Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People

Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

January 8th, 2017 by SusanPopoola

2017 – A Better Year?

We all get there together or we don’t get there at all.

From the movie ~ Hidden Figures


The first half of 2016 was reasonably calm. However, by the time we reached the second half of the year with the aftermath of the British EU referendum and the endless drama around the US elections, I found myself constantly feeling as if I was in a Soap Opera on steroids.

In dream like fashion, I wished I could speak to the producer and ask him to tone things down as it was becoming unrealistic with the constant twists and turns at every corner. I say dream, however, many would think of it all more as a nightmare with outcomes that they had neither anticipated or wanted.

Beyond any electoral outcomes and the nightmarish outcomes, worse for me were the deaths; pain and suffering of those afflicted and/or displaced by terrorism and war; and the growing divisiveness in society, fed by undressed issues, a blame cultures and the entrenchment of prisms of them and us through the dichotomy of a negative other.

I could go into an in-depth analysis of the shock and sadness caused by the death of celebrities and everyday people more directly connected through personal relationships. The Syrian crisis with cease-fires during which abominations took place such as the targeting of hospitals; a response to people seeking refuge; constant acts across Europe and yes other parts of the world. These are all bothersome. However, most disconcerting and destructive of all is the divisiveness and growing concept of other viewed in a negative and different light. The failure to see ourselves in each other.

I guess it’s not easy to see ourselves in others when they are presenting viewpoints that appear to be in opposition not just to our interest, but to our very existence. In many ways it’s what my book, “Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain is all about though.  It’s also as President Barack Obama once said; “if we can begin to see ourselves in each other then the barriers will begin to tumble down.”

I found myself watching a number of box sets of television series in 2016. With well-produced products such as Desperate Housewives, and Greys Anatomy, I became well acquainted with the characters. I came to seem them as whole beings – developing an understanding of them and the character of the different characters and the what’s and whys of their behaviour both the good and It’s not about justifying bad behaviours, but I did develop an n understanding of the why’s of their what’s. Most people in the productions are basically good people – possibly at times mixed up, misguided, coming from a different starting point/philosophy or premise or what you have you.

The same applies to the vast majority of people around us – be it those that come to us seeking refugee or those that vote for different things from us. Ultimately, we all want what we believe is best for us and those close to us.

Many hoped for an end to 2016 because they were upset by events of 2016. When it comes to events such as Brexit and election outcomes; moving into a new year doesn’t directly change things; in fact it brings us closer to the outcomes. Talking to a friend earlier, we laughed, as we liked it to a pregnancy. If a lady gets pregnant by the wrong man, moving to a new year doesn’t change the circumstances or outcome. The only thing that really changes things is a change in approach and attitude – developing an understanding that somehow there is a need to find common ground and work together.

It’s in line with this, that you will hear me increasing speak about the Mosaic model this year. The basic believe that there is a need to respect and value differences, which can lead to a bright and beautiful appearance, if we also remember our common interests, and values, which bind us together, like glue.

It’s not always easy with the hateful views and things that some people espouse. But I believe it’s usually it’s more effective to try and find some connection and common ground – to remember humanity another person than to shout hatred from across a wall.


Susan Popoola is the Managing Director of Conning Towers Ltd, a boutique style Human Value Optimisation Firm. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.

Copyright 2017. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

June 22nd, 2016 by SusanPopoola

The Fallacy of a Referendum

The EU Referendum debate was an opportunity for us to have an intelligent discussion about some of the challenges that we face as a nation with reflections on the potential opportunities and solutions both in and out of Europe. Sadly, It seems to me that we have failed on this account.
Although I may be exaggerating, it seems that every faction on the leave side attributes or at least links every problem that we have to Europe, whilst the remain faction speaks of how great Europe is for virtually everything.

Fundamentally, I’ve come to realise that if you spoke to 10 different people on their reasoning for voting for either leave or remain; you’re likely to get 10 different reasons from either side.

The different factions also have different storylines in relation to what in or out means… largely on the basis of their ideologies or simply what they believe will gain them support. Truth be told, even if any of the pictures painted were actually workable in totally, it’s not possible for all the in or out positions to be realised.

Where the intending to vote for Remain the focus should be on what current and future elected governments are likely to do. For those intending to vote to Leave, take a look at the official vote leave position ref: ; it’s key members and consider both what they say leaving Europe will mean together with what they are likely to do. Then vote.


Susan Popoola is the Managing Director of Conning Towers Ltd, a Human Value Optimisation organisation, focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation for Innovative, High Potential organisations.  She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.

Copyright 2016. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.



August 21st, 2015 by SusanPopoola

Remembering the Key and Common Purpose


I was a School Governor i.e. on the Board for a School for close to 10 years. As I was a Founding Director not only did I share in the privilege and responsibility for setting the vision and direction of the school, I also had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people – both members of staff and fellow board members. Without question I learnt from each and everyone who all brought something special and unique, but the most tangible lessons came from two particular fellow founding board members.

First was a lovely, honourable gentleman who had very prestigious and senior level experience working for organisations both in the UK and further afield. He rarely spoke of his past experiences; he just came along and used his expertise to do what was required of him with full dedication. He never dominated discussions during meetings, but he was never afraid to express his point of view – even if he was the lone voice expressing a particular opinion. He would stick to guns to the very end – clearly articulating his reasoning unless he was convinced otherwise. However, once the board voted on a decision, he would go along with the majority consensus and not one outside of the room would know that he had, had a difference in opinion.

Then there was a lovely, forthright lady who had worked in education for most of her life. As you may have already gathered, we had some very robust debates – especially before making key decisions. Everyone was encouraged to express his or her point of view and for the most part we did. Often, we would get to a stage where the lady I refer to would declare – “Hang on a minute, its all about the youngsters, what is best for the youngsters? That’s what we need to really consider!”

From that point onwards the discussion – which would have been very useful, would take on a new, focused tone. Philosophies, experiences, preferences, views on the what’s and how’s and what have you all became secondary to what would ultimately serve the interest of the students and benefit them.

These are fundamental lessons that I have learnt from people that are much older than me. In generational terms they would be referred to as Traditionalist, Maturists or the Silent Generation i.e. people born before 1945. Maybe they both represent and present values we no longer adhere to and that are rapidly being forgotten; yet I believe that with the world that we live in they become more important than ever.

I have been observing the British labour party’s leadership contest in despair. A candidate appears – as if from nowhere. He expresses his position and points of view. He rapidly gains support. The other candidates and the party establishment are horrified and the whole campaign seems to now be focused on why people should not and would be foolish to support him. I would have thought that they would have in the first instance taken the time to understand what it is that is leading people to support him and then to work harder at given people clear reasons to vote for the alternative candidates since they are convinced that he is the wrong person to lead their party.

The Labour Party’s leadership contest has not, however, brought me to tears as the closure of the UK Charity, Kids Company did. To be honest, I’d heard about someone’s negative experiences of working at Kids Company a number of years back and there were clear signs of trouble emerging in the media in the last year or so. The closure of Kids Company therefore didn’t come as a total surprise to me. I was, however, surprised at how quickly it came to a close and how little preparedness there seemed to be to support the young people dependent on the services from those in key positions who would have seen clearer signs of trouble than I who was observed from a distance. I can say whether the charity should have stayed open or not. If there were serious problems with the way in which it was being run, duty of care to the young people and to how they were being supported, then it may have been best for the young people for the charity to be closed. With Kids’ Company, of most critical concern to me was the fact that after the sudden closure the focus seemed to be s on who was right and wrong, the problems of management, the approach of the leader, complaints that may have been made etc. rather than what immediately needed to be done to safeguard the interests of the young people that may have been dependent on the services of the charity.

There are always exceptions, however, I believe that if a lot of us look closer to home – sometimes with families, but not wanting to get too personal, I’ll focus on the workplace and just say even at work similar attitudes and behaviours are often exhibited. When we go to work, do we remember the common purposes that we are all there for that extend beyond just making money. Are we really ready to pull together to achieve that common purpose even if it means at times taking the time to see things from other people’s point of view; accepting other people’s point of view; making compromises or even swallowing pride and apologising.

I know that in sports teams, everyone is working towards a common goal, the minute that is forgotten things begin to go array.

I’m in no way coming from a place of perfection, but I have been privileged to have been shown some great practices which when adopted lead to greater productivity, success and happiness.



Labour Leadership Contest:

Kids Company closure:


Susan Popoola is the Managing Director of Conning Towers Ltd, an HR firm focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation for Innovative, High Potential organisations..  She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.

Copyright 2015. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.


February 25th, 2015 by SusanPopoola

Unwarranted Segregation?

When I speak in Schools and Colleges on issues of diversity, inclusion and engagement, I have on occasion shown a BNP video in which a member of the BNP questions why black people have so many groups, organisations and representation such as the Black Police Association, Music of Black Origin, Black Nurses Association if they want to be part of British Society.

I typically ask the group whether the woman in the video has a point. At times this leads to a discussion at times people are hesitant to respond and I go on speak about some of the historical issues of exclusion of black people in British society around areas such as housing, work and even religion. Exclusions that often led black people to set up their own groups, churches and various organisations and societies.

It still leaves the questions as to whether these set ups are still needed today. After all, that was then this is now. In fact a few weeks ago I ended up in an extended discussion with someone about this at the Royal Society of Arts. Sometimes I also begin to question the relevance of such ‘structures’ today.

Then we get to the awards season for the entertainment industry – focused on America, but with Global implications. Throughout the season to date frustrations have been expressed about the limited representation of black artistes in various award categories regardless of their achievements.

At this point I believe it becomes difficult to challenge the structures that represent black achievement, advancement and goals. (Unless you can convince me that this is just an American issue)


Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2015. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

December 24th, 2014 by SusanPopoola

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

A couple of months back I was at a friend’s place. We were just having a general conversation when an appeal message for children in need in Africa was shown on television. As is often the case with such adverts, malnourished children with very little clothing were shown. Mid-sentence, my friend paused in our conversation and glared at the television. “Why are they always portraying Africa like this?” she exclaimed. I tried to point out that there are people in need and such adverts are aimed at getting the necessary support to help them. She wasn’t having it though, “ how many people in Africa actually live like that?” she retorted. She went on to explain that her seven-year daughter had recently asked her why they were always showing children like that on television. My friend happens to be from Senegal and though her two children were born in France they have, visited Senegal on a couple of occasions. They do not come from a rich background; in fact to be honest, her family at home are from a poor, rural community. However, her daughter’s experience of Africa was in no way aligned to what she was seeing on television.

I had this at the back of my mind, when Bob Geldof assembled a number of British artists to record a new version of “Do they know it’s Christmas” in order to help raise funds to help combat Ebola in Africa. It may be for this reason that I felt a sense of disquiet about the recording. I therefore thought that after a few days the feeling would go away – it didn’t. In fact as I observed the artistes; listened to the lyrics; and watched Sir Bob Geldof say that you don’t have to like the lyrics to buy the song and go on to say that people who did not like what he was doing should get lost (polite version). My disquiet grew. This feeling was further heightened by the ‘chants’ of people who said that anything negative about the campaign was eclipsed by the objective, which was to help. I further found myself squirming and struggling to hold my tongue when I heard a young man pronounce that he was sure that the people in Africa would be grateful for ANY help offered to them.

Less you may be thinking, isn’t it true? Let me say no, it’s not, most especially not in this day and age. More pertinently if you really want to help anyone who you perceive to be in need, be it a friend, a family member or someone in some distant land, if you want to be effective, you do need to take the time to truly understand their position, their needs and what they are actually doing to help themselves.

So here are my problems with the “Do they know it’s Christmas” campaign:

At the most superficial level, even with the changes, to the lyrics are not representative of Africa. It’s only certain parts of West Africa that have been affected by Ebola and without question the people of Africa know that it’s Christmas. There are churches all over the place and if you just listen to any African at home or abroad talk about their Christmas festivities you will know that they know when Christmas is, even if their perspective is a bit different from yours.

More important though, Geldof could have included some African artists in the track or better still promoted one of the songs that had ALREADY been recorded by African artists to raise awareness and help combat the disease. One that particular stands out to me is a song, “Trust the Doctors”, sang by renowned African artists who sing of Ebola as an invisible enemy. The song is actually very educational.

Yes, the typical person in Britain doesn’t know the artistes and probably wouldn’t understand the song since it’s in French with verses in a number of different African languages. However, Geldof did say, you don’t have to like the “Do they know it’s Christmas, but people should just buy it to suit the cause. The same principal can therefore apply to the African songs aimed at combating Ebola. Otherwise, what we are saying: African efforts are irrelevant and therefore we are going to do our own thing to help you. That you as Africans are not capable? Mind you, proceeds from the song that I have highlighted go to medicine san frontier.

If Geldof had got behind the promotion of such as song, aside from the funds that it would have generated, it would have demonstrated to people that are tired of the constant appeals to support Africa such as the one that frustrated my friend, that Africans are also doing things to help themselves. It would have also created an awareness of African cultural and some very good African artistes.

You see there, is a need for a change in perception and attitude towards Africa. When we had black Friday and everyday people in England were shown pushing and shoving in a bid to get items which they may or may not need, someone showed this in comparison to hungry, malnourished children in Africa stretching their hands out begging for food.



Yes, there are some children like this in Africa, but if it didn’t happen this year, within the next few years there will be black Friday in Africa with people fighting for goods which they may or may not need just as we have in England. More pertinently, there are a number of Africans that I know, that have no interests in such sales because they can readily afford to buy such items at more than double the recommended retail price.

So as we celebrate Christmas here in the West, rest assured that in Africa they not only know that it’s Christmas, but they will most definitely be celebrating as well. I believe the best Christmas present to Africa this year and for all the years going forward will be provide them with help and support from a position of greater understanding of the where they are and to support their own efforts and self identified needs.

Merry Christmas everyone


Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2014. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated


August 13th, 2014 by SusanPopoola

A Friend’s Experience of Depression

After I woke up on Monday to the news that Robin Williams had passed away and I learnt of the circumstances, I said I hoped that his legacy involved a re-think of our response to mental health. I’m pleased that a number of other people have shared a similar viewpoint.  Amongst them is a friend who has shared of his personal experience:


More of us suffer from depression than we realise. It’s been taboo, so we keep it quiet. Because of that, healthy people don’t understand much about it and say things that make sufferers feel worse. Sufferers make themselves feel worse, looking for logical explanations for the symptoms they have to deal with. It’s not deliberate, of course, it’s a function of lack of knowledge and understanding.

Will you please join me and piss all over this taboo right now, while it’s a topical issue? I’ll continue where I’ve already seen many folk leading the way in the last couple of days.

Sufferers need to stop hiding our symptoms and putting more pressure on by pretending nothing is wrong. Non-sufferers need to realise that competent people don’t suddenly become unreliable, unless there’s something wrong.

I have lived with depression for much longer than it’s been diagnosed. I have seen a number of counsellors. One helped and, because I was working and could afford it, I saw him weekly for several months. Since I haven’t been able to work so much, I haven’t been able to afford private counselling. So at a very difficult time, when emotional trauma kept kicking me, I was referred to ‘crisis’ counselling by the NHS and, after 6 sessions, I was closer to suicide that at any time before. The Samaritans picked up the pieces and helped me put myself back together again.

For 3 years since diagnosis I’ve been on anti-depressants. They are useful. They have their place. Because depression causes/is caused by (who knows? but they’re associated) chemical imbalance in the brain, often (but not always) precipitated by an emotional trauma of some kind, some drugs help to stabilise our feelings while we wait for the inner strength to tackle the root cause. If the root cause is emotional trauma and we can learn to deal with it, we can often make a good recovery and return to a life that is pretty normal.

Maybe sometimes there’s no initial trauma that kicks it off. Or maybe the trauma is so great, the patient’s mind refuses to remember it and it stays hidden, rotting away beneath the conscious level, undermining our physical and emotional strength. This must be a hell for those who suffer it. Because there is no way of learning to cope with it, of managing past it. the chemical imbalance is constant and maybe incurable.

In my case, I’ve maybe just got a grasp on the original causes and have them under some kind of control. It doesn’t usually make me cry to talk about them like it used to. I don’t get tremors or anxiety attacks, much. I can finish most sentences I start, without deteriorating into an incoherent stammering, mumbling fool. That’s quite important to avoid in my work.

I still don’t have the confidence to make decisions, sometimes even relatively unimportant ones. I was maybe always a little OCD, but now it’s excessive and extreme. I therefore don’t always trust others to do what they promise to do. That puts pressures on relationships with friends and partners. Imagine what it would do to relations with peers and team members who report to you.

That’s why this illness can be so debilitating. Once confident, decisive, supportive leaders become no longer fit for purpose, very quickly. In time I’m making more decisions, but often turning to loved ones seeking support and guidance.

No one with depression wants sympathy. Simple acceptance of our condition, even some understanding of it’s debilitating impact, would be terrific. Please.


From a friend, who in many ways could have been anyone of us.



(c) 2014

May 23rd, 2014 by SusanPopoola

Bringing Back Our Girls

Bring Back Our Girls


A few weeks back I was speaking at a conference in Denmark. I asked the audience whether anyone had heard about the girls that were kidnapped in Northern Nigeria. Only one person put up his hand. If I went back there today and asked the same question I believe every single person in the room would put up their hand. In fact I believe that the same would apply to an audience anywhere in the world

I believe that the current awareness is largely due to the #BringBackOurGirls hash tag activism; the rallies; and the resultant global media focus and coverage of the abomination that took place on the night of the 14th of April when well over 200 girls were kidnapped by the militant group – Boko Haram.

So now the world has heard and people on a global basis from school children to celebrities, politicians, business people and just general everyday people are saying – “Bring Back Our Girls” This has worked to the extent that it has brought global attention to the situation. It led the global media to focus in on the situation, to go to Nigeria ask questions of the previously silent Nigerian government. It has led foreign governments to openly offer support and follow up by providing some support (even though I’m not really clear on what the support is and the impact that it is having). I believe it led Boko Haram to release a video showing girls believed to be the girls captured. It has led to meetings of interested parties, inclusive of meeting of Nigerian officials and neighbouring countries in France.

However, at this point I find myself asking where are we now and what happens next? I believe that John Simpson of the BBC provided a good analysis of the situation on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, the 18th May. Ref: (from 9.20 minutes). He concludes his analysis by saying that the best thing is to negotiate for the girls’ release.

I tend to agree with him, especially when cognisance is given to the fact that within the last week and in spite of all the attention there have been bombings in two major cities (Kano and Jos) leading to the killing 100s of people. This to me clearly demonstrates that the Nigerian government no longer has an effective military; is not effectively deploying the military and/or has no control over the military.

Furthermore, when President Goodluck Jonathan went to France for talks, all I heard was what sounded like medium term plans. What about the immediate issue of the girls? Now I’ll also add, what about something to at least try and ensure the more immediate security of the people within the country. In addition to the further bombings that I’ve mentioned, I understand that Boko Haram are threatening to kidnap more girls.

I’m not really hearing the government addressing these issues. You may say suggest that perhaps this is because I don’t live in Nigeria – this is true, however, no one that I know based in Nigeria is talking about the governments plans or actions.

It also seems to me that the global media presence in Nigeria is understandably dwindling – there are other events and areas of the world that they need to cover. They are therefore not present to raise the questions with the Government, as they were a couple of weeks back. I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes, however the only people that I see still asking direct questions are Women’s leaders such as Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin of Campaign for Democracy of Women Arise that plan to go round the country over a 14 day period holding rallies ending up in Chibok. Whilst doing this they are demanding that the Government answers questions and acts to get the girls released. Campaign for Democracy is Nigeria’s first human rights organization which was formed way back in the early 1990s. I believe that it is credible and well intentioned. (Read Dr Joe’s full profile on facebook as per the link)

I also believe that if the Bring Back Our Girls campaign – hash tag and rallies are to continue and have any real impact going forward they work in conjunction with Campaign for Democracy and/or any other such well established group asking questions and demanding answers.

I’m conscious that a key #BringBackOurGirl campaigner, Oby Ezekwesili continues to lead rallies in the capital Abuja. I’ve noticed that Dr Joe (@DrJoeOdumakin) and Oby (@obyezeks) follow each other on twitter – I hope they are or can begin to work together in solidarity.   The Nigerian Union of Teachers has also held at least one demonstration. I also hope that they can/are working together with the key campaigners.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of their approaches or what they say, but it’s not about that. When I was a School Governor we at times had long debates on issues, then would stop us with remarks – how does what we are discussing affect the students? What is in their best interest? As we all had the students’ best interest at heart we would ultimately be able to come to some agreement. I believe the same applies even more under these circumstances – if everything who declares an interest truly has the best interest of the girls at heart, then they must be a way of uniting for the best possible outcome.

You see it’s no longer about awareness, we are all now aware. At this stage it’s only a united effort behind such campaigners that can bring about results. If the campaign is not taken to a more strategic level, Boko Haram will go ahead with their threat to kidnap more girls as the Nigerian government and the rest of us watch in horror. The world has said Bring Back Our Girls – not the Girls or the Nigerians girls, but our girls. If we truly believe that they are ours – then I believe this is a must.


Susan Popoola

Copyright 2014 This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

February 10th, 2014 by SusanPopoola

Unconsciously Biasing Children

I recently found myself watching the “Doll test” An experiment where children, black and white are shown two different dolls at the same time and asked questions such as which one is pretty, nice, bad and ugly.  Most of the children, black and white alike point to white doll when it comes to the positive attributes and the black doll when it comes to the negative attributes.

Doll Test

I’ve watched experiments several times before – they’re probably just as old as me!  This time though, having recently been interviewed a few times on the subjects of “Skin Tone Memory Bias” and “Unconscious Bias” I found myself reflecting deeper. Is the experiment perhaps flawed in it’s design and by virtue of the questions asked? Do the questions actually lead the child to make unnecessary and indeed unhealthy choices?

As a starting point, I found myself wondering, what was in the hearts and minds of those children when they walked into the room that morning and how would they have responded if they were presented with a different set of questions.

What would the children have said if they had been asked what was nice about each doll instead of being asked which doll was nice and which was bad?  Having been asked what was nice about each doll, they could have then been asked the follow up question as to whether there was anything bad about the dolls.

On the other hand asking them which was nice and which was bad sends a message to the child that one was better than the other and they had to choose which one – regardless of their mind-set when they walked into the room..

Alternatively, what if the children were just simply shown a black doll or a white doll and asked what they thought of it.  They could then have been shown a doll of the other colour.  I suspect that there responses may not have been so stark and they would have probably focused on other features rather than just colour.

I believe that a key problem with the research is that its approach stems from and feeds into our adult prejudices and conditioning.  I’m not saying that children are unaware but I don’t believe it is the starting point with their thinking until we condition them. Just as I said I wonder what was in the hearts and minds of the children when they entered the room, I wonder what was in their hearts and minds as they left as if they were not making distinction on the basis of colour when they entered the room, the seed was planted by the time they left. The problem is I believe in our day to day interacts we often teach children to think in terms of colour and in line with our other biases which may be conscious or subconscious.


Copyright 2014 This document is the specific intellectual property of the Conning Towers Consultancy. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.


December 24th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

A Visit to Marks & Spencer

I’ve just got come from a shopping trip to Marks & Spencer and I must say that I’m pleased to have learnt before I left that they will not be implementing a policy which would have given Muslim staff permission to refuse to serve customers buying alcohol or pork products. Ref: The Telegraph, 23rd December 2013 (Muslim staff at Marks & Spencer can refuse to sell alcohol and pork)

You see, if such a policy had been in place, knowing that I would have an alcholic drink or two for Christmas in my shopping basket heading towards the check out, I would have scanned the members of staff and if anyone looked like a Muslim, I would not gone in their direction. I would have headed somewhere else because I didn’t want to have to queue up only to be told to go somewhere else. I would have got into this habit and in time I’d have probably done so even if I wasn’t buying alcohol or pork based products.

Don’t ask me how I would have determined whether staff members were Muslim or not. I’d have probably used stereotypes. If a staff member was wearing a head scarf of some kind, it would be obvious – wouldn’t it be? Outside of that I would have used the presumed ethnic origin of the staff member or whatever others assumptions I had stored in my mind.

Situations may have occurred whereby a “Muslim looking” staff member would have been waiting at a till to serve customers and I would walk past to someone else, even if there was a queue. The “Muslim” member of staff would have wondered why I was ignoring him or her.

If it was just me that started acting this way, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, however, I suspect that I would be one of many reacting in such a manner – consciously or subconsciously.  If I reacted in such a manner, my behaviour would have been seen as odd – if I was white, the counter-assumption would have probably been made that I was racist.

The good thing is that Marks & Spencer has decided not to go ahead with the implementation of this policy and I understand that they have even apologised for even thinking of doing so. As I result, today I went to Marks & Spencer with a smile on my face to the cashier with the shortest queue with no further thought. I can also continue to shop at Marks and Spencer without the risk of offending any member of staff at the store.


Copyright 2013 This document is the specific intellectual property of the Conning Towers Consultancy. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.








December 21st, 2013 by SusanPopoola

Food Banks

Little deeds of kindness,

little words of love,

make our earth an Eden,

like the heaven above.

Little Drops of Water

by Julia Carney, 1845

Most people have at some point in time gone through one or two tough patches – be it that they last for weeks, months or sadly even years. For some people the worst of a tough patch may mean the need to cut back on expenses. For others it may mean that people struggle to pay bills and even to put food on the table. This is a problem that is heightened during a recession.

Fortunately for people in Milton Keynes that are faced with such situations there are two food banks that I am aware of that aim to support people during these times.

There is one based at St Mary’s Church through which they work along with a number of other local churches collect food contributions which are then delivered to people in need.

They work in conjunction with the other food bank, which is based at Milton Keynes Christian Centre, and is registered as an independent charity which works with different agencies across Milton Keynes to support people in need.

Milton Keynes Food Bank operates on a voucher/referral system whereby people who visit a number of different agencies within

191the City and are identified as people with highlighted needs, inclusive of those provided for by the Food Bank, are provided with vouchers which enable them to go to the food bank to obtain a free food parcel.

Food for the food banks comes from local community and church congregation members who make donations of tinned and dried food or finance (for the purchase of food). One of the great things is that the people who donate include people who may have benefited from the food banks in the past, such as a lady who benefited from a food bank during a tough period when she had a small baby. Recognising that the food bank did not store baby food, she made a decision to donate baby food. In addition there are a number of organisations (both within and outside of Milton Keynes) such as New Covent Garden Food which also donate to the food bank.

When I learnt about the food bank, I made a decision to make a monthly contribution to it. Specifically I give myself a monthly budget which has changed over time from £5.00 to either £10 or £20 dependant on my budget for the month. (The change in amount is aimed at covering rises in the cost of living). In the grand scheme of things it’s not a significant amount of money for me; I often spend that amount or more on a night out. But that’s not the point.

Initially, on my designated food bank weekend, I go to the shops with my shopping budget, normally in cash as to meet my objectives, it is important that I keep within my budget. The task is to buy something reasonable within my budget for a family, couple or individual, ensuring that I only buy for them things that I would buy myself. Subsequently, as I don’t generally buy economy products for myself, I don’t buy them for anyone else. I generally find it challenging to walk out of the shop with something reasonable within my budget, but I make it a point to stick within my budget, because I want to put myself in that position so that I have a greater understanding and empathy for the people I’m helping. In time I discovered that the Food Bank actually has at least of products that it provides people with, so I changed my approach and now buy things off the list.

At times like Christmas, I often leave the shops feeling quite sad. For some reason (maybe it’s my imagination,) things seem to be more expensive at Christmas, but there are still an overwhelming number of people walking around filling their trolleys until they nearly overflow as I carry a little basket, trying to pick up a few things that are actually affordable. I often wonder whether they will ever be able to eat all that food over the Christmas period and question what Christmas is now about. But this is not the point either.

The point is that for someone on a limited budget, such as people on benefits or facing a temporary setback, it must be hard. Income support does not allow for much more in a week than what I budget to contribute to the food banks. For this reason amongst others I very much doubt that there are many people that live off of benefits unless they feel – rightly or wrongly, that they are compelled to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are people who are out to play the system, but for the vast majority of people on benefits, it is not by choice.

From: Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes:  A Social Perspective by Susan Popoola