Library

Rare is more than an event. It’s more than a network.

It’s a movement – one that’s changed the lives of hundreds of underrepresented creatives from all over the world.

Our Library brings together the stories of our Rare community, insight into our delegates and practitioners, Rare thought leadership, and research. Explore our library for unique perspectives on what it means to be Rare.

Delegates
Sally Woellner
Designer at Canva
Emma Alexander
Founder at Mother Bran
Daniel To
UX Lead at MSL
Natasher Beecher
Ogilvy Health & WPP Health Roots
Ryan Lanji
Curator & Producer at Hungama
Charlotte Khusi
Art Director at Wunderman Thompson
Sulaiman Khan
Founder at ThisAbility
Sally Woellner
Designer at Canva
Sally Woellner

Sally Woellner was at a crossroads in her career when she attended the Rare Leadership Accelerator – which turned out to be a good thing.

The designer was concerned that taking a job a non-profit creative and design agency might have jeopardized her future chances of becoming a creative director in a commercial context. Though she’d taken a chance to do unusual work that mattered to her personally, Sally questioned whether she’d made a “career detour.”

“The genuinely brilliant thing about Rare,” says Sally, “was not only that I heard from so many speakers who’d taken unusual routes to success, but I also met so many scarily talented fellow delegates, whose work I respected even more for its uniqueness.”

At that point, she stopped worrying about fitting in. “The conviction that I came away with was to look for the opportunities that really fit my skill set, where different perspectives were truly valued.”

That same year, Sally made the leap to creative director. She embraced her “eclectic” background and found that her uniqueness helped her develop a lot of empathy – a skill she’s found valuable in design work.

Two years on, Sally is growing and mentoring an international team of visual and product designers, all with an eye to inclusivity.

“If we create technology that’s not inclusive of people with different needs, experiences or ability, we’re not only excluding them from a future they should be an integral part of, but our designs, technology, and the future of creativity will be so much poorer for that exclusion.”

Emma Alexander
Founder at Mother Bran
Emma Alexander

“One of the key things to come out of Rare, which has helped define a shift to my business, was something so small and singular,” says production company founder Emma Alexander. “I realized that my values – both personal and professional – hinged on ‘support’.”

She credits Rare Leadership Accelerator modules led by Dr. David Slocum, of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, as her inspiration.

After her “phenomenal, intense experience” at Rare, Emma outlined a new creative strategy and growth plan for her business that focused on championing independent photographers, so they can pitch for – and win – larger commercial briefs.

“I discovered very few photographers really understand how commercial briefs are commissioned by ad agencies,” she explains. “As an ex-agency art buyer and producer, my knowledge of this process is really valuable.”

Emma launched her company two years ago, following two disappointing return-to-work experiences with two separate advertising agencies after maternity leave. The need to balance creative work with family life has been integral to how she’s built her business.

“That has forced me to think way outside the box,” she explains. “And it’s this blend of creative thinking – be it neurodiversity, social backgrounds or simply being a parent – that we all know is such an asset to the creative industry at large.”

Daniel To
UX Lead at MSL
Daniel To

The son of Chinese immigrants to Australia, and the first of his family to attend university, Daniel To considers his background and perspective an asset to his work in user experience research and design.

“My uniqueness helps me in my ability to empathize and relate to users and uncover their motivations. This allows our team to design touch-points that push creativity while still directly addressing user needs,” he says.

Being “rare” is also valuable for fostering creativity when working on a multidisciplinary team, Daniel adds. It helps him “recognize other valuable ideas, people and skills, that otherwise might be overlooked.”

He points to a recent example where his different point of view and background strengthened his team’s pitch for a major international luxury brand. “My unique background meant that I was able to offer particular insights into one of their key markets, and allowed us to challenge the client into partnering with more innovative and bold collaborators.” They ultimately won the pitch.

At this year’s Rare London Leadership Accelerator, Daniel says he found the concrete tools and techniques for leadership, teamwork, and personal development to be impactful – especially the framework to help Delegates define their own purpose and strategy.

“Working in the creative communications industry, we are very experienced in creating these for clients and their brands,” he observes. “However, this course provided the space and guidance for me to do the same for myself, which helped to clarify and refocus my own professional goals.”

Natasher Beecher
Ogilvy Health & WPP Health Roots
Natasher Beecher

Heading into this year’s Rare London Leadership Accelerator, senior copywriter at Ogilvy Health and creative director at WPP Health Roots Natasher Beecher was in a good place, personally and professionally: “I am already a confident, empowered gay black woman who knows my worth and is striving for positive change in my agency,” she says.

Still, Natasher calls the strategic plan she created during the Leadership Accelerator a “tangible” takeaway that helped her craft a clear creative vision for her agency’s creative department. Together with her ECD, she continues to work on shaping the plan and bringing the whole team on board.

“Advertising has a huge opportunity to influence culture and a responsibility to move the world positively,” she says.

Long before Natasher worked in the ad industry, though, she had an appreciation for difference. Growing up in Somerset, which was predominantly white, she noticed how being different “challenges and disrupts the norm,” and saw how “rare folk have a sort of superpower to evoke emotion with our presence and our thinking.”

These days, Natasher follows her curiosity for new and unique by partnering with people who are as different from her as possible. That approach to creative collaborations has helped make 2019 a memorable one: After being on the D&AD Writing for Advertising jury, she made the Campaign and Creative Equals list of Future Leaders in the ‘Ones To Watch’ category, and was also named one of the Pitch 100 Superwomen.

Ryan Lanji
Curator & Producer at Hungama
Ryan Lanji

Ryan Lanji’s behind-the-scenes experience at 2019’s Rare – where he got to shadow the D&AD juries and attend the judges’ dinner – was an eye-opening reminder of how creative work can make a difference. “Sometimes when you are a lone, gunslinging freelancer, you forget that people and industries care about the impact of your work,” says the London-based curator and event producer. While Ryan has curated a number of groundbreaking exhibitions at galleries and museums across London, including the V&A, and collaborated with an impressive list of designers and brands, he’s still growing his presence in the art and fashion communities. But five “unforgettable” days of Rare left him a sense of urgency. “In order to grow, you need to start taking your calculated risks now, and stop waiting for permission,” he says. As Ryan continues to host a monthly DJ night that’s become a hub for the South Asian LGBTQIA+ creative community – it’s called Hungama East London’s Queer Bollywood Hip Hop Night – he’s also broadening his career horizons. He’s working on a Netflix series set to debut next year, and was just appointed to the Board of Directors for the UK Asian Film Festival “Tongues on Fire.”

Charlotte Khusi
Art Director at Wunderman Thompson
Charlotte Khusi

“I knew I was visibly rare the second I stepped into the industry. However, it wasn’t until a couple of years into my career when I realised it could be a positive,” says Charlotte Khushi, a senior art director whose work was recognized this year in Campaign and Creative Equals ‘Ones to Watch’ and Pitch 100 Superwomen. She learned about things such as unconscious bias and the importance of diversity for successful companies through organizations such as She Says and Creative Equals. Charlotte explains, it “validated my journey despite the fact that the majority of ad agencies were not diverse.” The industry is genuinely getting better at representation, she observes. “There are organizations and communities such as Rare who are supporting rare talent in an authentic way.” But it can still be a struggle for “rare” creatives in the workplace. “Even though diversity is a hot topic, it’s not something that can be implemented overnight,” Charlotte adds. As someone who brings diversity to her own work while also championing the next generation of talent, she calls her Rare Access experience invaluable, and cites “a number of meaningful shifts” after she shadowed the D&AD judging process. “It can be easy to just go with the flow when there’s a majority voice, but it’s important to evaluate whether the work I’m doing and putting out there matches my own values,” Charlotte says. “Rare refocused my purpose and reminded me to always question the industry, projects, and even myself.”

Sulaiman Khan
Founder at ThisAbility
Sulaiman Khan

Say it out loud: disabled. Creative entrepreneur Sulaiman Khan says it’s a word that many people refuse to use. So a big part of the work he does for ThisAbility, his “disability-led equity consultancy,” is to challenge the accepted narratives around creativity and disability. “Even by the fact that I’m visible, I have a voice, so I want to empower and amplify disabled creatives around the world,” says Sulaiman. “My ultimate goal is to hire people.” His own challenges with breaking into the ad industry in the UK – where barriers abound – fueled his desire to become an advocate for inclusivity and accessibility. “Disabled people, we have to be creative and innovative from a very young age, to adapt to society,” says Sulaiman, who was born with muscular dystrophy. “If you’re not creative and innovative, you can’t even survive, let alone thrive.” He’s attended a number of creative events in the past several years, and been at Rare twice, most recently for Rare at D&AD. There, he was surprised to meet another disabled person in a wheelchair. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is great!’ I’ve never actually seen somebody like myself, so it was really cool,” he says. Sulaiman was also impressed by the insights he gained on the dynamics of the D&AD judging process, and came away feeling even more supported by people who help him push forward. “I think it’s really great what Rare is doing, in terms of trying to help underrepresented people – particularly when disabled people are always forgotten or don’t always have the choice to participate.”

Practitioners
Tim Lindsay
D&AD Chairman
Liz Jackson
Founder
The Disabled List
Nadya Powell
Co-founder, Utopia and Innovation Social
Laura Jordan Bambach
Chief Creative Officer of Grey London and Founder of SheSays
Ete Davies
Managing Director
Analog Folk
Tim Lindsay
D&AD Chairman
Tim Lindsay

“In most of the developed world, our industry is very white, very middle class, and poorly gender-balanced at senior levels. We have been talking about these issues for decades, and they have, if anything, got worse not better,” says D&AD CEO Tim Lindsay, a founding partner of Rare.

While social justice and equality are often the premise for those conversations, Tim makes a strong case for focusing on business results and creative solutions instead.

“There’s a ton of evidence that more diverse companies outperform their sector,” he says, calling a more diverse workforce “a key component in producing effective work for the multiethnic, multicultural audiences our clients engage with.”

(It’s no wonder, then, that clients have “begun to demand change with increasing insistence.”) That’s where Rare can play an important role. Tim predicts that the program will “start to generate real changes in attitude, behavior and reality” as it becomes an established part of the international creative calendar.

“Huge positive impact derives from Google’s commitment to the program over time,” he says. “Too many initiatives in our business run out of puff too quickly. And not enough of them join up, meaning that the whole is usually less than the sum of the parts.”

On a personal level, Tim’s already seen some results that are truly exciting: “Without doubt, the pride, pleasure, confidence and excitement the delegates take from the program.”

Liz Jackson
Founder
The Disabled List
Liz Jackson

Liz Jackson is the founder of The Disabled List, a design organization that engages in disability as a creative practice. She is also a curator at Critical Axis, a community driven project that collects and analyzes disability representation in media and advertising. In 2018, Jackson created The WITH Fellowship, which partners disabled creatives with top design studios and creative spaces for three-month fellowships. You can learn more about Liz in her personal website, The Girl with the Purple Cane.

Nadya Powell
Co-founder, Utopia and Innovation Social
Nadya Powell

Nadya Powell, alongside Daniele Fiandaca, is the co-founder of Utopia a culture change business that "Re-wires Business for the Age of Creativity". Utopia drives change through the lenses of purpose, inclusion, and entrepreneurialism and works with brands such as Universal Music, Coca-Cola European Partners, Spotify and Google.

In 2019 Utopia won Consultancy of the Year at the Inclusive Companies Awards. In March 2020, in response to the Covid 19 crisis, Utopia launched Towards Utopia, a Virtual Summit bringing the change-maker community together to support business and their people during this time.

Nadya is also the co-founder of Culture Social, a network of People and Culture Leaders and Change-makers who believe that new ways of thinking about culture will disrupt business for the better. Additionally, she co-founded two Diversity networks and initiatives:
www.thegreatbritishdiversityexperiment.com/ which proves diversity leads to greater creativity;
www.thesowhiteproject.com/ which drives global media attention to the lack of diverse imagery in communications.

Nadya is on the Executive Committee of the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) as the chair of their Diversity Committee, on the Advisory Council of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2019 she launched the BIMA Inclusion and Diversity in Tech Report, the first report into the experience of diverse individuals in the Tech Industry. In 2020 she launched Creative Differences, a report into how to support the Neurodiverse in the workplace, as part of the commissioning Universal Music team.

Laura Jordan Bambach
Chief Creative Officer of Grey London and Founder of SheSays
Laura Jordan Bambach

Laura Jordan Bambach has been part of the Rare journey since the beginning, as a speaker, but more importantly, in her role as Founder of SheSays – a global network providing mentorship and events for women in advertising and marketing, and one of our D&I org partners. And it’s all because she cares about creativity and the future of the industry.

“We need young diverse talent, but we also have to help that talent grow into leadership – that’s where Rare plays a unique role,” Laura says.

Through her contributions to Rare three years running, Laura has inspired Delegates with the message that “being rare means that you’re contributing to the conversation in a way that no one else can. Bringing your whole self means more groundbreaking ideas are made.

(In her interview for this magazine, Rare Delegate Natasher Beecher called Laura “one of the earliest examples of a passionate, talented and empathetic leader who doesn’t fit the usual mold, yet makes no compromise on creative integrity.”)

Laura has also witnessed how Rare has adapted to each new country that hosts an event. “The needs in London and Tokyo, for example, are so different, and through designing the program with people on the ground, it has been able to change and flex.”

And although Rare has “grown so quickly and so globally,” she says, “it remains true to the spirit of collaboration that it was founded on.”

Ete Davies
Managing Director
Analog Folk
Ete Davies

Ete’s a well-known, long-standing advocate for diversity and inclusion in the UK’s creative industries. Having founded his own initiatives to drive change and show support for London’s BAME community, he first joined Rare as co-chair of the London Leadership Accelerator in 2019 – where he was struck by the rich array of talent that it drew.

“I remember walking into the London Rare Leadership Accelerator, to be part of a panel, looking around at the delegates seeing the breadth of diverse talent and feeling incredibly inspired and hopeful – which only increased as the passion and brilliance of the delegates, came through,” he said.

Ete’s passion for Rare extends beyond the Leadership Accelerator, though. He says the platform – more broadly, in all its iterations – brings people together in a way no other initiative does.

“One of Rare’s key points of difference is the breadth of contributors and talent it has participating in its training and activities, comprising not only an incredibly diverse group of contributors, but also leading agencies, experts, pioneers and partners across the creative industries, as well as D&I organizations.”

Consideration for cultural nuance and regional relevance is also an important differentiator for Rare, Ete says.

“Rare runs a bespoke programme for each region that provides genuinely actionable insights and training. Too many D&I initiatives try a ‘one-size-fits-all’ to the services they provide, but each Rare event is designed to be bespoke and hyper-relevant to the requirements, nuances and context of the region; in everything from the content and speaker tracks, to the terminology used.”

Ete is also a regular speaker at Rare Sessions

A global speaker track that appears at global conferences, and celebrates the power of difference to drive original thinking, innovation and authentic storytelling. The session series has appeared at almost every major creative conference globally – from D&AD to Cannes Lions, and Semi Permanent to Advertising Week.

Our research studies aid the work we do – offering insights and tactics to help drive change further, faster.

Rare’s research initiatives are underway, and due to be published here – for public reference and use – later in 2020.