Opening our doors to under-represented young talent is a moral imperative

Back in 2018, Beyond helped to found Flipside, an east London-based diversity initiative to help a wider pool of talented candidates break into the industry. Flipside is back after a brief break during the worst of the Covid pandemic. Jess Tyrrell, former Managing Director at Beyond in London, outlines why it’s such an important initiative - and what we can expect from Flipside 3.0.

10 min read
January 31, 2022

The most interesting insight I learned in the early days of Flipside - a digital product design traineeship for young Londoners - was that simply coming through the doors of a workplace and being invited in, has a dis-proportionate impact on the trainees.

At the time I was working at ustwo one of the co-founding partners of Flipside. ustwo’s studio was on the ground floor of the Tea Building at the time, with a prime ‘shop window’ on Shoreditch High Street. One of the early Flipsiders said they walked past there all the time (the initiative is tailored to local young people), and that it looked so cool they never thought they would be invited in, even less so to belong.

I remember going into my Dad’s office when I was a kid. It was an uninspiring 1970’s local authority building, but I loved it. I used to pretend I was ‘sick’ so I could go with him, sit at his desk and get hot chocolates from the coffee machine. I didn’t learn anything about the work they did, but I did understand the comings and goings, what people wore and some of the behaviours. I remember the clocking-in machine and the satisfying clunk-click sound it made. And how proudly he would announce they now worked on ‘flexi-time’.

The point is, unless you have some kind of access, the world of work is a mystery. Even more so in niche, elite sectors like digital product design.

Our CEO, Matt, speaking with a group of Flipside students in our London office

In October 2021 we kicked off the third cohort of Flipside, after a Covid induced hiatus. This time the initiative partners with the Government’s Kickstart programme, to help young people whose career journeys have been held back by the pandemic. And this year the initiative is sponsored by FARFETCH, one of London’s Tech City superstars, based in Old Street - another office that local young people pass by without knowing what's inside.

The reason we - the founding and participating agencies - do this is both moral and selfish. The nucleus is in work I did at Centre for London prior to joining ustwo. Connecting Tech City, the biggest new industry sector in London with its heart in East London, cheek by jowl with some of the poorest boroughs in the country, to local talent is a moral imperative - if you believe in equality of opportunity. It is also selfish, as it gives us as agencies access to new, diverse talent which makes our businesses better.

Much is said about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) these days and I’m glad it’s getting the right amount of attention. It used to be a ‘nice to have’. It’s now a business requirement - and so it should be. But companies like ours need to take action to break down barriers and biases, especially in the creative industries. Talent should have access to opportunity regardless. As creative places we want to work with the best, and to do that we have to nurture good people with great ideas - and crucially, different perspectives.

Opening doors matters, literally and metaphorically. Being invited in matters. It helps young people feel that they belong. It’s proof that you can make it. It helps you to acclimatise, adapt and absorb workplace culture. It builds confidence.

A group of people having a meeting.

What I love about Flipside and initiatives like it, is the trickle down effect. I know that the impact of getting a job at one of our agencies ripples out to siblings and peers. Earning good money (Flipsiders get paid a London Living Wage from day one) gives stability to families. Having a cool job gives you status and it raises the bar for the people around you.

So it is a joy to be part of the partnership that makes Flipside work. It’s been a long 18 months to get Flipside 3.0 off the ground but in December 2021 we saw this current cohort present the answers to the brief that FARFETCH had set them - how to make fashion more sustainable through digital. They came with fresh perspectives and new ideas. They understand what inspires the young fashion buying market much better than the rest of us.

For the next 3 months this cohort of Flipsiders will experience work at Beyond, Made by Many, ustwo and FARFETCH. They will be shadowing designers, working on projects, learning new skills and absorbing workplace culture (remotely or otherwise, Covid depending).

The work starts here

Flipsiders Amenn Ogbemudia and Ethan McFarlane are joining Beyond for a three month work placement. They will sit inside our Creative Team, working alongside our Designers to soak up as much industry knowledge and experience during their engagement with us.

Now the doors are open, it’s up to our Flipsiders to commit, put the work in and open up to the opportunity in front of them. It’s going to be an interesting three months, with the goal being that we offer full time jobs to those that prove themselves, and help them start professional careers.

Thanks to our partners A New Direction who to run the initiative, and to ustwo, Made by Many, SENNEP, Normally, Publicis Sapient, Good Growth Hub and FARFETCH who made it happen this year.

portraits of our two flipsiders
10 min read
January 31, 2022