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Britain gears up for UK's largest diversity awards

WORKING HARD FOR INCLUSION: Paul Sesay is the chief executive of The Diversity Group, the organisation behind the National Diversity Awards and the Excellence in Diversity Awards

DIVERSITY IS far more than a politically correct buzzword.

When a commitment to diversity is made in the shape of thought-out policies, it can make a huge difference in shaping society into a more fair and vibrant place.

Britain has long been celebrated for its multicultural society, but diversity goes even further than race and ethnicity. It means parity between the sexes, better visibility and support for those with disabilities and promoting LGBT rights.

In some cases, it means dealing with the nuances where some barriers to inclusion intersect.

Throughout the year, there are some individuals who work hard – often without thanks and with small budgets – to put diversity at the heart of everything they do.

Next week, on September 18, The National Diversity Awards (NDA) will celebrate those unsung heroes who go above and beyond the call of duty to improve the lives of others in the communities around them. This crème de la crème of British diversity will gather in Liverpool at the historic Anglican Cathedral – the largest in the UK – bringing together positive role models, community groups, charities and public sector organisations to celebrate those who have demonstrated outstanding devotion to enhancing equality and inclusion.

Over 20,000 nominations and votes were received this year, meaning that the finalists really are in a league of their own. Since its inception in 2012, the NDA has recognised thousands of selfless individuals from deprived areas and underrepresented backgrounds.

NDA founder Paul Sesay, the chief executive of the Diversity Group which is based in Liverpool, said: “There will be a lot of people attending these awards from across the country, who would have never visited this marvellous city of ours [if it wasn’t for these awards.]

“Liverpool thrives on diversity. Myself and the team are extremely excited to showcase this city, one that has flourished because of its people, united communities, and rich cultural background.”

From humble beginnings, the NDA has grown both in relevance and scope, securing sponsorship from corporate giants such as Barclays, PWC, and Microsoft.

Microsoft has been the headline sponsor since the ceremony’s inception. Other brands that have joined include Kier Group, Liverpool City Council, Transport for London, Penna, Financial Ombudsman Service, MI5, The Army, Co-operative Funeralcare, The Open University and ThoughtWorks.

Designed to highlight the country's most inspirational and selfless people, the NDAs have attracted a growing list of celebrity supporters.

R&B singer/songwriter Lemar said: “A key reason I feel Britain is one of the greatest places in the world lies in its diversity. I love that The National Diversity Awards celebrates these differences and recognises people working hard and doing great things within their communities. It is a very special and unique ceremony."

Football sensation Sol Campbell also applauded the ceremony in a recent video message addressed to shortlisted nominees.

“Diversity means everything to me, and it should mean everything to you guys. Empowerment, opportunities for all, regardless of background, race gender, all these things should not come into it at all. We should build diversity and we should build a brighter future for all, and we will,” the ex-footballer turned politician said.

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ONES TO WATCH
We profile some of the inspirational individuals nominated this year


Tunji Akintokun
(Positive role model for age)
Founder and co-director of the innovative social enterprise Your Future, Your Ambition, Tunji Akintokun inspires children and young adults from ethnically diverse backgrounds into studying STEM-related subjects and pursuing careers in STEM-based industries, touching over 3,000 school children and students since 2012. Growing up an orphan in the East End of London, it wasn’t until IBM visited Tunji’s school for a career fair that he was inspired to pursue a career in technology. Understanding the importance of what encouraged him at a young age to reach for his dreams, Tunji’s initiative continues to evolve to reach thousands of young people. Over the last two years, YFYA has taken place at the Emirates Stadium with an average of nearly 700 children attending.

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Funke Abimbola
(Positive role model for gender)
Funke Abimbola is a single mother and a practising solicitor now leading the UK & Ireland legal team of Roche, the world’s largest biotech company. She is currently the most senior black lawyer working in the UK pharmaceutical industry. Funke had to overcome significant obstacles in pursuing and progressing her legal career. When entering the legal profession 15 years ago, she was advised to be less ambitious as corporate law was “too competitive for a black woman”. Persistent and tenacious, Funke has embraced diversity in both her widely varied in-house activity and in her equally challenging voluntary work, making it her personal mission to promote diversity within the legal profession by mentoring a number of female colleagues.

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Placida Acheru
(Positive role model for gender)
Placida Acheru is one of UK’s top business transformational coaches. The founder of Coaching 4 Excellence and Unleashed Women’s Network, she is considered a natural entrepreneur, a sought after inspirational speaker and online brand expert and monetisation strategist. Over the last five years, she has worked with entrepreneurs to help them create wealth. Her passion is seeing business owners discover their true calling, take charge of their lives, break through every roadblock to their financial success and enjoy total fulfilment in all areas of their lives. She believes that with the right tools and strategy, anyone can be successful.

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Shane Ryan
(Positive role model for gender)
Shane Ryan is unique in the work that he does and the example he sets for others: no one else considers the whole picture of masculinity and aims to address so many of the associated problems in such a holistic way. As CEO of Working with Men, Shane has transformed the charity that specialises in the difficulties boys and men from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds face. He has fought tirelessly for the rights of marginalised young men bringing them to national attention on numerous occasions, which has allowed the organisation to continue its work with less affluent communities over a number of years. Shane has given a voice to those otherwise often ignored in wider society, or written off as too time consuming or difficult to engage.

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Fred Suadwa
(Positive role model for race, religion and faith)
Fred Suadwa has been an inspiration to colleagues, professionals, parents/carers and young people across Newcastle in his role as a youth worker for over three decades. He has campaigned tirelessly against racism and discrimination and created and co-ordinated a huge range of opportunities, debates, training and social events that have enabled youth workers, the police, elected members, other professionals, and in particular, BAME young people to become involved in raising awareness against racism, social injustice and oppression, in creative and inclusive ways such as hosting, music, video, dance, fundraising and training. He is revered, especially among black and Asian young people across Newcastle and the North East.

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Nathaniel Peat
(Positive role model for race, religion and faith)
Nathaniel Peat has impacted over 8,000 young people in the UK through his organisation, the Safety Box and has since further expanded his work internationally. The Safety Box youth programmes are based on a system of youth empowerment and conflict management combined with confidence-building. The work was born out of the great need to proactively address anti-social behaviour, bullying, low self-esteem, knife and gun violence, alcohol and drugs misuse, under-achievement and sexual assault within society. In 2012, Nathaniel co-founded GeNNex, a renewable energy company. It employs and trains women and young people to design, build, maintain and teach others about solar power in rural areas in the Caribbean and Africa, thus elevating them from poverty and creating sustainability.

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Byron Cole
(Entrepreneur of Excellence)
Byron Cole is the founder of The BLC Group, a business consultant/mentor and an award winning entrepreneur. The BLC Group is the umbrella company for a number of businesses Byron owns, operates or has a financial interest in. The businesses include Property Related Services, Construction Recruitment, Chef Recruitment, Corporate and Personal Branding, Image Consultancy, Employability Skills, National Chauffeur Services, Business Development, Advertising, Marketing, Networking, Consultancy and Mentoring Services. His journey has enabled him to specialise in advising individuals and clients in taking the giant step from being employed to running a successful business.

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Lina Naima
(Entrepreneur of Excellence)
The media and advertising graduate stumbled into her current career as an entrepreneur. In 2009, she got involved with her friend’s business FACE4MUSIC. Then a struggling boutique management company in the heart of London, it is now an award-winning modelling agency, with offices in both London and Birmingham, catering for clients across Europe and the U.S. On this journey, Lina realised her talent for nurturing young models and coaching them in their personal lives. She is now a life coach and a public speaker who delivers seminars in how to achieve personal success.

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Mavis Amankwah
(Entrepreneur of Excellence)
In 2002, Amankwah set up the communications arm of her company, Rich Visions, after noticing a gap between large corporations/companies and traditionally hard-to-reach ethnic communities in the UK. They have since created campaigns for ASDA, Comic Relief, the HMRC, Metropolitan Police, HSBC, MoneyGram and for the Digital UK TV switchover.
Amankwah has been listed in PR Week's PowerBook for six consecutive years between 2009/15. In 2015, she became an associate member of IOEE (Institute Of Entrepreneurs & Enterprise). She is also a public speaker and mentor.

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