Working in the higher education system Paulette Williams, was exposed to detrimental effect institutional racism was having on the Black Community. With a drive to do something about this she established Leading Routes in October 2016. She describes Leading Routes as ‘a black led initiative within the education sector, which aims to prepare the next generation of black academics by strengthening the academic pipeline for black students’. It is run by a group of people who have all had various levels of experience in higher education. Leading Routes, holds conferences and programmes for the black community to explore new ways to address the marginalisation of black people in higher education. Paulette lists the main purposes of Leading Routes to be; ‘to support prospective students to make informed decisions and navigate higher education at all stages. To provide a platform that celebrates black students and academics in higher education and a network that encourages progress in higher education. To strengthen, over time, the pipeline into academic careers for black students and are lastly, to inform and influence policies that affect the black student experience at a strategic level’. Leading Routes recognises that most pertinent issue in higher education is institutional racism. To support the black community through this issue, Leading Routes aims to fill in some of the gaps that exist between academia and the black community. Some of these gaps include; Informing the black community about higher education, direct contact with university representatives, dispelling myths about higher education and connecting black colleagues in academia. Leading Routes is very well supported by the community, this is reflected in the high attendance rate of events and the dissemination of information gained at the event via social networks. When asked what could have been done differently from the beginning, Paulette states that she should of ‘brought a team together from the start instead of attempting to everything independently’.
Paulette explains that it is not always easy and that she did experience a conflict of interest between profitability and charity work, which she is now working through by creating a model that allows us to charge for some services and receive funding for others. When asked what advice would you give to those who would like to create a business in the education sector, Paulette says she would tell people to ‘stay up to date with changes in the sector, not to over promise and to find your organization’s strengths and play to them’. Paulette explains that she believes that people are the most important resource for her business. She states that ‘funding is important but we can adjust the cost of an event based on available resources but having the right people is invaluable’. Paulette hopes for the future of Leading Routes is to consolidate their network in academia, to act as consultants to institutions within sector and to offer programs that provide solid opportunities for black students. Leading Routes plans to do their first regional event outside of London, next year.
For more information: http://leadingroutes.org