Bringing Diversity Home - Life Swap Model

Thursday 16th of May 2019

Darren Wilson from Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing talks about the Bringing Diversity Home event brought to them by Tpas and Home Group.

KNH had been considering creating its own human library for about 18 months and had previously had a demonstration of ‘Life Swap’ (Home Group’s name for their human library project) in action from the Home Group. However, for a number of reasons the time had not been right for us to progress this aspiration.

Having recently taken on the role of Safeguarding and Equality lead for the organisation and tasked with the job of making it happen, I contacted Tpas in the hope of accessing some support and ideas. After listening to Gillian McLaren at Tpas recommendation we agreed to purchase a learning package which consisted of a full day session to raise staff awareness of the concept and to begin planning a human library. She then put me in touch with Samantha Byrne at Home Group.

I met up with Sam and talked through some of the challenges we face as an organisation and how the human library could support our learning and development strategy. Sam was really helpful and enthusiastic and shared some of the ways in which life-swap had made a real different to Home Group employees and customers. It was clear that Sam was both extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the subject and justifiably proud of Home Group’s achievements and so I knew that the event would be good.

The session was very well organised and delivered. We were privileged to meet three very articulate volunteers who shared their fascinating and moving stories. They also stayed throughout the day and contributed their knowledge and experience to the visioning and planning sessions that took place in the afternoon.

Throughout the day the activities were informal but very illuminating and we were able to experience first-hand the power of story sharing as a means of learning about others and undermining unhelpful stereotypes. It was immediately evident that this could be a very successful approach to gathering customer insight and delivering diversity learning.

Although the morning session was very inspiring it left some of us feeling a little anxious about the amount expertise and resource required to create a successful human library initiative. However, working with a facilitator who had been intimately involved in setting up and developing a human library helped to dispel some of these worries, as did the planning session that enabled us to identified potential assets who would be able to help us to get a small pilot scheme off the ground. It was also reassuring to see how much the volunteers had got out of being involved in Life Swap; the enjoyment of taking part and the confidence they had gained to go on and become involved with Home Group in other ways.

All in all it was really great experience. We weren’t left with any illusions; developing a successful scheme is going to take determination, resources and time, but as a result of the session we now know that it is achievable and what we need to do to create a human library. However, we did feel inspired to invest the effort because meeting the volunteers and hearing their stories brought the whole thing to life and demonstrated the potential benefits.

If you are tired of the same old equality and diversity training and are looking for a way to promote empathetic approaches to customer care and to recognise and celebrate diversity, then you may want to find out a little more about the Life Swap approach. A full-day session is the perfect way to do just this. You will get a very real and tangible sense of how it works from the interaction with the volunteers and you will get an opportunity to discuss how it would best fit within your organisation through the skilful facilitation and expert knowledge provided by the trainer/consultant.

For more information about this then please contact the Tpas Business Services Team on 0161 868 3500 or 

If you like to discuss KNH’s experience and how the session has helped support our diversity and inclusion journey then please contact Darren Wilson (Safeguarding and Equality Team Leader) at KNH on tel. 07974434753 or at

Tpas and Home Group are running 2 events around Bringing Diversity Home - Life Swap Model in September and October.

Click here for more information and to book your place.