Author: relationalAdmin

Trapped concept and mental prison symbol as a person caged and imprisoned by the slow growing roots of a tree as a metaphor for chronic ingrained suffering due to an addiction or psychological illness.

Relational’s National Call to Action: A Response to the Current Political Climate

 

We say no!
No to the social and political exile and discrimination of all social minorities. Of 

Immigrants

Muslims

Racialized Peoples

Women

Refugees

Indigenous People

People with Disabilities

LGBTQAI

Non-Status Peoples

 

We are choosing life free from the daily low hum of injustice.
We are choosing life without the amplified effects of constructed differences.
Differences made to be scapegoats for injustice.
Injustice that rise out of our systems and which entangle our relationships. 

 

We are now tasked with uncovering the roots of injustice.
Roots that allow the demonization of an entire people.
People made wholesale responsible for '​threats'​ to our humanity, communities and borders.
Some of these roots are old, some newer.
We must therefor unearth the soil that has been blocking the light of our consciousness. 

 

Then lets illuminate these roots. Look at them.
Speak back to them. Never allow them to grow again.
Now lets put down new roots.
Holding each other’s hearts in care.
Looking into each other’s eyes with honesty and strength.
Speaking to each other with mindful rigour.
Listening to one another free to grow and change.
Grasping each other's hands with courageous promise. 

 

Plant and water another way of being, another political and social reality.
Plant and water unwavering roots of justice, equity and love for all!

istock-506849636_web

I’d like some Equity with that Diversity and Inclusion!
by: Dr. Salima Bhimani, Founder, Chief Executive Officer; Head of Research, Consulting and Education

 

Brimming with pride and joy about moving into an executive position after many years of hard work climbing the proverbial company ladder, Zara couldn’t wait to get started. Her appointment was part of a larger initiative in the company to gain more women in leadership positions. Her first team meeting went like this:

 

Once Zara was officially welcomed by leadership, the agenda turned to business. As this portion of the meeting progressed, she noticed a pattern. Male colleagues spoke over her and wrongly rephrased her words by stating, “I think what she is really trying to say…”

 

During the break she received jovial comments such as:

 

“I didn’t ever think we’d be sitting at the same table.”

 

“You know, you won’t be able to take time off for girly issues now. Time to toughen up lady.”

 

“ I guess this is a ‘win’ for your people, huh? Congratulations!”

 

Thinking this day was just an anomaly Zara believed that this could not possibly be the norm. But as months passed, the pattern held: “Have fun. Lighten up” she was told. “Prove you’re worthy of this position.” “It would be a serious step back for all women in this company if you become an example of what everyone is already thinking.”

 

While outperforming her colleagues and seeing them “borrow” her ideas, after 6 months she was “asked” to return to her former position and gently told, “This is just not working out and we really want to make sure that your skills and knowledge are in the right place within the company. This move is about valuing you Zara!”

 

The “E” in DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)

As institutions try to welcome people into roles traditionally closed to them, and attempt to value their ideas and skills, too often scenarios such as these are framed as issues about diversity and inclusion. Left out of the analysis is equity. This is generally true in the growing popularity of D&I approaches in institutions, whether corporate or educational. Experiences such as Zara’s and others like it are about diversity in so far as they point out the social identity of the persons involved, in this case a young brown woman. They are about inclusion in so far as they reflect the way a person is truly welcomed or valued, in this case displaying the opposite. What these concepts don’t help us identify are the systemic and cultural discrimination, exclusion and lack of fairness that people face. These concepts don’t help us name, understand and change the existing multi-layered problem. This is where equity comes in.

 

Omitting Equity

By making diversity and inclusion the focus, institutions have affirmed a positive stance to address the gaps and blind spots in their practices and policies. It feels better to talk about being diverse and doing inclusion because it is about adding, celebrating and honoring. Equity feels heavier and harder because we must face what is not working. It points out systemic problems such as institutional sexism and racism.

 

Consequently, in the last decade especially, we have seen the replacement of the language of equity with diversity in the focus of institutional offices and programs. In this move, I have heard people say, “We want to be uplifting in our approach. Focus on what we are striving for. Look forward, not back.” Perhaps. But this move is also about looking away from the task of changing systems, relationships and cultures, that in all honesty many people find daunting and don’t know how to do. As institutions have distanced the connection between diversity, equity and inclusion, they have also obscured legal, moral and social accountability, creating serious gaps in how far we can go. If our goal is to really change how we work and who we work with, then the relationship between DEI and what this relationship asks of us must be part of our conversations, plans and approaches.

 

Three strategies to start making the connections between diversity, equity and inclusion

 

Do you understand barriers?

Barriers from the perspective of DEI solidify imbalances of power by giving access and opportunity for some to flourish, while presenting explicit and implicit obstacles to others. In Zara’s case she faced assumptions about her capability and worthiness right from the start. This set up conditions in which she had to work against failing rather than fulfilling the job she was hired to do, making it very hard for her to prevail. Dismantling barriers and shaping equity requires courageous looking. So start asking: who faces barriers to opportunity and success in our system? Why? What are the characteristics of these barriers? What are the frictions and possibilities in removing such barriers? Articulating concrete steps in building an equitable system indicates to employees, staff and stakeholders that as an institution you have a layered investment in DEI.

 

Is your institutional story a human story?

Every institution has a story about who they are and how they do business. This is called the official story. Official stories about diversity and inclusion are often linked to a company’s success and achievement. Official stories however don’t often reflect the messy reality of truly being on the DEI path. Present a more pluralistic story about where your institution is and where it is going with DEI. This shows the humanness of your system and reflects a spirit of openness and vitality. Real commitment to processes with responsible action is what people find hope in.

 

Is your vision interconnected with social accountability?

Accountability from a DEI perspective means overtly talking about the relevance of anti-discrimination and human rights laws and regulations. An institution’s case for DEI should be part of a larger societal impetus to not recreate historical injustice. This shows a sophisticated conceptualization of why fairness, inclusion, and equity are imperative. By shaping a working eco-system that models the best of human relationships and dynamics, you exemplify the ethical fortitude of your institution. This not only benefits your bottom line but also creates public trust and admiration.

 

Figure out what DEI means in your institution

There is no quick fix to realizing diversity, equity and inclusion. At Relational, we know that each institution and community must figure out what this means for them. As you start the process of understanding the relationship between these three concepts in your institution, share your story with us.

diversity_web

WHAT IS DIVERSITY?
by: Rita Nketiah, Senior Programs Associate

 

As a Canadian, I’m quite familiar with the language of diversity. It is everywhere: in our policies, in our school systems, in our workplaces. We hear it often and it is something we are supposed to celebrate, be accepting of, and tolerate. In reality however, diversity is rarely explained and usually taken for granted.

 

Diversity, first became popular in the mid-20th century. An ever-changing world, which had begun to deal with socio-political challenges such as the Holocaust and Civil Rights struggles saw the introduction of a new discourse centered on recognizing diversity in our societies. In the United States for instance, President Truman (1948) ordered a desegregation of the armed forces, which would prohibit discrimination based on “race, color, religion or natural origin”1. The United Nations was also established during this period, as a recognition of an increasingly globalized world and a strategy to address national and international conflict between diverse groups. Diversity presented itself as both the reality of the world and as a solution that could address social inequalities. This legacy introduced an imperative, that now, decades later we see has taken root in companies and institutions. Some have started to recognize that homogenous workforces do not reflect business best practice or fairness as a society.

 

The United Nation’s Child Fund (UNICEF) describes diversity as a commitment to “treat[ing] all people with dignity and respect; show[ing] respect and sensitivity towards gender, cultural and religious differences; challeng[ing] prejudice, biases and intolerance in the workplace; and encouraging diversity wherever possible.” This definition is comprehensive in its goals and objectives, however it doesn’t quite get to why we do diversity work. Ultimately, when discussing diversity, it is important to ask ourselves “to what end?” Why is it important for us to be committed to diverse workplaces, communities and societies? Where does embracing diversity move us towards? What does diversity help us achieve? At Relational, we understand that equitable and, and inclusive systems allow for the nurturance of diversity. It is not enough to respect and encourage diversity or challenge what is not working, we must actively transform the conditions, structures and relationships in our communities.

 

Below are three (3) ways to think about what diversity is and how it can contribute to more effective communities.

 

Embracing Diversity is a Moral Imperative
Diversity is about addressing historical injustice and encouraging a different world. As those who have traditionally held power begin to recognize new and non-hierarchical ways of sharing power, we see that living and working conditions present possibilities for flourishing not imagined before. In this way, diversity is about making sure that everyone has a seat at the table and they are seen, heard and genuinely a part of our communities. Diversity means that we fairly represent the world’s people, believing that we can each contribute to making communities and workplaces more effective. There is indeed a moral imperative to embracing diversity: diversity is simply the right thing to do in order to not repeat the legacies that continue to leave some in our world with less opportunity and humanity.

 

Challenging our own biases makes us better people
A focus on diversity is critical for challenging our own biases and assumptions about people who are not like us. We sometimes develop biases or ideas about people based on the communities or families that we grow up in. Unfortunately, these biases can be harmful and divisive without us even realizing it. Diversity work forces us to “look beyond our front lawn” to acknowledge and engage with people who may not speak a similar language, have the same skin colour or come from the same class background as us in order to expand our understanding of the world. Diversity work is a process of humanizing the world’s people in part by confronting our own ignorance and blind spots.

 

Diversity makes us more effective
Embracing people from different communities, life experiences and realities can provide us with new and innovative ideas and a multitude of perspectives for problem-solving. Studies have shown that gender and racial diversity is an incredible financial benefit, so much so that it can take a company over their industry average in financial returns.2 Why is this? Indeed, when we have multiple and varied experiences and positionalities, we are also able to understand multiple angles or potential challenges in creating policy, initiating programs or providing services. We come to ask questions like, how might the same product or service be used by a diverse group of people? Having a diversity lens can allow us to create people-centred solutions.

 

Diversity is Now
While I have attempted to lay out some of the reasons and benefits of doing diversity work, the reality is that we cannot avoid it. With the onset of mass migration, greater awareness of diverse sexual identities, the growing consciousness of women’s rights, and continued struggles for human rights and access, it is inevitable that we grapple with how to most justly live in a diverse world. At Relational we know that through seeing the gaps and needs within our institutions and communities we can make space for enabling Diversity. As an organization, Relational recognizes the ethical imperative and efficiency of promoting and working towards diversity. We encourage you to think about what this looks like in your communities and how you can work towards greater diversity.

 

1 Dansby, M.R. and Da Landis (2012). “Intercultural Training in the United States Military” Managing Diversity in the Military: Research from the Defense Equal Opportunity Institute. Mickey R. Dansby, James B. Stewart, Schuyler C. Webb. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
2 Vivian Hunt, V., Layton, D. and Sara Prince (2015) “Why diversity matters”. Mckinsey and Company. http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters