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What does inclusion look like?

network of interconnected ropes
Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

Have you ever been on the fringes? Have you experienced being on the outside looking in? What does it mean to be welcomed into a group? What cues tell you that you’re part of the team? How do you welcome someone else?

Feeling Invisible

I was talking with someone the other day who was going through a rough time. In all her social spaces, she felt left out and invisible. With one group, there was a scheduling conflict and she had to miss a couple sessions. When she returned, it was as if she didn’t exist. In another group, no matter what she said, it went unheard and unheeded. Finally she went into yet another meeting. This time she had to leave early to tend to a previous commitment. When the meeting was over, one of the participants texted her to let her know what was discussed after she left. This one small act of care and kindness made a huge difference. Finally my friend felt seen and valued. And it had a ripple effect. A week later, she was being seen and heard in several other social spaces as well. And those spaces benefited from her being there.

Belonging is a basic human need, and yet we’ve probably all experienced not belonging at some point in our lives.

Valuing Diversity

But inclusion is more than just welcoming those on the fringes. It’s more than just making space because it’s the right thing to do or because you’re supposed to. It’s about all of us becoming whole. When the “in” crowd all looks the same, the thinking is the same too. And that leads to problems.

That’s a piece of why our world is in crisis now. We’ve allowed our development to be dominated by one type of thinking: extracting resources for profit. But what if there was diversity in our board rooms and halls of power? How would our thinking be different?

New Zealand is about to find out. With the most diverse parliament in the world, this island nation is poised to lead the way in a radical shift in thinking.

When this rich diversity is coupled with true inclusion at all levels, what does this make possible? When voices speak up for the stewardship of the earth, now do we actually hear them? When voices speak up for the cohesion of our families, do we rethink our systems? When voices speak up for the resilience and health of our communities, do we take action?

We’re In this Together

Inclusion doesn’t mean grudgingly granting access to those poor souls on the fringes. It means including all the different ways of thinking that we need to survive. It’s not a token gesture. Our salvation is tied up with one another. No one group can dominate and win this race. We cross the finish line together or we don’t cross it at all.

So what does inclusion look like? How are we welcoming diverse ways of thinking? How are we listening to all the voices? How are we making space for everyone who needs to be here? And how are we learning from one another?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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