Inclusion is not a strategy to help people fit into the systems and structures which exist in our societies; it is about transforming those systems and structures to make it better for everyone.Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation international fellow and former chair of the International Disability Alliance
Inclusion is a value and practice of ensuring that people feel they belong and that their input is valued by the whole (group, organization, society, system, etc.), particularly regarding decisions that affect their lives. This practice should include authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities and decision/policymaking in a way that shares power to ensure that their needs are considered. Inclusive spaces are those that foster a sense of belonging, respect and dignity for everyone. Inclusion means, “I built this with you in mind. Let’s continue to build it together.”
To start today’s challenge, we invite you to take a moment to reflect and visualize with us. Please picture a space that you felt a sense of belonging to, a space you felt at ease to be yourself and a space where you could contribute to the group. This could be a physical space in a home, workplace or school. It could be a group of people meeting on shared interests, work projects or even at the check-out in your local grocery store. What specific details made you feel welcomed and engaged? How did people in that space interact with one another? As you move through today, we encourage you to keep that space and those details at the front of your mind. Inclusion will look different for each person, but there are many strategies you can use in your everyday life to create an inclusive space like the one that you visualized.
Why do inclusive spaces matter? Research has shown that inclusive spaces lead to better outcomes, increased creativity, higher job satisfaction and a stronger sense of community and belonging.
Inclusive spaces can be created in various settings, such as the workplace, home, school and community organizations. Some strategies for building inclusive spaces include fostering open communication, promoting diversity and cultural awareness, providing training on unconscious bias and actively seeking out diverse perspectives. Inclusion doesn’t happen on accident. To build inclusive spaces, we must be intentional and take steps to ensure that the space is designed to accommodate the diverse needs of everyone who will use it. This includes considering factors such as accessibility, hybrid and remote work arrangements, disability accommodations and more.
Inclusion can also take place in virtual space. Digital inclusion is an essential component of creating inclusive spaces in today’s world. Digital inclusion recognizes that access to technology and digital resources is critical for success in today’s society. By promoting digital inclusion, we can help bridge the digital divide and ensure that everyone has access to the tools and resources they need to succeed.
We all have a role in developing inclusive spaces in the workplace, our homes, clubs and hobby groups, sports groups, schools, religious spaces, etc. Inclusion should show up in all areas of our lives. Today’s resources will focus on how to build more inclusive spaces that lead to a stronger sense of community and belonging – which yields better outcomes for everyone.