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Reconciling Empire with public service

Two Ghanaian names - Stephen Kwasi Bediako and Carl Kwabena Antwi Konadu - stood out in the annual New Year Honours list, issued by Queen Elizabeth II.

Both men were awarded Orders of the British Empires - a title created by the Queen's granddad King George V during the first World War - on 4 June 1917.

The honours mark the contributions of people to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service.

Image © Stephen Bediako

Stephen's OBE was for services to innovation in the charitable sector, particularly during the Covid-19 response in London, while Carl's title was for his services towards disadvantaged young people in London.

Image © Carl Konadu

They are not the first Ghanaians to be recognised in past awards. Frances Mensah Williams CBE who we have featured in issue 2 and issue 5 of our magazine, was honoured for her services to the African community in the UK and Africa in 2019.

Other names

Others include TV presenter June Konadu Sarpong OBE & MBE, Joanna Tufuo Abeyie for services to diversity in the media and creative arts, Dr Yvette Nyantah Twumasi-Ankrah MBE for services to women in business and Dentaa Amoateng.

But not every Ghanaian has accepted the award. Phyll Opoku-Gyimah famously rejected her MBE nomination in 2016. Lady Phyll, as she is more commonly known, argued that as an LGBTQI activist, she could not accept an award that has its roots in the colonisation of other nations and imposed laws that continue to discriminate against LGBTQI people.

Lady Phyll is co-founder, trustee and executive director of not-for-profit organisation UK Black Pride and you can read more about why she rejected the award in our second issue here.

More on Stephen

He is the executive chair and founder of The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP), an agency that acts as a consultant, advising public, private and social sector organisations that are looking to maximise their social impact.

Stephen has advised and supported the delivery of multimillion-pound projects for Nesta, Big Society Capital, Big Lottery, The Greater London Authority, Mayor’s Fund for London, Trust for London, Santander Bank, Marks and Spencer, Save the Children and other leading organisations. He has previously worked at Tribal, Deloitte, iMPOWER, and the Home Office, as well as for Barack Obama's 2012 Presidential Campaign.

He is also MD and co-founder of Turning Basin Labs and co-founder of the Bay Area based Design Studio (Path Group in the USA). Stephen is a Trustee of The Barbican Arts Centre in the UK, and acts as Advisor to ReGenerate Good People.

Stephen holds a BSc in Politics and History from Brunel University, and an MSc in Public Policy from LSE.

More on Carl

Carl is the co-founder of 2-3 Degrees - a social enterprise that provides specialised personal development talks and workshops for schools.

The aim is to inspire and equip students with the necessary skills needed for education and life. Its mission is for every young person to develop the ability to overcome their challenges by building the knowledge and skills needed to create the best possible opportunities for themselves.

Your shout

Check out the full Honours List here and tell us if you think the awards still have relevance today or if the symbolism to the Empire mean it is now outdated.

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