Inclusion - What is it really?

4 June 2021 | News

Inclusion - What is it really?

When we ask people to define inclusion, some of the definition we get are:

the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate

a community or organisation that embraces human differences, sees them as strengths, and offers respect in both words and actions for all people

a community where 'we' is everyone

Hmmm. Those are great, but how do we go about achieving those?!

Most people think they are friendly, welcoming, and inclusive. If you were to ask them, they might say such things as:

I'm nice to everyone

I treat everyone the same

I don't see colour

The problem with those statements? We aren't acknowledging the difference and therefore not acknowledging the challenges and barriers that difference can present for certain members of our population.

If we are going truly work on being more inclusive, we need to examine intent vs impact. If we don't educate ourselves and others as to what being inclusive truly means, then well-meaning individuals and organisations can make serious mistakes and create problems unintentionally.

Take a moment to think about these things:

  • Who are the people in your neighbourhood?
  • Who are the people served by your organisation?
  • Who are the people in our country?

Spend some time considering who you encounter in your world on a day-to-day basis. Who is different? How do you think those differences might affect the way that person goes about their day? Remember, it is essential to educate ourselves in ways other than asking our marginalised friends and colleagues to educate us. That's not their job, it's ours. It isn't their responsibility to explain to a privileged person all that they have to face each day and what they need allies and advocates to do to help. We need to take the time to seek out local and online resources to learn more.

On that note, here are "Ten Things You Can Do To Be More Inclusive Today":

  1. Do things "in a good way". Be genuine. Don't assume. Don't be afraid to ask questions (respectfully).

  2. Think about intent vs impact. Just because we do something with good intentions doesn't mean it is needed or appreciated by others.

  3. Share the pronouns you use when introducing yourself in groups, meetings, workshops, etc. Add them to your email signature and event name tags. For example, "Hi! My name is Meg and my pronouns are she and her".

  4. Practice cultural humility. Understand that there are different ways of knowing and doing, and that some people, because of their cultural identities, will have more power and privilege than others. Don't apply a western worldview to your interactions.

  5. When planning catering for events, ask about food considerations. Some people have allergies. Some are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free. Some don't eat certain foods because of their faith. "I don't really like cucumber" is not a food consideration.

  6. Acknowledge the tangata whenua of the area when you're hosting events. Add it to your website or on a sign in your building.

  7. Find out what holy days your friends, coworkers, neighbours, clients, service users are celebrating. Get a multifaith calendar. Learn about the different days and ask to be included in their festivities so that you can learn more.

  8. Take GBA+ (Gender-Based Analysis Plus) training or use the Bringing Gender In tool. They're both about more than just gender and they're free and online.

  9. Be aware of your own bias and prejudices. We all have them. It's normal. But being aware of them allows us to be more mindful of their impact when interacting with others.

  10. Use the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule, "treat others as you would like to be treated", assumes everyone has the same needs, and we know that isn't true. The Platinum Rule asks us to think about what the other person actually needs instead of guessing or assuming. Ask about inclusion - what do people need? Involve the people you're trying to be inclusive of.