What ‘Inclusion’ is and what it could look like – 1
Building on the idea of oneness, South Africa offers a powerful African concept that supports a deeper understanding of inclusion. Ubuntu means (humanness – the condition or quality of being human). The concept can be further explored through the saying Umuntu ngu muntu ngabantu, which simply means “I am because you are.” It is a mind-set, a point of view, and a way of interacting with other people. Ubuntu does not minimise or ignore differences, but inherently respects and includes the other person out of the awareness that one’s existence, position, work and success are only possible because of the value and role of the people they work with.
So what exactly do we mean by inclusion, what does it look like?
According to the Global Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarks: Standards for Organizations Around the World (GDIB) – a comprehensive tool sponsored by the Diversity Collegium, a think tank of diversity practitioners, “Inclusion is a dynamic state of operating in which diversity is leveraged to create a fair, healthy, and high-performing organization or community. An inclusive environment ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities for all. It also enables individuals and groups to feel safe, respected, engaged, motivated, and valued, for who they are and for their contributions toward organizational and societal goals.”
Inclusion recognises the fact that the benefits of diversity are not automatic and don’t come about simply by having a diverse workforce. Efforts to engage with and leverage diversity must be intentional, active and ongoing. This is the responsibility of management and executives, as well as a powerful tool for underrepresented individuals and groups to challenge the status quo. However; by no means does this imply that exclusion happens only in the workplace. If the current race relations in South Africa and indeed other countries around the world are anything to go by, it is clear that a lesson in tolerance, acceptance and inclusion are for all of us as a society.
While many organisations may have diversity and inclusion as a key strategic focus area, the reality of implementing and living the value often falls short of the vision – orgainsations want it, they see the value in it, it is the right thing to do, but do they get it right? For the most part, the answer is NO!
Join us next time as we explore areas where we potentially go wrong and what we can do to achieve and sustain inclusion in our organisations.