PiPA Co-CEOs talk all things PiPA Foundations and why it's perfect for smaller organisations


As Co-Founders of PiPA, Anna and I both bring very different strengths to our respective roles and the organisation as a whole. Anna’s ability to analyse the nuances of working practices and to identify opportunities for innovation and inspire new ways of doing things, is exceptional. In 2019, Anna led the development of PiPA’s flagship product, our Charter Programme, which now supports over 65 performing arts organisations becoming employers who are more inclusive of those with caring responsibilities.


Through the work with our Partners, Anna and her team observed that it is often smaller organisations who are more easily able to pivot and implement change. Many of the working practices PiPA promotes have their origins in some of our smaller Partner organisations, and have now been scaled up and adopted by larger scale employers.  Furthermore, Anna and the team identified the need and benefit of designing a more 'light touch' way of supporting organisations who may not have the capacity or resource to join the full Charter Programme, but want to take their first steps towards becoming more family friendly employers, or have the potential to lead by example. Hence, PiPA's Foundations Programme was born. I wanted to dig a bit deeper with Anna about the thinking behind PiPA Foundations.

Cassie Raine, PiPA Co-CEO and Executive Director


Cassie: Tell me in a few sentences, what is PiPA Foundations

Anna: It is our new bite-sized, self-led programme to support organisations with selected tools, to address some key areas to become more inclusive and family-friendly. There are five modules, and each module addresses a different area, all with the aim of helping to build a better working environment.  

Why is it bite-sized?  

Anna: We already have a program that is in-depth to support performing arts organisations, our Charter Programme. Foundations is bite-size because we are very aware of the different demands that are on organisations at the moment. We realised that there is a need for an entry-level offer that is lighter and less resource heavy. 

When you designed PiPA Foundations, which organisations did you have in mind? 

Anna: PiPA Foundations is designed for smaller organisations, and organisations which maybe haven’t got the people power, or the financial resources needed to take on the full PiPA Charter Programme but who want to improve their knowledge and take their first steps in areas that could make them more supportive and family-friendly employers. 

That’s interesting! Why do you think that could be a priority for small organisations that already have a lot stacked up against them? 

Anna: A lot of the working practices that we advocate for and a lot of the policies we recommend are key policies and working practices that help organisations become inclusive and more accessible, and therefore more attractive to a wider range of workforce. 

Take a key family-friendly practice, for example: flexible working. Flexibility is not only going to benefit those with caring responsibilities alone. It brings a wider benefit to everyone working, supporting a better work-life balance, for example. Quite often practices that benefit those with caring responsibilities can help a wide range of accessibility needs. PiPA Foundations provides you with a starting point to implement better practices, helping you attract a wider range of people from all walks of life. 

I was talking to somebody yesterday who was explaining to me that she faces dual barriers. She is visually impaired, and she has a child. Not only does this person have to advocate for her needs as a visually impaired person, but she also has to negotiate around her caring commitments. That’s a lot of advocating on her part. So how does PiPA Foundations make it easier for both organisations and individuals?  

Anna: We're trying to encourage organisations to view people holistically. So, when we look at access or at any sort of needs, it is to enable organisations to think about how this person can bring their best self to work. What does this person need in order to be here and deliver their best work? It's a different way of looking: it’s being proactive and equipped, rather than being reactive and troubleshooting. It is about laying the structures to be prepared to approach anything that an organisation might need to address. 

So, if somebody comes to you and says, “I can't work Fridays,” or “I find it really difficult to be in the office at nine” You don't need to panic, as you have already thought about flexible working and the potential structures around supporting somebody who might need to work differently whilst still delivering their job. 

It's a much more holistic way of looking at the infrastructure an organisation has. Another example is policies: if you don’t have policies in place, it is difficult for somebody who might want to become a parent, who is pregnant, or who is looking into adoption, to know how this might affect their future at work. They are forced to openly ask their manager how they might be supported, and this could be a very difficult conversation to have. Employees often feel anxious about these conversations because they don't know how the organization is going to take it. Quite often people fear that this will negatively impact them, and they will be selected out of future opportunities. But, if you already have structures in place, then the person can look up the policies themselves to understand what is on offer, or how to proceed. 

With policies and procedures already in place, you as the employee do not have to be the one asking for support, but the support offer is already there and communicated before you even need it. 

It's a quite different way of working and approaching things then, it’s about removing the barrier before it becomes apparent, so the burden of thinking is not on the individual and has already been done by the time they come on board, which demonstrates a really proactive approach to inclusion. 

Anna: With a lot of smaller organisations, what we have seen over time is that they are much more able to be flexible because of their lighter structure. There is a lot of willingness and a lot of potential for flexibility and different ways of working. 

But if that isn't communicated, if it isn't cemented, or if it isn't captured somewhere then nobody from outside the organisation would know about the flexible ethos of this organisation. You don't know when you're applying for a role if the organisation can accommodate your needs. How would you know, if this is not communicated? 

Conversely, a lot of small organisations don't have HR departments and they don't have the infrastructures that larger organisations might have. It is these organisations that would particularly benefit from PiPA Foundations to support to build on their policies and practices.  

How does PiPA Foundations help them achieve this?  

Anna: In three ways. Firstly, it provides knowledge. If you don’t know what’s wrong, you can’t change it. We help people understand what the challenges are and what practises and policies are needed to address these. 

The second way is the undertaking of exercises and analysis tasks. To start identifying gaps in policies and practices, thinking through how they can be adopted into your organisation, or how to make them relevant for you. 

And the third one is providing practical resources. We have sample policies, industry case studies, and how-to guides which can help organisations implement some of the changes. 

The programme is video-led, with a downloadable workbook and supportive toolkit resources that you can use whenever you want to. 

If you had one small positive action an employer could do to support a parent or carer, what would it be?  

Anna: Communication is key. Be upfront and transparent. Show that your organisation is on a journey to improve policies and working practices around caring responsibilities. Promote the policies and practices that you do have in place externally. It prevents people from self-selecting out of opportunities within your organisation.   

Many of our partner organisations for example have a statement on their recruitment material, or even on their website, stating that they are a PiPA partner. It’s like a badge. By displaying this partnership, they are sending a message straight away showing “I'm working towards becoming more inclusive.” 

Internal communication is equally as important. Even if you have not got everything in place just yet, it is important to communicate what stage of the journey the organisation currently is at. For example, if you are reviewing or intending to review a policy, it’s always good to communicate this to your team. Describing what you intend to do and encouraging input and feedback from your staff, is a great step to show you want to support people with caring responsibilities. 

Thanks, Anna! I shall take that tip, and communicate the policies that we are working towards with all the staff at PiPA.