Celebrating Black History Month

History & Origin

Black History Month is a celebration and annual commemoration of the history, achievements & contributions of Black people in US history. It was originally introduced by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. The origins of the event were initially introduced as ‘Negro History Week’; but it was later decided that it wasn’t long enough. Civil right movements & the Black power movements pushed the event to become the Black History month in 1969. Since 1976, every U.S President has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

Find out more here 

Bringing Black History Month to the UK

A visit to America from Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo was enough to found a UK’s version of Black History Month in 1987. Akyaaba chose October to celebrate Black History month (in contrast to Americans celebrating in February). He did so to since  as a way to connect to his roots, since October was traditionally when African Chiefs & leaders gathered to settle their differences.

Find out more here 

In addition to this, October also aligns with the start of the academic year. Many have thought that the decision for Akyaaba was to also give black children a sense of pride and identity.

Find out more here 

Celebrating black British culture and identity

Black culture has contributed significantly to British history, its influence can be traced back to c.125 – 300. Black History Month gives us an opportunity to salute those who have made considerable contributions to the development of our society but who often go without the recognition they deserve. We aim to celebrate black British culture by highlighting some of these hidden stories and by giving a nod to our understated heroes.

We would like to lead this initiative with, John Edmonstone, a Taxidermist who taught students, including the likes of Charles Darwin, at Edinburgh University in the 19th century. Edmonton was born into slavery in Guyana and later travelled to Britain where he gained his freedom and qualified as a Taxidermist. John Edmonton’s accounts of his homeland is thought to have inspired Darwin’s exploration of the tropics. Darwin’s travels across the Galapagos islands allowed him to discover the 12 distinct species of Finches that are differentiated by their beaks. This ultimately led to the development of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Thus his input should not be omitted from our history.

Find out more here

Trailblazers of today

In this issue, we wanted to highlight the efforts of people who currently support and contribute to the black community. It’s an inclusive look at people who are making a difference within our generation.

Recognising current achievements and celebrating those who have broken barriers and forged a way for those behind them 

‘The Receipts Podcast’ is a light-hearted British podcast headed by three women of colour, Tolly Shoneye, Audrey Indome and Milena Sanchez. The podcast launched on the Apple Podcast and the Soundcloud in October 2016 and has seen success through its rising popularity (topped the Apple Podcast chart in 2018). The ladies of the podcast are known for their frank and honest dialogue where they tackle issues such as Colourism in the workplace, cultural appropriation and topics of a lighter nature, such as ‘how to deal with first dates’.

The accelerated uptake of the podcast by the public demonstrates the extent to which conversations within the black community are equally as engaging as those that take place in mainstream media and broadcasting. Representation within the Arts industry is extremely important today, particularly across media platforms.Telling the stories of people of colour as well as sharing their perspectives in this way ensures that the media we consume and interact with is relatable and diverse. The Receipts Podcast exemplifies a group of trailblazers who have taken the initiative to tap into a once closed space by capitalising on the booming podcast industry, providing an assurance that the voices of black women are heard and their opinions are valid. Ultimately serving the black community and the wider British community alike by providing representation and diverse perspectives.

The Receipts can also boast of its success through its recent exclusivity contract with Spotify in June 2019, their partnerships with name brands such as MAC Cosmetics and collaborations with celebrities including Regina King and Boderick Hunter.

Check them out here

Rising stars

Shining a light on upcoming game changers who are making large strides in their respective fields. 

Timothy Armoo is a graduate from the University of Warwick and co-founder and CEO of Fanbytes. Fanbytes is a creative marketing agency that supports brands in advertising to Gen Z and Millenials on social media. The enterprise has allowed brands to partner with Snapchat to reach their audiences directly resulting in a 93% ad-completion rate – outperforming traditional ads by 4:1.The agency is founded on the principle of non-disruptive forms of advertising, infusing advertising with entertainment to drive emotional engagement: Advertainment. Fanbytes has helped brands such as Apple Music, Boohoo and Deliveroo. 

I wanted to build a new advertising offering for the 21st century that would help brands collaborate with online stars and personalities. 

Timothy Armoo, Interview with The Telegraph – 14/11/2016

Timothy Armoo built the start-up as a student in 2015 and is a great example of how we can be successful in changing times, such as the rampant digital revolution that we are currently experiencing. Armoo is cognisant of the inversion brought to social interactions by the surge of social media and demonstrates his creativity and innovation through a model of effective solutioning and problem solving when faced with such changing circumstances as those brought on by the digital age.

Find out more here

Making an impact

Stormzy Cambridge Scholarship Programme

Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr., known professionally as Stormzy, is a British rapper and singer. In 2014, he garnered attention on the UK underground music scene through his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats.

Stormzy started a scholarship programme to help black students read at the University of Cambridge. The University of Cambridge has long been revered as one of the best institutes of learning in the UK & worldwide. The aim of the scholarship is to assist black youths to attend the university without fiscal worry. Stormzy initially founded the scholarship programme to combat a longstanding underrepresentation of black students in the UK’s best Universities. Despite a more proportional spread of academic results in secondary schools and sixth forms, there has bit little to no change in uptake of black students in the UK’s top school. Stormzy initiated the Stormzy Scholarship programme to close this gap and offer more University places to black students.

University of Cambridge’s Outline of the scholarship

The scholarships, which are non-repayable, will cover the full cost of tuition fees and provide a maintenance grant which will significantly reduce the need for awardees to take out government or commercial loans. This support will be available to recipients for up to four years of undergraduate study. For 2019-20 the total award to each student for the year will be worth £18,000. Receipt of this award will not affect eligibility for a Cambridge Bursary.

A statement from Stormzy says everything

 There are so many young black kids all over the country who have the level of academic excellence to study at a university such as Cambridge – however we are still under represented at leading universities. We, as a minority, have so many examples of black students who have excelled at every level of education throughout the years. I hope this scholarship serves as a small reminder that if young black students wish to study at one of the best universities in the world, then the opportunity is yours for the taking – and if funding is one of the barriers, then we can work towards breaking that barrier down.

 Find out more here

Sopra Steria’s Race, Religion and Belief Network

Sopra Steria has introduced a Race, Religion and Belief Network! The Network was launched this October and we had our first meeting to establish and introduce the chair of the Network, Mo Ahmed, & the networks purpose in general. The Race, Religion and Belief Network has introduced a community for people to connect with other members of the business across the UK. The Network is a place for people of all beliefs and backgrounds to collaborate and work together to make Sopra Steria a more inclusive place to work.

We have our first event coming up in celebration of Black History month! We’re having a networking and mixer in London. There will be speakers who talk on topics on the theme of Black History Month & an introduction talk from the chair of the Race, Religion and Belief network as well.

An invite will be sent to all members of the Race & Religion network prior to the event. Being part of the Race & Religion Network is not required to attend the event; but we would like to have you. If you want to join, send an email to inclusion.uk@soprasteria.com.

The first event for the Race & Religion network will take place on 29th October in the Holborn office (1&2 Hatton Garden). We’ll have the Chair Mo Ahmed say some words alongside a few other speakers. We’d love to see you there or hopefully organise any other events in the office as well. If you have any questions or queries, please forward them to the inclusion.uk@soprasteria.com.

Co-authored by Ali-Hamzah Ahmed and Naomi Kilonda

Not Just IT

Words and pictures are not enough to describe today, I have been privileged to witness something very special indeed.

Our journey today has felt like a week of experiences in one day, in a good way. First we visited a school sponsored by Sopra Steria, the Bhuvana Krishna matriculation hr sec school in Chennai, where we were greeted by the school elders and a marching band.

Here I cut the ribbon to their new computer room, with 40 computers provided by Sopra Steria, and met some of the students who then had lunch with us. It was a wonderful experience seeing first hand the difference that the Sopra Steria CSR programme makes here in India and not just with IT. The programme also sponsors the schools and Sopra Steria staff volunteer to work at these schools, where they:

  • Mentor the kids through their education
  • Support the families and communities
  • Run summer camps
  • Organise sports days
  • Run arts and crafts workshops
  • Provide guidance on life after school
  • Provide female guidance on life as a woman in India.

Sopra Steria didn’t even start helping this school with IT equipment until later. Not Just IT.

After lunch we were shown around the Sopra Steria Campus; set in 27 acres of landscaped gardens, before meeting the scholars and alumni from the schools in Chennai. Some of the proud parents were also there. One girl was studying two degree courses through Sopra Steria, and was looking to become a chartered accountant in the public sector.

Lastly, we visited the Punjab association destitute home for children; an orphanage, where we were met by 200 children of all ages from 5 to 18. We were then honoured by the lighting of candles as a symbolisation in readiness for Diwali, where Ganesh was surrounded by rings and rows of candles. After this ceremony a bell rang and all the children ran off. They came running back to the dining room with their plates where we helped serve them their dinner, which was provided by Sopra Steria. The children in the home were incredibly sweet, wanting to engage with us and to see photos of my home in Tockenham and the countryside of the UK.

This home really was a home; it felt just like a big family. All the kids were smiling and saying positive things about Sopra Steria and the home. One girl we met earlier at the scholars’ event was now studying to be a lawyer and is in the 2nd year of her course. She is a bright student who was originally a resident at the home.

Authored by John Gough.

Sopra Steria to deliver world-leading software set for Transport for London to keep the capital’s roads moving

Sopra Steria has been awarded a contract by new client Transport for London (TfL) to develop a new control room system to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the capital, such as congestion and road danger.

TfL is responsible for managing 580km of the capital’s busiest roads, as well as a number of other vital assets such as bridges, tunnels and more than 6,000 traffic lights. This new software will present a data rich picture of what is happening on the roads across London, enabling TfL to respond quickly to incidents and keep the capital moving. Pulling in a lot more source data about congestion, bus performance, weather, roadworks and traffic incidents, the new control room will give everyone managing the road network a single unified view and will include up to the minute details of all known incidents and the actions being taken.

“We’re working to completely overhaul the way we manage London’s road network as we tackle some of the biggest challenges our growing city faces, such as poor air quality, road danger and congestion. Our world-leading work with Sopra Steria will enable us to respond to incidents on the roads much more quickly, keeping the roads safe and clear and helping to keep London moving.”

Glynn Barton, TfL’s Director of Network Management

“Our vision is to empower Government to make a difference to everyone, every day, through the services we design and deliver. The new control room system will make use of rich data to enable TfL to keep the capital’s citizens and visitors alike safe and on the move through the city’s road network.”

Adrian Fieldhouse, Sopra Steria’s Managing Director for Government

To find out more about our work in central government, please visit: https://www.soprasteria.co.uk/markets/government

Corporate Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme Bronze Award – setting our course for excellence in Armed Forces community engagement

At the end of July Prime Minister Boris Johnston announced the opening of a new Office for Veterans’ Affairs, a hub established to coordinate and drive Government policy on veterans’ mental and physical health, education and employment.

While this is clearly an excellent development, at Sopra Steria we believe that responsibility for helping veterans to access rewarding and gainful employment extends beyond the UK Government and into the private sector. There are initiatives that industry can drive to support the effectiveness of this new office, leveraging technology to bring together the veteran community. 

The Armed Forces community possesses a wealth of qualities that enrich business. In our organisation we have often found that veterans come to us having held posts of phenomenal responsibility, sometimes having managed teams that are much larger and more complex than those that they’ll encounter in the corporate world.

To engage and retain such outstanding individuals, it is important that businesses bear in mind that many veterans and other members of the Armed Forces community (including spouses of serving members, reservists and cadet instructors) have differing professional and personal development needs from their counterparts. The Armed Forces are unique; our conventions and turns of phrase often baffle the uninitiated! Leaving the familial military environment and entering the commercial sphere can be a big step, even for a community known for its grit and agility.

It is for this reason that I and other business leaders at Sopra Steria signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant in 2013. Our public commitment signals to veterans that we value the contribution that they can bring to our organisation and offer practical help and support to facilitate their introduction to a domain less familiar. I am delighted that we have now been awarded Bronze status under the Employer Recognition Scheme; an important step that sets out our intention to structure and professionalise our approach to Armed Forces community engagement. Bronze Award is a stepping stone on our journey to best practice, a destination that will rank us employer of choice for these talented people. We will focus new energy on this in the coming months, with the aim to digitally-enable this powerful community.

Vern Davis – Managing Director for Aerospace, Defence and Security

How the Public Make Contact with the Police

Today making the best use of technology is high on the agenda in UK policing. Senior officials are continually looking at ways in improving their use of technology, in order to keep more officers on the streets, aid in their investigations as well as making it easier for the public to report incidents and crime.

We spoke to Mark Burns -Williamson, Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners on the use of technology in the reporting and management of crime.

Mark commented:

“People use technology in their everyday lives now and there is an expectation from the public that the police are making the best use of technology.”

The way in which citizens are reporting crime is changing as well as a huge strain felt on the 999 and 101 telephone systems – meaning that police forces across the UK are looking at ways in which they can provide better contact services to citizens through the use of technology.

Much like other service providers with a public contact need, the police must look at more ways in which the public can digitally make contact whether be online, via instant messaging applications or by other means.

This interview is part of our Policing Spotlight series where we explore key issues relating to policing in the UK, with senior law enforcement figures. To view the video interview and follow the series, visit our Policing Spotlight page.

How Technology Helps Incident Room Call Handlers

In an emergency situation police control room call handlers need effective technology solutions to help them respond and deploy the appropriate help to, in many cases, life or death situations.

We spoke to Steve Austin, Regional Account Manager of APD, a partner of Sopra Steria.

SmartContact  is a control room solution jointly provided by Sopra Steria and APD. It enables the public to make contact with the police via various channels for example through web chat or instant messaging. In some cases, the issue can be resolved swiftly through this means of communication.

A call handler is able to track an individual’s call history, through the audit trail of contacts provided by the systems Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities. This crucially provides the call handler context in relation to a particular individual e.g. a vulnerable person who may contact the police in a particular way to report being in danger. This information is made immediately available to the call handler each time the individual makes contact.

Technology can and does help call handlers in police incident rooms manage critical calls more effectively providing increased assistance to the public.

This interview is part of our Policing Spotlight series where we explore key issues relating to policing in the UK, with senior law enforcement figures. To view the video interview and follow the series, visit our Policing Spotlight page.

Policing on the frontline – observations from an evening on patrol

There is no denying that as a society we face many issues, at a macro level we are tackling issues around immigration, organised crime and drugs. Locally, our police forces find themselves dealing with petty criminals, knife crime, drug misuse and domestic violence. Police officers find themselves trying to operate in the face of increasing bureaucracy, stiffer scrutiny, decreasing funding and dwindling officer numbers. 

A survey undertaken by the Police Federation earlier this year revealed that smaller numbers of officers were on patrol and in some cases working alone, with nine in ten officers saying they don’t feel there are enough of them to manage demand. Officers find themselves having to be more reactive than proactive, yet continue to work tirelessly, with the resources they have, in order to keep the public safe.

I say this because recently I experienced many of these issues first hand. As a long standing technology provider to South Yorkshire, assisting them in their emergency and crime response, I was interested to experience the realities of being on a patrol shift.  I joined two PCs Simon and Kieron of South Yorkshire Police on an evening patrol shift.

The police continue to do a great job despite depleted resources and increased pressures

During patrol Simon showed me what technology and communications they routinely used.  He was honest about the positive and negative aspects of what technology was delivering both to the front line PC and the command and control staff who support them. The picture is mixed and there is certainly more that technology can do to give front line officers better situational awareness, control of resources and better intelligence on which to base operations. 

After only a short time on patrol, we responded to a shop lifting at a major DIY store. Intrinsically not a serious offence, but dig a little deeper and you find that the perpetrators were part of a wider group of people, which would constitute an organised crime network. 

I was told that groups target various aisles in various stores and steal either to supply themselves or to sell on for the cash. They target large stores and stores with a ‘no challenge’ policy (in place to protect their staff). I can only imagine the cost to business of this endemic problem.

Our patrol decided that these particular culprits should be arrested. By making that decision it meant five officers and three vehicles were needed to arrest the offenders and take them into custody – female officers were required to attend due to some of the offending group being female.

This is a prime example of an issue that affects society at local and macro level, and one that our police officers have to contend with as a part of their day-to-day efforts.  

It’s not as simple as we need more police on the streets

In the example of the patrol shift I was on, what struck me are the systemic issues facing a Police Officer nowadays. After the arrest of the shoplifters, the two officers on patrol then returned to the station to complete paperwork for the remainder of the shift.

In a seven hour shift, the officers I was with were only able to respond to one incident. The rest of the shift was spent doing the required reporting, paperwork and chain of evidence needed to process these three people, all of whom were released later the same day to face charges again at some point in the future.

There are wider systemic and societal issues at play

The criminal justice system can at times exacerbate the issue. In crimes similar to the incident I witnessed, there is a cycle of re-offence, short term incarceration and then release to begin the cycle again.

With no threat of serious consequences, criminals will continue to offend in this way without the threat of their lives being significantly altered. This results in officers time and time again, having to focus their efforts on the arrest of re-offenders and the resource that comes with it.

Huge societal pressures coupled with lack of funding and suboptimal use of technology is making life harder for our police on the ground.

What also struck me is the disrespect shown to the police, and the wider criminal system. Due to changing attitudes and in the knowledge that they will not face severe consequences, some people feel it is OK for police officers to be disrespected, taunted and verbally and physically abused. It isn’t right, and although the police take it in their stride they really should be better protected.

Being on patrol for only a few hours felt like a microcosm of today’s society. With serious organised crime, as well as knife and gang related crime plaguing our local communities, our police officers are under unprecedented pressure to keep the public safe and combat crime, while being subject to abuse themselves.

Technology can help if maximised

My reason for going on patrol with an officer was to gain frontline insight into why we do what we do at Sopra Steria.

We are long term supporters of the public sector and law enforcement in the UK – providing digital transformation and critical technology to our emergency services, including information and communications technology to aid control room and incident response through our SmartSTORM and SmartContact systems. 

Policy changes to keep PCs out of the station and on the streets are a welcome development. However to do this right, officers and their vehicles have to be equipped with the right information and communications technology. For example, cars need to be transformed into true mobile operating units, with high definition screens integrating the full suite of information and communications technology which aid officers in quick and effective response.    

It is easy to cast over-simplified assertions on the realities of how safe our streets are today. My experience on patrol demonstrates a very complex landscape in regards to frontline policing.

In the quest for more proactive preventative policing, maximising current technology, and striving for continued innovation will go a long way towards helping our police forces run more effectively in serving and protecting the public.

Vern Davis, Managing Director, Aersopace, Defence and Security