Meet the Design Lab Team: Tiwonge Cohn
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Meet the Design Lab Team: Tiwonge Cohn

Tiwonge tell us a bit about what you do.

I'm a business owner and founder of Yenge consultancy, which does pretty much everything EDI (Equity, Diversity &Inclusion) across public, private and charitable sectors. No day is the same. A day in my life can be delivering training, or helping companies to start their EDI journey through audit, strategy and policy development, writing blogs, webinars or panel discussions. It also means that I get to be involved in great projects such as the WIN Design Lab. There's so much work still to be done to increase the sense of belonging of people in our society. I'm always ready to do anything I can to help make that happen. 

I'm a Third Culture kid. I have lived abroad most of my life, due to my father’s work as a diplomat. It's the reason why I'm in this role. I'm have been influenced and affected by inequity across the different cultures I have experienced.

What drew you to working on the Design Lab?

I had worked with The Black Leadership Group for years and believe in their mission and values. When I heard about their collaboration with DK&A on the Design Lab programme,I saw it as a chance to make a positive impact. I’ve never come across an organisation like DK&A before, whose focus is design thinking. Its such a great way to innovate in the EDI space. Even though I'm an 'expert' into the EDI space, I've got so much to learn still. It has opened up new ways of thinking and approaching EDI problems, with a toolkit that can tackle problems that are usually viewed as too complex to solve. We're dealing with really basic human needs and themes: most people want a sense of belonging, most people want to thrive and make a contribution in society, but too many just aren't given the opportunity to do so. I think the Design Lab programme is away to address that.

What do you see as Design Lab strengths?

Communication. One of the things that makes the Design Lab so powerful is the opportunity to communicate and collaborate. Knowing that many people have signed up for this program and are brave enough and ready to do this, gives me a warm feeling inside. It shows how many organisations care about making their people a priority, to ensure they succeed and feel a sense of belonging. Ultimately that's why people are here. The programme is rigorous and 10 months long. There's no room for anyone to stay on the side lines and not collaborate. Everyone participates, bringing fresh impetus to do more and act. I think this programme could be piloted far beyond London.

What's your highlight or stand-out moment for the programme so far?

The Sector Co-Creation event at City Hall. To spend time in-person with my colleagues, fellow coaches and the participants, the feeling we're all in this together. Also hearing from the guest speakers, with their amazing inspirational stories, plus the chance to physically interact with people that previously Id' only interacted with on a screen. The day was buzzing, full of energy, lessons learned, lots of sharing and it was great fun too.

What are you finding most fulfilling about being a Design Lab coach?

I love coaching because it's not in my natural skillset, so the role is always testing me. Usually I'm very advisory, telling people what to do or how I would do something. Coaching gives me an opportunity to listen and observe. So many people know exactly what they need to do. It is how to do it that is holding them back. They just need the tools and support to enable them. It’s inspiring to help them.

When the programme finishes in 2025, what legacy do you hope to see?

The Design Lab is clearly and unapologetically focused on key demographics, such as Bangladeshi and Pakistani women, Black African women and men etc. These demographics are still underrepresented, even in diverse contexts such as London. The Mayor recognises that increasing their representation is vital to build a successful economy. I am hoping that everyone who goes through this 10-month programme takes something useful away, and then acts on it for the good. I hope they come away from it energised and confident to do the hard work needed, to make society more reflective of all the communities that we serve.

Hear live discussion with Tiwonge and others on new ideas for a modern workforce

Tiwonge will be speaking at our upcoming live-streamed Symposium, Wednesday 6 March 09:15-12:30. Register here to listen for free and discover how major employers are innovating to improve diversity and integration in their workplaces.


This article was first published on 5th December 2023, and has been updated on 27th February 2024