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Monday 20 March 2023

Engaging and motivating: FDA member development programme

By Kay Hender
Kay Hender speaks to Equality Officer Victoria Jones about the FDA’s member development programme, aimed at inspiring and encouraging members in underrepresented groups to stand for election and become more actively involved in their union.


"We wanted to create the development programmes to allow us to start building a really diverse pipeline of future leaders within the FDA" - Victoria Jones, FDA Equality Officer

In 2021, the FDA’s data showed that while the diversity of its membership broadly corresponded to the make-up of the civil service, there was a decline in the proportion of ethnic minority and women representatives. The union felt that with the right support, guidance and inspiration, that trend could – and should - be reversed.

In October of that year, the FDA launched its first member development programmes, supporting women and ethnic minority members into leadership positions within the union. 

FDA Equality Officer Victoria Jones explains: “We wanted to create the development programmes to allow us to start building a really diverse pipeline of future leaders within the FDA. We know our membership is diverse and we want to make sure that all members are represented at all levels of the union. Our work is shaped by the needs of our members and having people from all backgrounds get involved with their union really helps us to keep pushing in the right direction.”

Through engagement with the union’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC) and its Race Equality Focus Group, a programme of six 90-minute sessions were created, which ran from the end of 2021 to the beginning of 2022. Due to ongoing Covid restrictions at this point, these were all run online. 

Each session was focused on inspiring and motivating members to take the next step and stand for election, or become more actively involved within their branch or section. The decision was made to keep the groups relatively small, to enable those taking part to make connections and build relationships. A number of topics were covered, including campaigning, communication and having an impact, as well as a market-place style event with contributions from charities and lobby groups looking at key issues currently faced in the workplace. Those that took part were also helped to create individual action plans with the support of existing FDA reps.

While the programmes were focused on highlighting members’ skills that would make them successful at taking on more active roles with the FDA, there were also clear career development aspects of the programme covering a broader reach. Jones outlined the breadth of research carried out in putting the programme together: “It was great to be able to pull on resources from across the union movement, but also from charities and influencers. We also used our connections through our Women and Ethnic Minorities into Leadership conferences to curate a programme that provided personal development opportunities as well as focusing on how you can influence change within your union.” 

While the initial sessions focused on women and ethnic minority members, the FDA is looking to broaden out its reach to be an equality-focused development programme. Future sessions will also utilise the skills and experience of the union’s new Head of Learning and Organising, Deri Bevan, to shape a programme that also works to the FDA’s organising and learning goals.

Taking on feedback from the previous programmes, it’s likely that at least some of the sessions will be in person now that this is permissible, to enable those taking part to share experiences and network face to face.

A major success of the programme is that Beatriz Brown, an alumni from the women’s development course, has now joined the union’s Executive Committee, becoming a key part of the union’s policy-making and progression (see box for her views and experience of taking part).

Jones is looking to ensure that lessons are learned from previous sessions to ensure the project can strengthen and build: “The programme was really successful – we’re looking at how we can tweak the content to reach even more members, from a variety of underrepresented groups. It’s great to see stories like Bea’s where members are empowered to make a difference at the highest levels within the FDA.” 


"I feel privileged to contribute to union leadership" - Beatriz Brown FDA Executive Committee member

Beatriz Brown, Policy Lead – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation at the Ministry of Justice and now member of the FDA’s Executive Committee, took part in the first member development programme. She shares her view of taking part in the programme and what she learned from the experience.

“I joined the FDA because I saw it as a dynamic union that would offer me opportunities to get engaged early on in my civil service career. I was delighted to join the first cohort of the Women’s Development programme and meet women from across the Civil Service. This breadth of experience meant we could discuss career pathways and challenges to progression from diverse perspectives, encouraging each other to consider new approaches to union leadership and organising.

“The sessions were practical and aimed at uncovering the skills we would need to progress within FDA’s leadership structures. We were given space to reflect on our own leadership, and also draw from external expertise on, for example, campaigning and communication skills. Highlights for me included discussions on job shares, political neutrality and representative leadership – issues that matter to FDA members.

“The programme opened my eyes to union structures and strategy. On completion of the programme, I felt ready to invest further in FDA activity. I was pleased to be nominated to the Executive Committee 2022-2024 where I feel privileged to contribute to union leadership. I would encourage women members to join this year’s cohort and embrace FDA’s investment in inclusive leadership.”

Would you like to take part in a member development programme?

The FDA is looking to launch a new member development programme for those currently underrepresented within the union (for example as a rep, or member of a Committee). Building on the foundations already created, we’d be looking to empower members to use their voice, skills and expertise within the FDA.

If you’re interested, please email equalitymatters@fda.org.uk with the subject ‘Development programme’, outlining why you would like to take part.


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