Mash Media MD Julian Agostini is putting his money where his mouth is to support REACH, a new scholarship in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, to improve diversity in the events industry

Put your money where your mouth is! It’s quite an aggressive and unerring phrase insofar that the recipient is left under no illusion that they are being ‘called out’. The Government is often asked to pick up this gauntlet, especially over the last year or so.

A burning topic over the last year has been tackling racism and addressing diversity and inclusion in the workplace which is, rightly in my opinion, being treated as a priority.

Communities accelerate in their development with better and fuller programmes of diversity. This has been demonstrated in society over the centuries and while it’s not an instant fix, which is what everyone wants to buy of course, it’s not so slow as to be indiscernible to those that make the investment.

It’s a fairly straightforward equation, in fact. A diverse community produces far more desirable outcomes such as efficiency, harmony, equality, education and therefore better lifestyles, progression in problem solving and so on. From personal experience, as someone from a family from over the water myself, and as an employer, I’ve always thought that immigrants bring a lot to any party; if they are welcomed, but perhaps I would say that!

I had a feeling of needing to prove oneself; being under pressure to earn every opportunity. No entitlement: that’s not a bad thing. It certainly helped me and my wider family. In every sense, diversity elevates the community in each direction, so why wouldn’t it be the number one investment?

Can we apply that to our very own community of events?

Certainly, we have talked about this topic for years; about the need to ensure equity (it’s not equality, it’s about equity) to those from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities to level the playing field, but what have we actually done about this? It’s been mainly just talking, if we’re honest.

Despite some fantastic work from a handful of industry professionals, and with the exception of one or two prominent individuals, if we cast a glance around the teams right up to the boardrooms of our industry, has much changed? Are we in any way representative of the population? Doubtful. Perhaps it all needs a bit of an overhaul and that means investment. In an ideal world, the events industry would be a shining example of diversity and inclusion; a model for other sectors to follow but that simply isn’t the case. Can we change this?

Here’s what I’m doing:

Mash Media is involved in setting up a scholarship for students from diverse backgrounds: an event management degree in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University. The taskforce is being steered by industry recruitment expert Robert Kenward. I asked him to contribute a comment to this blog to explain a bit more about it:

“Diversity and inclusion have been spoken about a lot in our industry recently. However, I’ve always questioned exactly what companies think they can do about it. With only 3.5% of #eventprofs being black or brown, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

“That’s where the idea of a scholarship came from and why I’m working with an awesome team of people from Diversity Ally, Event First Steps, Mash Media and Manchester Metropolitan University to deliver an industry programme that will increase the talent pool in the future and as such show the sector is an inclusive place to work.

“The scholarship is called REACH, which stands for Race Ethnicity And Cultural Heritage, and we will be launching it officially later in the year (most likely at International Confex). Stay tuned.”

Robert is coordinating things, so if you want to get involved, please drop him a message on Essentially, it costs a student circa £27,000 per year to study for their degree plus on average, £5,000 per year living costs. The living costs are where the drop out happens and where we are focusing our efforts and we need event businesses to support this. It is tangible positive action, not a token gesture.

Currently 16% of students studying for their event degree at MMU are from a black or brown background and the aim of the scholarship is to increase that to 25%

I would urge as many event businesses as possible to pledge £5,000. But please don’t feel sub-standard if your business is struggling at the moment and you can’t commit this year, as are so many. This isn’t a once in-a-lifetime opportunity, it will endure.

However, Mash Media wants to help too, so here’s my pledge…

We will donate £3 for every visitor to International Confex

I feel so strongly about this that Mash Media will commit £3 to the scholarship for every visitor who comes to International Confex, which takes place 1-2 September 2021. So, register today, and if you join us on either of the two show days, that’s helping towards funding another placement. For context, in 2020 we welcomed 7,500 – that would have been £22,500 if we’d done it then.

I am also keen to have a post graduate academy set up. Such a thing takes an enormous amount of work and conversations are already underway. We will circle back to this another time, as setting up the scholarship must come first.

We are also working on plans to create a future leader programme to facilitate a targeted amount of mid-level roles to those from non-white backgrounds, which will be combined with developmental mentoring and reverse mentoring. I will be discussing this further at a Diverse Leaders Roundtable at International Confex.

And we need to acknowledge the great strides we will be making with an award, too. Mash Media is already undertaking this with an eye on including the Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2022. We will keep you updated as and when we have further details.

Let’s put our money where our mouth is

This is a mission that I feel passionate about and believe that it could pave the way for real progression within our industry. Educate and invest in the next generation and make our industry truly inclusive and even more powerful and innovative.

So that’s the mouth, here’s the money.

International Confex will put cash into this pot every year to get this started and if we’re all in this together, in reality, this is my proposal.

As I have already mentioned, for every visitor we get, it will be worth £3 to the future of the industry. Last year we got 7,500 visitors but I’d like to invest £50,000 annually, if you’ll get behind this. So, shout and show your support and I’ll put my money where your mouth is (or feet are). Contact me on

A full announcement about REACH and how you can support it will be published soon

Register for International Confex, 1-2 September, ExCeL London.