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Chief Executive Karin Woodley Wins Lifetime Achiever Award at Excellence in Diversity Awards

Cambridge House Chief Executive Karin Woodley wins Lifetime Achiever Award at Excellence in Diversity Awards 2016 for contribution to social justice and fighting inequality 13/05/2016

Karin Woodley

Karin Woodley, Chief Executive of Cambridge House, was awarded the Lifetime Achiever Award at the 2016 Excellence in Diversity Awards last week. Karin was recognised for her extraordinary contribution to the diversity and equality movement over a leadership career spanning 30 years.

The Excellence in Diversity Awards celebrate organisations and individuals that excel in their commitment to equality and inclusion across all strands of diversity.

The Lifetime Achiever Award honours an individual who has devoted a major portion of their professional life to enhancing the practice of equality and diversity, making significant, innovative, and cumulatively outstanding contributions to the cause.

The awards committee recognised that Karin’s passion, experience, and innovative energy has driven a range of organisations working to broaden diversity and increase equality. Karin was also commended for inspirational and creative leadership, humour and care for others, along with her with strong political acumen, a dedication to human rights and energetic persistence.  She has driven a number of significant changes at a community and statutory level in the arts, education, community empowerment, social action, and criminal justice sectors and she received the award to a standing ovation.

Karin’s contribution to Arts Diversity and Equality

During the 1980’s Karin’s voluntary and professional roles helped to significantly:

  • Dismantle the barriers to arts participation by black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) artists
  • Support mainstream arts organisations and government agencies to develop ‘Ethnic Arts’ policies
  • Tackle the multiple exclusions faced by BAME people who are disabled and/or are LGBT

As a young campaigner, Karin founded the Haringey Black Arts Forum, Haringey Disabled Artists Group and the Association of London Black Artists; chaired the West Midlands Ethnic Minorities Arts Service; was a Director of the Institute of Race Relations; and a founder and member of the Arts Council England’s Black Disabled Artists Working Group. She worked to ensure that ‘non-western artists’ were given a voice and were able to work constructively with local, regional and national arts associations to develop policies and practices that reflected the rich diversity of cultural traditions in the UK.

Having been invited by Jeremy Isaacs to advise the Royal Opera House’s education committee on engagement and participation in 1987, Karin lobbied the ROH to devise the schools open week, enabling charities and schools, disabled groups and BAME organisations from areas of high deprivation free access to ROH performances.

Invited by Camden Council to help them recruit London’s first ‘Ethnic Arts Officer’, Karin went on to establish an independent professional forum that successfully supported the appointment of ethnic arts officers in all the London Boroughs, and provided staff in these roles with a support and policy development network.

In 1986, the Labour Party asked Karin to convene an Ethnic Arts Group to advise them on the development of their policies for arts and culture. Karin brought together a group of arts practitioners who went on to work with the 1st BAME MPs in 1987 (Bernie Grant, Keith Vaz, Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng), as well as the SDP and the Conservative Party.

In 1986, over and above her work as Chief Executive of the Minorities Arts Advisory Service, as founder and Chair of the charity Arts Media Group Karin raised the funding that enabled publication of Black Arts in London and Disability Arts in London. Today, archives of these bi-monthly arts listings magazines provide an important record of the cultural events and activities that shaped the cultural profile of London during the latter part of the 20th century.

Karin’s contribution to Diversity and Equality in the Criminal Justice System

In 2000, Karin became the founding chair of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Police’s first Independent Advisory Group on Race (2000-2005). Her dynamic leadership and mediation skills helped to build bridges between the Black community and the police.

This success in Kensington Chelsea led to the Home Offices in England and Wales engaging her to delivery anti-racist and partnership training.

Karin’s contribution to Diversity and Equality in Education

Karin’s visionary and inspiring leadership of the Tabernacle Centre was acknowledged by her being awarded the 2004 London Development Agency award for Black Business Excellence, Achievement & Mentoring; the 2002 highest achieving Adult Learning Inspectorate report nationally; and the 2001 European Social Fund /NIACE New Learning Opportunities Award in the category Young BME Adult Learners.

Karin was appointed as the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust’s first professional Chief Executive in 2005. During the subsequent four years she raised £15 million in grants and donations so that the organisation could begin to achieve its mission to tackle the under-representation of BAME people in the architectural and built environment professions.

Karin’s tenacious pursuit of equality and diversity has included inspirational work on an international level:

  • In 1992 and 1993 in the lead-up to South Africa’s first open general election in 1994; Karin joined a team of University of Amsterdam sponsored lecturers who were willing to risk working with illegal arts unions in Johannesburg to prepare black freedom fighters for roles in local, regional and national government.
  • In 2001, she was an international visiting lecturer in arts and humanities at Dillard University, an historically black university in New Orleans.
  • In 2013, she led a team of trainers providing citizenship and diversity training in Siberia for 13 to 16 years olds, funded by the EU.

Karin continues to devote herself, beyond the call of duty, to diversity, inclusion and social justice. In addition to her work as Chief Executive of Cambridge House, Karin holds the following positions:

  • Council Member of the Economic and Social Research Council
  • Vice Chair of Community Southwark
  • Member of the Global Social Economy Forum
  • Trustee of Locality (an umbrella organisation for building-based community organisations)
  • Fellow of the British American Project
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
  • Vice Chair of London South Bank University’s Student Union
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