Sometimes starting is actually the easiest part. It’s not so hard to get people to commit to action on a particular issue when everything is pretty crap and therefore kind of embarrassing, especially if that embarrassment could be linked back to some kind of innate injustice or wrongdoing or privilege that makes us feel uncomfortable…
Take any issue you like. If on a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (great) we’re all basically somewhere between 1 and 3, then it’s clear that we need to do something and do it right now then there’s energy and action and movement. People get involved because 2 “just isn’t good enough” and “we have a responsibility to do something” and “it’s only by pulling together that we can shift the needle on this crucial issue”…
But if we’re getting up to 5, or 6 (or even 7 on a good day)… well, do we really need to carry on making such a fuss?
“I know it’s not perfect but it’s a damn sight better than it used to be…”
Oh, no. Not this. I know where this is going…
“Okay, so we’re not where we want to be on gender equality but you should have seen us two years ago…”
“We’ve done a load of outreach stuff to bring in more people from different ethnic backgrounds but it’s not really landed yet… we’ll just have to wait and see how that goes…”
“I think we’re really accepting of gay people already – I don’t see we can do much more…”
They’re not direct quotations but there’s an underlying feeling that we’ve kind of “done” some of these things. Gender, some stuff on race, maybe LGBTQI+ in some vague way. Used to be a 2, now we’re a strong 5 aspiring for a 6 or even 7!
The moment we think this stuff is in any way done is the moment we lose any momentum we’ve built up.
There’s no question that things have moved on in the last few years – particularly on gender equality (which was given real impetus through the #MeToo movement) but we’re only just starting to see the slightest movement on anything that will allow good intentions to result in lasting change.
The vast majority of D&I work is still done effectively voluntarily – by people giving their own time, energy, thinking and effort for nothing. That’s not just true for charities, that’s true for some of the biggest, richest corporations on the planet.
Good will and personal energy will get things moving and keep them going for a couple of years; perhaps more for people whose passion and resilience mean they refuse to give up.
But finding the energy to start again, from scratch, every year? Always on top of the day job? That’s tough. Especially when the momentum isn’t there.
Events that used to sell out in minutes suddenly find they’re only just breaking even.
There used to be 10 or 15 people who said they wanted to help, then suddenly you’re down to the same 3 or 4.
Movements that started with passion and energy and forward movement suddenly slow to almost glacial levels, so slow that any movement is imperceptible to the naked eye. Is it moving or is it… dead?
This is happening. I know it’s happening because I’m seeing it with some of the people, organisations and events I’m close to personally, and that can’t be a coincidence. [Unless… wait, am I the bloody bad luck charm??!!]
That’s why I believe this is a crucial moment in the shift towards a more inclusive world of work.
The initial shift from things being totally crap to being kind of okay has brought with it a low level of complacency which threatens to bring the whole thing to a grinding halt.
Just when things have started moving up is not the time to stop pushing. It’s the time to find more people to help with the push. By bringing together not just individuals but groups of like-minded people the effort is shared and the energy amplified.
And there’s no better time for that than right now.
If this crazy time we’re in the middle of has done anything, it’s re-established what’s important to people – or at least amplified the sound of what’s important. Connection, community, co-operation – it’s all been amplified along with the sound of balcony singing in Milan and Thursday night clapping in Manchester, and pans bashed in Manhattan.
By being forced apart we’ve ended up more together than ever. More thoughtful, more empathetic. And that, my friends, is where inclusivity starts.
We’re going to have a hiatus this year because of coronavirus – no question of that. No marches, no conferences, smaller meetings. So let’s use that time to regroup, recharge, and find our groups of like-minded, committed, stubborn idealists.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist
(December 16, 1901 – November 15, 1978)
Find your group, make your mark. Push harder, aim higher. Never settle.
Who’s with me?
[Take care. Be safe. Stay inside. Stop touching your face.]