A very long time ago I learned, rightly or wrongly, that inclusion is not a destination but a quest. A search for a holy grail. A place where all voices are heard and share in power.
While the destination may never be reached the journey is essential.
This led me to a practice of enquiring “Whose voices are not being heard?” and “What would we need to do in order to hear them?”, “How do we invite them to join us?”, “How might we go and join with them?”
How do we go from “them and and us” to ‘we’?
So, for me inclusion became a very practical process of reaching out, and inviting in.
However, I began to realise that more important than inviting people to join my projects, perhaps I should show interest in theirs. I started to do work that allowed me to meet with groups that I hadn’t worked with before, especially in relation to homelessness, refugees and asylum seekers, black health and learning and physical disability organisations.
This certainly helped to broaden my understanding and led to me making a lot of mistakes and doing lots of learning. Making assumptions that proved to be wrong was my ‘go to’ error!
My most recent work has seen me holding a slightly different role, that feels more hopeful. On the reciprocal mentoring programme I am part of a team of facilitators who bring together large, diverse groups of people from within an organisation or a system and encourage them to have conversations rooted in their own experiences of diversity, inclusion, discrimination and power. We offer them support to stay with the difficult conversations. We use forum theatre to model effective conversations and videos and data to start to explore the nature of the challenges involved.
But mostly we work on a commitment to listen, and to let what participants hear change them, individually and collectively in pursuit of better futures. And having started with some of these conversations the intent is to support the reciprocal mentoring process over 12 -18 months so that these conversations become part of the changing organisational culture. We don’t work to achieve targets. We work to change the nature of the conversations and the relationships of the people involved in them. Connecting the system better to itself. Building trust and understanding, with a belief that, over time, a more inclusive and sensitive culture will emerge.
Inclusion comes when people who’ve been defined out of communities secure the power to re-define communities.Cormac Russel
It feels like the next leg in the quest for the holy grail…