By Dan Egol
Inclusion NextWork is a global community of emerging leaders who deeply value Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access & Social Justice. Or, in other words, I.D.E.A.S.
Inclusion is about creating the conditions to allow everyone to be their authentic and best self. Inclusion entails more than being invited to or having a proverbial seat at the table; it’s a mutual relationship wherein everyone treats each other as respected partners whose ideas, perspectives, and experiences matter. Inclusion is both about the act of involving and valuing each other, as well as about a deeply personal experience of feeling connection and belonging.
We lead with inclusion, rather than diversity - as has traditionally been the case - because sustaining diverse communities absent inclusion is near impossible. Inherent in inclusion is a deep valuing of diversity; without it, those representing diversity in some form become marginalized. Inclusion therefore puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, connection, belonging and impact for all.
Diversity means variety or being composed of difference. Diversity covers the full spectrum of traits and experiences found in humanity; it is situational and contextual, visible and invisible, existing within and across groups. Diversity becomes most salient when what makes us or the groups to which we belong unique contrasts with that of others.
Our identities are not monolithic, nor do they exist in isolation. Each of us is made up of an intersectional identity , comprised of many different traits that interact in complex ways to shape our worldviews. Combinations of these attributes forge dynamic identities, experiences, and ways of seeing the world.
At INW, diversity is not a code word for people of color, women, or any other marginalized minority. Nor is a single person in isolation diverse, regardless of any of their characteristics, experiences, or ways of being. Rather, we call for greater nuance and specificity of language when using this term. For example, there is diversity of race, diversity of education, diversity of professional experience, etc. When used as a substitute for minority, the word diversity can become an unwieldy politicized weapon that prevents people from productively engaging in conversations that we as a society need to have.
Equity is a quality of being fair and impartial, rooted in values of justice. Distinct from equality, which suggests that we treat everyone the same (under the faulty assumption everyone starts from the same place or that a one-size fits all solution works), equity means treating others fairly while being cognizant of context and history.
The difference between equity and equality is, in part, explained by the difference in the golden rule and the platinum rule. The Golden Rule (equality) of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," implies a basic assumption that other people would like to be treated the way that you would like to be treated. The alternative to the Golden Rule is the Platinum Rule (equity): "Treat others the way they want to be treated." Approaching decisions and relationships with a lens of equity takes into greater account where others are coming from and honors their needs and experiences. Equity also goes one step further in that it encompasses affirmative actions to right these historical wrongs by developing new approaches and providing people with resources to empower and include others in the collective dismantling of social inequities.
Access entails creating points of entry for all to fully participate in our communities and relationships. Fostering accessibility often involves removing social (altitudinal) and environmental barriers that impede this participation. Without access, communities undercut the values of inclusion and equity in failing to create space for the full diversity of human characteristics and experiences to engage and flourish.
Stemming from the disability rights movement, the value of accessibility pertains to both our built environment as well as cultural norms and beliefs. While access in both the physical and social sphere remains a key underpinning of disability rights advocacy, as a framework it also applies to other contexts, for example in language use and policy. Any time you watch a foreign movie with subtitles, those subtitles provide access, enabling the viewer to enter a world previously closed off because of the lack of language. When government policy closes down borders, the access to these countries becomes restricted. INW therefore views access in its broadest application as a critical tool for social inclusion.
Social justice: taken together, the previous four values comprise the pillars of a just society wherein everyone can participate and succeed fully as their authentic selves. A socially just society takes responsibility for course-correcting historical power inequities and dismantles systems of oppression while proactively and continually striving for greater inclusion and accessibility for all. In a just society, all our diversity is honored and as a result, every person can contribute fully to a better tomorrow. We must all continually practice and live these values in commitment to a future that acknowledges the inherent value of each human being as they are.