'Ask for more': the story behind the Creative Hackathon designed to drive industry diversity

Sereena Abbassi, the founder of All Here, an organisation that seeks to help agencies and brands think more critically about the world and the work that they create, is on a mission to deliver tangible solutions to the advertising industry's much lamented diversity problem.

Sereena Abbassi, founder of All Here
Sereena Abbassi, founder of All Here

While the advertising industry has no shortage of words when it comes to admiring its well-documented diversity problems; tangible solutions to move the dial are harder to find, but Abbassi is on a mission to change this.

Today All Here will launch a Creative Hackathon with partners The Mill, Access VFX, (a cross-company initiative led by The Mill and supported by the UK Screen Alliance to promote diversity and inclusion in the creative sector and The Brit School. The hackathon aims to promote diversity and inclusion in the creative industries by bringing young people who would never have considered a career in advertising the opportunity to work on a live brief.

The goal is that the hackathon drives a new type of co-creation based around seeing the world from different perspectives to understand and better connect with the wants and needs of other demographics. It is not a one-off initaitive and more Creative Hackathons will occur over the coming months.

Accessing talent

Explaining the rationale behind the project Abbassi says that most agencies don’t know how to access a broad range of demographics. She believes that accessing a diverse range of talent is the remedy for awful creative work. "You look at the Pepsi ad, the recent H&M disaster and the remedy is having a diverse team," she explains.

"Regardless of what industry you are in you create an echo chamber," says Abbassi, who believes this is why activities such as the Creative Hackathon are so important. "What would the creative solution look like if we handed it to people outside of the industry is an interesting question to answer," she explains.

Abbassi, who is also working with agencies including AnalogFolk and Grey, has plans to take the hackathon across a range of different agencies and countries. She explains: "I have lived and worked in different countries and I would love to take a group of young people to work on a brief in Amsterdam."

Solutions and salary sacrifice

Abbassi’s passion for broadening access from the creative industries comes from her background as a performer. "All the work I did as an artist and a performer was all about how we form our identity as people and how much is put on us by society."

Having previously lived in the US when Abbassi returned to the UK she did a spell in recruitment in the creative industries, a role which quickly highlighted a disconnect between the diversity of London and the lack of diversity in the industry. "I quickly thought where is the representation here," she explains

It also gave her a unique insight of the economic costs of how society treats minorities. She explains: "As a recruitment consultant I saw that women would always ask for less than men when it came to salaries and the same was true of black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates," she says. According to Abbassi, it is impossible to create a fairer, more equal society if women and black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates are paid less for the same roles.

Brexit anxiety

As someone who spends the bulk of her time with young people Abbassi says that there is a mounting anxiety over the impact of Brexit. "The anxiety young people feel about being left on an island and not being able to get out is huge," she says,

However, in place of this anxiety Abbassi hopes to that All Here’s work and the spark of the Creative Hackathons will underline the opportunity the creative industries offer young people. "I would love to see young people who would have never considered a career in advertising go on into roles and get to the very top of the industry." A change which could change the very fabric of the industry.

"This is about creating a new narrative for creativity," she explains. "We are all each other’s teachers and this could create a ripple effect for generations to come."