Inclusion — Do You Really Care?

How often do you ask yourself, ‘What could an inclusive world look like?’ Be honest. Is it frequently, because you’re a decision maker who understands that we live in colliding worlds? For instance, Gary Vaynerchuk, the CEO of Vaynermedia, is an active implementer.

Or fleetingly, due to a provocative media headline that momentarily prods your conscience. We’ve all witnessed the standard Metropolitan Police response to accusations of racism.

Or frankly never, as you are comfortable in your safe corner of the world. Like, Fergus Wilson, the property magnate. He recently declared he will not rent his properties to ‘coloured people’ because of the smell of curry!

Wherever you are on the spectrum of inclusion, societal changes are fast tracking you to recognise the palette of differences. And more importantly, when differences are harnessed they are beneficial to any endeavour.

Over the last month I’ve been to several tech events that embed and practice inclusion. On Saturday, I went to AlterConf 2017. It’s an international travelling conference that celebrates and promotes policy and practical contributions from marginalised people, in tech.

The potpourri of voices was made up of people from a range of ethnicities and cultural perspectives. Also, gay, transgender and those who identify as gender fluid. Collectively, our various attributes have one underlying approach in common. All of us have the ability to participate in life from a variety of perspectives.

For example, I am a British, Jamaican, African Global Citizen. These facets of my uniqueness give me the ability to Code Switch. Essentially, my multi-layered, experiences and perspectives enable me to engage life and problem solve, in alternative ways.

The Pan-Africanist and Historian, WEB Dubois, highlighted this principle in his book, The Souls of Black Folk. He discussed the theory of ‘double consciousness.’ Namely, the ability of non-White people to comfortably move between cultural nuances and dialect to speaking ‘standard’ English and existing in homogenous environments. The notion of Code Switching naturally applies to other people who do not conform to conventional cultural or societal norms.

At AlterConf, Qa’id Jacobs applied the concept of Code Switching to the tech world. This is with a view to designing products. He argued that crafting tailored products that really provide solutions for consumers can only arise due to empathy. By extension, if you have a diverse team of individuals working in product design this creates leverage because of their lived experiences. These insights provide texture and depth of understanding that cannot be taught in schools or universities.

Empathy increases the chances of creating viable and accessible products or services. It needs to be recognised as an asset instead of being dismissed as a ‘soft skill’. The reason for this is that it will encourage meaningful engagement throughout the design process.

I saw this come to life when I participated in the recent Accessible Tech in Employment Hackathon. I was part of a design team that created a basic recruitment prototype, for people with disabilities. We were a composite of differing physical abilities, business skills, tech knowhow, racial profiles, cultural identities and nuances. As a result, we had a world of knowledge to pull upon that blended seamlessly together. In less than fourteen hours, six people who didn’t know each other formulated a business model, user journey and digital product.

This speed of execution was enabled because of the depth of what each of us brought to the table. So when you look around your world of business or work, who is sitting at the table? Are they toothless watchdogs? Or do they make meaningful contributions? Whoever is sitting there, are they the generally accepted face of ability? Or are they the chosen few? Or, the elite? Do you keep dipping into the standard paradigm of privilege?

When will you have the courage to say, ‘No, our talent selection process is mediocre and not fit for purpose in 2017?’ Then will you go onto take meaningful action to change it?

Lots of questions for you to consider, answer and apply. Over to you!