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Topic 6: Implementing and Evaluating Your Action Plan

On this page you will find guidance on implementing and evaluating your action plan for the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter.

Join us on Wednesday 2 February 2022 at 10:00-12:00 GMT for a webinar on 'Evaluating your action plan and evidencing success' under the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter.

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On this page you will find guidance on the following:

  • Implementation
  • Assigning Responsibilities
  • Capacity
  • Timescales
  • Embedding and Making It Sustainable
  • Reviewing and Updating

Implementation

Once you have established the outcomes and associated actions of your Gender Action Plan you can begin to think about implementing it. How different actions are implemented will vary depending on what they are but there are key things that need to be considered for each one.

As part of the designing stage of your Gender Action Plan it is important to consider how you will go about delivering on your outcomes. In order to do this, as discussed in the guidance on Creating Your Gender Action Plan, the actions need to be realistic and measurable. They also need to be broken down into small enough actions that each one in turn is actionable. Finally, they need to be associated with particular outcomes. By organising things in this way it should be clear what actions need to occur for outcomes to be met.

It is worth exploring good practice from other institutions and organisations. While your own institution may be unique in many ways, it is likely that your equality challenges aren’t. Learning how other people have organised themselves and implemented their own action plans may be helpful at this point.

Assigning Responsibilities

Once you have an idea of what actions need to occur you should have started assigning responsibilities for your actions and establishing timeframes.

Each action needs to be assigned to someone who will be responsible for implementing and delivering it. For some bigger actions this might be a team of people or a committee however we advise that there be a single person who has ultimate responsibility. For others which are smaller and more specific this might be one individual. In some instances, it is immediately apparent who is best suited to taking responsibility for an action. For example, a department or institution which already has an equality and diversity committee might find that they are already well placed to take charge on some of the actions.

While some individuals might seem an obvious choice for a role it is important to ensure that responsibility for all of the actions do not always fall on one person’s shoulders. While a lone female lecturer in a male-dominated department may be an immediate first choice, the responsibility for gender equality should not fall solely on her shoulders. Everyone should take responsibility for equalities.

In some instances, it may be necessary to assign actions to individuals who perhaps do not have previous experience in this area. Be prepared for that individual to need extra support and factor this in when considering capacity.

Try to be realistic about how big a team each action will need and who is best placed to take it on. While capacity is an important consideration, expertise is too. Ensure that if the responsibility is given to someone that the recognition is too. This is important work and it deserves to be recognised and rewarded.

Capacity

In order for actions to lead to outcomes and in order for these to be sustainable (discussed more below under “embedding and making it sustainable”) and achievable, the capacity to enact the actions must be considered and built in.

Different types of actions will require different types of resources. There is no point in planning a resource-intensive action if there are no available resources. There might be some actions that will require a high number of work hours invested, these will need to be built into work plans and existing teaching, research and operational cycles. 

For example, redesigning or redrafting a policy may take a significant amount of desk time. Before making someone responsible for this work their other commitments should be considered.

Remember that other resources that may be necessary for the implementation of changes might not be as immediately apparent as finances or work hours. For example, consider what expertise is held by your existing team members and where there might be gaps. You may need to budget for external support or trainings.

Be critical and engaged in your decision to allocate actions to people. While for example a woman may be best placed to engage with an action around female employment it is not women’s responsibility to make these changes, it is everyone’s. Do not rely too heavily on minority population members and take their willingness and personal capacity into account.

Timescales

Alongside capacity, timescales must also be realistic. Some outcomes will again take longer to achieve and might take place over the course of a few years. This is nothing to worry about, longer timescales may in fact make the outcomes more sustainable, and managing the time and resources available to you to aspire to these changes is important for making sure that changes last.

It may be that milestones need to be identified throughout the planned timescale. This is especially important for longer-term goals. These milestones should be used to monitor progress but also to ensure momentum is maintained.

Consider who is responsible for changes. It might make sense that an equality and diversity committee take on some actions and outcomes but they may only meet quarterly. Therefore more time must be allowed to ensure that processes are properly discussed and that the individuals responsible for aspects of the actions have time to implement them.

Be realistic about how long it will take to deliver on each action. Some actions will naturally need to occur over an extended period of time and it can be easy to underestimate how long actions can take. These actions are occurring within existing workloads which will naturally fluctuate throughout the year. It makes sense not to plan the delivery of a big action to occur during exam season or over a conference period.

Embedding and making it sustainable

While all work towards gender equality is arguably valuable, the goal here is to implement lasting change that makes a prolonged impact. Ideally the work you do here should reshape your institution and make it a more equal place for everyone who comes through its doors. As such the ultimate goal is to make change that is embedded and sustainable.

A major consideration when ensuring that change is effectively embedded is to engage senior colleagues. Getting the support of high-level decision-makers will ensure that the changes made are sanctioned and supported by those who hold power.

This in turn allows for greater accountability for those responsible for enacting changes. Making sure that changes are well understood and collectively supported is key to creating sustainable change. Rewards and incentives can help initiatives be successful and making these consistent ensures that the initiatives stay successful. Care needs to be taken to ensure that this is done in an inclusive way that doesn’t itself perpetuate inequalities.

Make sure those who need to act on changes are equipped to do so. It will be the people within the organisation that create real change so ensure that everyone is trained appropriately and communicated with effectively. Ensure that everyone has the resources to engage with actions and to support outcomes.

It is important to make sure that throughout the process there are mechanisms in place to support those with responsibilities for the action plan.

For example, you might consider ensuring that the self-assessment team continue to have regular meetings where a standing item should be to have an update on action plan progress; they should check in with those responsible for actions to make sure they’re supported and are on-track. You could also consider more technical ways of ensuring that everyone stays communicating effectively. For example, the action plan could be a ‘live’ shared document that action owners can update.

Reviewing and Updating

Reviewing outcomes is essential to ensure that changes are sustainable and embedded. Keeping conversations open about equalities and making sure people have their say in them, is key to keeping people engaged and keeping the conversations fresh and representative.

Beyond that, no matter how comprehensive your plans are they will inevitably need to be revisited and updated. As changes are made, more issues may become apparent that were perhaps hidden before or more opportunities may arise to make sustainable changes.

A good application has a built-in plan to review and update any gender equalities work that will be taking place. Build in update periods and review dates into the actions and outcomes themselves. As part of this process, consider asking yourself some of the following:

  • Has the action taken place? If not, why not?
  • Were there any barriers or facilitators for getting this action completed?
  • Did the action yield the desired outputs and outcomes? If not, why not?
  • Do we need any additional expertise in order to support the action? Who might be best suited for this?
  • Are any changes required to complete this action, or achieve the desired outcome? Who will be responsible for these changes?

When presenting your plan, ensure it is clear who is responsible for the update and when that is due to take place. For some actions it may be that only a quick update is needed after it has been implemented and the outcome achieved. For others it may be that ongoing updates are needed. Plan these accordingly and keep them consistent.

Remember that details of the application may become outdated as time goes on. Our language around gender and equality is changing and our laws around equality are likely to change too. If we work on the assumption that things will need to be reviewed and updated regularly then any changed or increased demands will not catch you off-guard and the work needed in order to update everything will be minimised. 

Again responsibility for this ideally must be assigned before the changes even begin. Outcomes will need to be communicated well so that everyone is aware of what actions have been implemented.

The implementation of changes will impact everyone, not just an Athena Swan team. It is important to make sure that everyone is aware of upcoming changes and that these are fed back to those within your community who might otherwise be unaware.