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It’s been almost one year since Colour of Research (CORe) was founded to address the lack of ethnic minority representation in the research industry. Research Live spoke to two of the group’s co-founders, Theo Francis and Sia Najumi, about how it has grown to a network of over 500 members and what more needs to change in the industry.

Colour of Research (CORe) launched last summer. What’s the background to the group?

Sia Najumi (SN): Among people of colour, the assumption was always there when we were at events, looking around and not seeing it being so diverse. It was always a topic of conversation. I’ve been in the industry for about three years now, so not long to be having these types of conversations. I think it was Bob (Qureshi) or Theo who said ‘Let’s just act on these conversations, why do we keep acknowledging the lack of diversity but not doing anything about it?’ So, we decided to start a group.

Theo Francis (TF): We launched in July 2020 but our first Zoom call was in March. We finalised the shortlist at the Impact conference Research Club after-party. It was about a week after that we did our first Zoom call, when lockdown first happened.

It was very organic. It was a problem that we had all realised was there, and we tried to figure out why no-one had done this before. Then we thought, well, if we’re talking about it, why don’t we do it?

Then George Floyd’s murder happened, and the world woke up to this sort of thing. We thought that this would be a slow burner, a soft launch, and all of a sudden, the whole world was looking at us. So, the first year has been a bit crazy. There are big expectations, but I think we’ve done really well. There’s a lot going on and it’s just the beginning.

What has the response from the rest of the industry been like?

TF: The response has been amazing, not just from people of ethnic backgrounds, but people who can sympathise – allies who put their hand up and say ‘this has been long overdue, what can we do to help?’. There’s been a massive wave of support, more so when Black Lives Matter was getting a lot of attention, so it was at the top of everyone’s mind. That has dipped down a little bit now, however, it’s coming up to a year and conversations are starting again in terms of what companies have done since posting black squares.

For a lot of people, it’s still relevant, it’s still an important topic and something that people know needs to change. It’s gone in ups and downs.

SN: But that’s been good for us because when we first started it was really overwhelming. We thought, ‘Oh, what do we do?’ We had ideas but we really had to start picking up our pace – every day was meetings after meetings and ideas and it was difficult to keep up, so I think the pace that we’re going at is good – it allows us to do what we actually really want to do, thoughtfully.

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