Last mile (or more) towards "active"​ inclusion in the workplace

Common Purpose StreetWise MBA and Ogunte

A couple of month ago, we had the privilege to host participants of the Common Purpose's StreetWise MBA, and discuss inclusive #workplaces and practices. To make most of our time and create a rich action-learning experience, we used a participatory approach to reflect and share insights in real time. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace were at the core of our discussion, but also modelling as a tool for better thinking and doing.

Going around the table, it was clear that participants’ day-to-day reality was rich in contrasts, stories, pains and unanswered questions. By listening to other people’s stories, it reinforced the fact that the concept of diversity and inclusion is:

  • Widely discussed, often ill implemented
  • Pregnant of future conversations to be deployed
  • Only valid if translated into verbs and actions, not just brand mission.

Participants agreed equality was an intersectional topic and that it involved serious learning. We have to connect race, ethnicity, age, cultural backgrounds and contexts, geographical, economic conditions, cognitive abilities. There are deeply ingrained stereotypes and complete infrastructures to dismantle, thinking patterns to challenge…

It's not a tick-box exercise, it is actually liberating to understand (or strive to understand) people and the world in their complexity and accept that WE/I are not the default template.

We also talked about boundaries and what we didn’t want to see done to us.

Working toward an "active​" inclusion in the workplace

Flipping this on its head, we discussed participants’ non-negotiable set of behaviours and intentions they wanted to see more of in their practice and in the workplace.

  • I want feedback, so that I can grow
  • I want to challenge my perspective of the world and do it systematically
  • I want meaningful connections that enable our team to grow and flourish
  • I want a safe place to speak up and dialogue at work, so that I can be understood (and heard) but also get people’s perspective.
  • I want to be able to model our intention for our customers (to be mindful of their well-being and ability to grow as people who are taken care of and respected) and genuinely bring it back to my own team.

High-jacking the narrative

One of the participants became a parent at a very young age and on multiple occasions found herself in situations where others stereotyped young parents heavily, without being aware of contexts, her perspective, or even her outlook on life. As a professional and successful fundraiser, she is conscious of the fact she has to tell stories about her organisation’s user groups, stories that grab people’s attention and ultimately lead them to donate or invest. Our Streetwise MBA participant suddenly realised that her process meant she could be high-jacking someone else’s life narrative - the same way her own story had been high-jacked. She became aware she needed to bring more awareness and consciousness in the process.

So what is the last mile you need to walk to create a genuinely inclusive workplace? Not just an intention or a policy...

Enrol in the next Streetwise MBA in June 2020. Different cities available. StreetWise MBA is a Common Purpose programme for leaders who want to be more inclusive: to lead diverse teams, serve #diverse customers and work with diverse stakeholders. #inclusion #DIB #emotionaldiversity

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