Natalie is no stranger to inclusive innovation. When the public was struggling to access NHS dental care, she left a successful financial services career to co-found the UK’s first affordable private dental subscription service and clinics in Sainsbury’s and Tesco which they sold to BUPA Healthcare.
Now Natalie and her team are making it easier to drive significant, quantifiable, scalable and sustainable DEI impact. YZen applies AI to ‘chunk up’ inclusive language guides, equality regulations, risk and ethics policies, culture and brand language tone of voice, stereotypes, unconscious bias, and training assets into micro bites of DEI guidance.
It uses powerful bias detection capabilities and inclusive language suggestions to help individuals find kind, fair, culturally sensitive words and phrases in real time. So people never have to fear unintentionally forgetting, offending or discriminating against anyone when they write sales presentations, a colleague’s appraisal, an email, a job advert or a social media post.
When asked what aspect of inclusive innovation she is most interested in, Natalie was clear about putting the right people first.
“I want to put the stakeholder in the position of power: often innovation happens to people, and I want to upskill people from under-represented groups. The aim of YZen is to ensure that under-represented people are at the centre of what you are doing.”
A continuous feedback loop is embedded within YZen that will help to build on input from under-represented groups, allowing the technology to learn from feedback.
Natalie also talked about the biggest challenges to having more inclusive innovation:
“Everyone is going with their own agenda; we need an overarching goal. To me, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) sit above everything. They transcend the Government and the economy, and we have very actionable things across our key challenges. The SDGs need an overarching framework that everyone can fit into.”
Natalie’s secret to overcoming these challenges is to combine universal centred design thinking, data and empathy with whoever you talk to. She also leads with a ‘shoshin’ mindset, referring to how she lets go of any preconceptions and adopts a learner’s attitude for every interaction and challenge.
For Natalie, measuring inclusive innovation “needs a comprehensive approach that goes beyond simply assessing diversity dimensions and characteristics. It involves an obsessive and iterative process of defining the problem, determining the stakeholders involved, assessing their representation of the community, and involving influential voices in designing interventions”.
And for her, a key challenge is making sure we don’t rely on surface-level metrics; and we consider the broader impact on individuals and communities.
“In the Northwest, I am seeing the social value of collaboration. The region is good at collaborating and is starting to take inclusive innovation more seriously, rather than simply linking it to social responsibility.”
Natalie’s advice to anyone thinking about entering the Northern Power Women Inclusive Innovation Award next year is: