Diversity, Equity And Inclusion Education: How do we leave no one behind.

Posted by Tony Malone on

Recent globals events have been a long overdue wake up call that we need to tackle inequality on a global scale. We also need to do this interconnected with other areas we need to work on globally, such as climate change, hunger, poverty, and qualitative shelter for the most vulnerable.

To do this we need open, honest and frank dialogue on topics such as racism, homophobia and the many other biases that we have inherited and then perpetuated in our world. The kick back from areas of different generations gives us terms like ’Snowflakes’ and ‘woke’. These words are banded around like insults against equality. For me these mean the beginnings of dialogue. If a snowflake is a person who take offence at inequality in concept and language then that is a person who is empathic and showing decency and using their privilege not to be a victim but to call out other’s bias and discrimination.  If a person or organisation is ‘Woke’ they are an ally. A person who is ‘awake’ and aware of inequality and working to change our society. These are not offensive words but badges of honour. The caveat here of course is, if this privilege of being able to change the world leaves no one behind on that journey.  Here we pass to the concerns of ‘Cancel-Culture’.

In the last two years the battle of ‘free speech’ has continued, now in a new way for a new generation.  It’s about time we lost racism in films and tv through stereotypes. It’s the perfect time to talk about why we need to enable gender Equality and finally lets start thinking intersectional.  No one is just ‘gay’ no one is just ‘black’ we are, individually complex intersections of communities and characteristics and privilege, every one of us is uniquely wonderful,  and deserve to be treated with dignity and love.

Cancel culture, in all its forms is where this starts to fail. Both in terms of application and response. There needs to be a dialogue, we need to be better than the oppressor. We need to offer the hand of friendship inclusively. Now if that is refused, we try again, and again, eventually understanding the line where someone’s views and outlook are beyond dialogue.  Before that however we must adopt the position of ‘Leave no one behind’.  -It is the ethical and inclusive thing to do.

How do we monitor that tipping point of ‘joining the journey to stop inequality’ to ‘you are a part of the problem’ ?

There is no singular accepted metric of judgement. No evaluations on which we can judge people. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are fields so personal, that one person’s metric is another person’s brick wall.  It calls for a personal understanding of evaluation, learning and evolution. The commitment to may seem daunting, because it is daunting!

The learning methods of EDI/DEI help people learn how to be more inclusive because it’s designed to get people interacting with each other, it must be taught as a personal journey which uses the interconnected nature of groups or organisations to proactively interrupt, constructively,  their own preconceived notions about who belongs where, where we ourselves belong, and who is doing what. We all have those preconceived notions or bias. We should just admit it, and work continuously to interrupt them. We are our best teacher at times.  Most importantly, we need to return to that adage of ‘Leave no one behind’ and think compassionately on how we work with others, those that challenge us the most to initiate dialogue.

In the KPI (Key Performance Indicator) or standardisation side of organisations, NGOs or Corporations, we need to define a personalisation process. We need to understand leadership approaches which allow for those clinging to outdated standards (which includes ‘just’ legal compliance) which get in the way of relevant and meaningful personal change to institutional change. This in time is a basis for societal change.

What we have is a need for change-point-system which is essentially personal in nature, for example below, each goal is not contained to the self, but to work as interconnected goals with others.  Imagine this as a starting point for a KPI for an NGO or company:

  1. From diversity to inclusion (who you let in): creating a system for making sure the organisation is open at every level to every individual.
  2. From tribal to human (how you see those you let in): creating processes for seeing and knowing who people are as individuals, rather than making assumptions based on their group, their role or their background.
  3. From brand identity to individual identities (who you let them be): shifting focus from the entity to the individuals.
  4. From mission to contribution (what you let them do): giving people ways to contribute their unique skills and strengths, no matter the mission.
  5. From results to methods (how you let them do it): letting people break free from the standards of the past, to attack challenges in their own way.  
  6. From transformational change (How do we ensure relevance for the future): How do we take this into our personal lives?

If these are assessed-reassessed regularly then we have the starting point of that conversation of EDI/DEI where no one is left behind.

The Language of new.

Diversity, equity(or equality) and inclusion are three different words with multiple meanings and multiple interpretations on a cultural, corporate and personal level.  I frequently at the start of training sessions let each group explore this as an activity. This provides the context for a shared training understanding, but also highlights the importance of the personal interpretation. Language becomes a key.

Those three words are often siloed into one department or group. The optimum for this is that every organisation, or societal function thinks about these three words in all that they do. These should be considered as life skills as important as breathing. As each decision we make impacts others, each breath we take impacts ourselves.

To get past this language barrier, we need to remove the blocks of the poorly chosen words, metrics and monitoring. This applies to governments, journalists, media, and annual reports.

Leaders feel like they have to make choices designed to get better results on next year’s Equal Opportunities survey or Equality Audit. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, unless whatever is being measured becomes an end that actually hampers progress. In this case, the training itself often becomes the metric, rather than what the training is supposed to impart.

Companies and campaign groups became proactive and started conducting trainings on their own, often focused on teaching people the new rules, to avoid legal liability.  Some will have the concern: how do we measure that with a metric we can report in a press release? We have to interrupt the EDI/DEI habits we’ve picked up over the past several decades. -All of us, including the practitioners and consultants of EDI.  That personal challenge of being more inclusive never ends, no matter how many books we’ve read or wrote on equality, no matter what background or community we come from, we are all at the starting point of our own personal journey. I for one hope that personal development never ends, because that is how we remain relevant to the world and society we live in.

There is no way I or you will ever fully know and understand someone else's experience. It is important that we all get educated in the history and experiences of other cultures, especially those of people that have been historically oppressed, stolen and silenced, but we also need 'cultural humility,' because that is what allows us to listen to their own experiences in their own voices, rather than projecting on them what we think we know.