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Sado Jirde - Biog photo

Black South West Network (BSWN)

Based in Bristol and operating since 2005, Black South West Network (BSWN) is charity which aims to build dynamic, independent, and strong Black communities, businesses and organisations and to equip them with the tools to both challenge barriers and enable equal benefit from our thriving economy.

BSWN’s work falls into three broad areas: enterprise and innovation; cultural inclusion; and research and knowledge. Overarching all the work are the themes of scrutiny, accountability, representation and power.

The charity’s vision is to be a driving force for racial equality in the South West and nationally by releasing the voice of Black and Asian heritage people so they can use their research, lived experiences and innate knowledge to influence decision-making, increase their economic and social capital, and construct a more equal and prosperous society for communities everywhere.

Sado Jirde, BSWN director

Director since 2013, Sado has worked tirelessly to raise awareness around the racial inequalities faced by Black and Asian heritage communities, both at strategic and policy levels, and locally, regionally and nationally. Using over 10 years of experience in the racial justice sector, her professional and personal mission is to provide evidence-based understanding of the impact of racial and socio-economic structural inequalities, and develop a community-led more equal society.

Under her leadership, Sado shifted BSWN’s focus from an infrastructure organisation to a racial justice incubation hub developing socio-economic models for both BSWN and the wider Black and Asian heritage entrepreneurial communities. This approach has helped transform city policy making, backed by action programmes for implementing and embedding sustainable change.

One such programme has been Back Her Business, a start-up programme creating targeted support and opportunities for Black and Asian women in business.

Sado is active on a number of city boards and advisory structures, including Bristol’s COVID-19 health protection committee, Bristol One City Economy board, Housing and Communities board, and Bristol University Court.

She has been vital in delivering the One City Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy. “This strategy places inclusive economic development at its core by catalysing inclusion to implement a shared agenda that expands opportunity,” says Sado. “Recovery must include the voices of those too often left out of the design of initiatives developed to help them. To truly build community resilience, reduce income inequality and ultimately achieve any Sustainable Development Goals, community voice must be at the centre of any meaningful recovery strategy to enable these lived experiences to move beyond just being a powerful story, but actually affect real change.”

Kathryn Lewis, Founder, Irie Box

A key focus of BSWN is on pragmatic ways of helping Black and Asian heritage businesses. One such business is Irie Box – founded by Kathryn Lewis, a Bristol-born dual heritage woman – which delivers tropical fruit and veg boxes containing plantain, yam, pumpkin, okra, eddoe, cassava, and much more.

As part of BSWN’s Women in Business cohort, Kathryn received 130 hours of a series of workshops, salons and 1-1 mentoring, on such topics as business administration, planning, finances, branding and self-care.

“The Jamaican influence and culture of my upbringing led me to adore Caribbean food, which I have spent many years learning to cook. Taking my Jamaican grandmother shopping for her food taught me even more about Caribbean products.

“As the pandemic hit I decided to shop on my nan’s behalf so that she could still enjoy the foods she has eaten her whole life without having to leave her home. This got me thinking about the people that don’t necessarily have family close by to do this for them, or those still working or working long hours who then have to queue up at shops. Also, there are people who enjoy a Caribbean takeaway who may want to try cooking the dishes themselves, or have never tried Caribbean foods. Irie Box hopes to solve all this by providing a delivery service of these items.”

Plans for the future include continuing to grow her business and expanding regionally to bring wonderful varied Caribbean food to communities across the South West.