LEP’s Beacon project. Beacon has developed a smart website which answers all your questions and signposts you to all the local organisations and agencies to help you develop best practice, talk to the right people, and navigate the wealth of info on disability, ill health, recruitment and retention.

Who’s behind The Inclusivity Project?

The research team are working together with local groups (disAbility Cornwall, Age UK Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, the Local Enterprise Partnership, and the South West Academic Health Science Network), with the support of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The Inclusivity Project is initiated by the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health and is based at the Knowledge Spa in Truro. It unites experts from the university’s medical school together with its business school, called Impact, Innovation and Business.

Interested in being involved? Join The Inclusivity Project mailing list to receive an exclusive 10-minute video training and neat infographic: ‘Five Workforce Trends Every Small Business Owner Should Know About’ and hear about our events and opportunities.