By Dr Spela Godec and Professor Louise Archer, UCL

The Youth Equity and STEM (YESTEM) project ran from 2017 to 2022 as an international research-practice partnership focused on understanding and supporting equitable practice in informal STEM learning. In this guest blog, Dr Spela Godec and Professor Louise Archer of the YESTEM academic research team, explain one of the outputs of the project – the Equity Compass.

How can funders be more equitable?

Science organisations are increasingly concerned with how to embed equity, diversity and inclusion in their programmes and initiatives. In this blog, we introduce the Equity Compass—a tool that supports users to reflect on and embed equity within their practice—and discuss how the newest iteration can help funders to place social justice at the heart of their own practice and across their investments.

What is the Equity Compass?

The Equity Compass is a reflective tool that was developed by the Youth Equity and STEM partnership. The tool was originally created to support informal STEM learning practitioners to understand, reflect on and map their progress towards more equitable practice – but it has since been expanded to include bespoke versions for teachers, school leaders and governors and now funders.

The Equity Compass framework sets out four overarching areas (spanning eight different sub-dimensions) that are important to consider when thinking about your own policy or practice. These are:

  • challenging the status quo
  • working with and valuing minoritised communities
  • embedding equity, and
  • extending equity.

The reflective questions related to each area provide the user with prompts to structure and guide their thinking. Progress can be mapped onto the Equity Compass, as the user seeks to move from the less equitable inner circle towards the more equitable outer ring.

Our Youth Equity and STEM partners have found the tool helpful at both a personal and organisational level, helping them to critically consider their work. As one practitioner reflected:

I think our main thing would be stopping and reflecting on what we’re actually doing. … Just like really reflecting, sitting, being like: ‘What are we doing, why are we doing it?’

Another one mentioned that “It’s completely changed the way we work”.

Adapting the Equity Compass for funders

We know that funders, big and small, are key players in addressing injustices – the culture and values of a funder will shape all areas of their practice, directing decisions about who and what gets funded, through to setting the agenda for what and how particular outcomes are valued, supported and achieved.

A key challenge for funders is often how to translate a general commitment to equity and inclusion into everyday practice. These are the considerations that led us to work with colleagues from various funding organisations to develop a new funder edition of the Equity Compass. We were delighted to work with a range of funders—particularly the UK Research and Innovation and the British Science Association (BSA)—to understand their needs and inform the content and framing of this new version.

Developing equitable practice is an ongoing journey, and some dimensions might be easier to address in the short-term, while other might need to be included in the longer-term strategy and planning. It’s helpful to start small.

We love hearing how people are adopting the Equity Compass in their work. Give it a go – and let us know how you get on! We’re on Twitter @YESTEM_UK and [email protected].

Youth Equity and STEM was a five-year research-practice partnership focused on understanding and developing equitable practice within informal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. The YESTEM project partners included:

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At the BSA, we have been using the Equity Compass in our programme development. Read more about how we’ve adopted it.