“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization” Mahatma Gandhi
Translating Policy into Practice
Policies, frameworks and strategic documents do not automatically translate into practical solutions of what they are meant to address, they remain mere documents until deliberate efforts are made to put them to good use, so is the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion across the world.
When issues of inclusion are raised in capacity building trainings, seminars and board meetings, Managers often respond….” we have a policy on that, we have a strategy on that”, but is it really so? This blog is inspired by a practical experience after a courtesy call to a certain organisation that always write press releases, policy briefs and guidance on diversity and inclusion. My spending time with the company made me to realise that while the company was making efforts to encourage diversity and inclusion, internally and amongst staff, that was not the case. What do we learn from this? Advocacy on certain principles should be beyond just rhetoric to make us look good to the outside world, otherwise we risk taking the rights of certain groups of people for granted, which is a de-service to humanity.
Inclusion, an obligation to humanity
When a nonprofit organisation or company decides in its strategic policies and documents to work towards diversity and take steps to inclusion with equity in mind, that needs to go beyond window coating but address in reality the plight of the affected left behind key populations. While this might sound simple, multi-million-dollar firms are failing to honour these simple obligations which they owe to humanity in the spirit of business and human rights.
My Masters in Human Rights Professor always spoke about the universality of human rights. This time is a great time to self-reflect and self-introspect on what does the concept of human rights really mean to you, your company, organisation’s, values, mission and objectives? As a leader, do the staff that work for you really believe in diversity, equity and inclusion or they are just doing it to receive a pay check at the end of the month? This is a fast-changing world, while the COVID-19 pandemic was a sad chapter in the history of humanity, it also taught us critical life lessons. We are not as different as the world made it seem, neither are we as distant as we think we are, we are one. The post pandemic era requires a point of convergence that is going to change the trajectory of human history especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion. This is an opportunity that calls for transformative leaders to inspire their spheres of influence.
Diversity as Strength
Diversity is strength and we are stronger together, inclusion makes it possible. The strongest part of a chain is its weakest link. When we leave others behind, they become our weakest link as humanity because in one way or another and at some point, their problems become everyone’s. There is no development that happens through socially, economically, politically or regionally leaving behind a group of people that are a part of that society.
Social stratification and class have made it difficult for upward social mobility for certain groups of people across the globe. Social exclusion based on race, class, color, sexual orientation, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion (the list goes on and on) should be addressed at every level of development. This time and age require of transformative leaders who are willing to go an extra mile to make a difference and change the status quo of those sections of society who are known to be at the historic disadvantage of life.
Albert Einstein said that the “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 360-degree leaders ought to be different, to make a difference and leave a lasting legacy for future generations as this world is not ours but borrowed from the future.
Sustainable diversity and inclusion
Diverse and inclusive communities are possible. International organizations, national and local governments and civil society owe it to humanity to be inclusive and diverse. While diversity is about numbers, inclusion is about the impact. 21st Century social change leaders must always be cognisant of this fact in their decision making. However, to acquire this kind of information leaders must set up quality data collection and feedback mechanisms at organisational level. Feedback mechanisms ensure that there is proper vertical and horizontal communication which in turn informs decision makers. Often times organisations and companies overlook these feedback mechanisms or even monitoring, evaluation, research and learning departments, this is where data to make sound decisions on key aspects for the employees, the market and communities come from. In my view, any organisation, company or government that is serious about transforming people’s lives must have a monitoring and evaluation unit or personnel to frequently inform leadership and for leadership to frequently consult with the unit/personnel.
Leaving No One Behind
‘Leaving No One Behind’ is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mantra for the ‘World We Want’ by 2030 and beyond, fortunately this happens to be the ‘Decade of Action’. Real development is development that leaves no one behind and considers the furthest first. In building thriving organisations and communities, we must build with diversity and inclusion in mind. Inclusive workplaces and inclusive environments are progressive agents of a better world that is not only a ‘utopia’ as Karl Marx would call it but a reality. Often times we are driven to divide rather than connect across our differences. The concept of ‘others’ and ‘us’ should be taking a different dimension of common understanding in this age and time. Studies have shown that diverse teams inspire innovation and outperform those that are not.
Former US President, John F Kennedy said that “if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
Creating communities beyond the boundary of differences
Inclusion ensures that everyone is equally valued, respected and their opinion appreciated. If communities and leaders appreciated diversity, half of the wars and conflicts around the world would be non-existent. It takes a rare high level of civilisation to appreciate diversity and building inclusive societies where communities flourish in the appreciation of their ‘common-differences’. Civil wars, genocides, religious intolerance, human rights abuses and persecutions will be history if communities would learn to appreciate each other while leaders learn to unify and lead rather than divide and rule further disintegrating societies.
According to the Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Social Integration, (2008) an inclusive society is a society that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and ensures inclusion, equality of opportunity as well as capability of all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction. According to the World Summit for Social Development’s Vision for an Inclusive Society, social inclusion requires a paradigm shift so as to recognize the dignity, value and importance of each person, not only as an ethical norm and moral imperative, but also as a legal principle, a societal goal, and ultimately a practice.
Diverse and inclusive societies are a process, not an event so is change and transformation. What matters, what counts are those small steps initiated to get started. Martin Luther King Jnr said that an individual has not started living until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns of all humanity. Social inclusion, as an overarching goal as well as a multi-dimensional process can play a critical role in promoting sustainable human development.
Brighton Musevenzo is an Atlas Corps Fellow, Social Justice advocate and Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Expert in the context of Human Rights. He has a Master in Human Rights, Peace, and Development. Brighton serves at the American Red Cross, as a Design, Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Fellow in support of the Service to Armed Forces and International Services departments. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org