People often ask me why I decided to go out on my own and launch Boldly Inclusive. I could talk about the issues – the gender pay gap and glass ceilings faced by women, challenges in bringing your whole self to work among LGBTQ2S+ communities, unconscious bias and microaggressions experienced by people of colour, for example – but ultimately, it is helping organizations get to their “why” that drives me.
A few weeks ago, I was working with a client on a Theory of Change (ToC) exercise, a process that helps organizations identify the kind of impact it can make in their communities, and outline the steps that must be taken to achieve this impact. To give you some background, ToC’s are used primarily by the social sector, but it is also a great planning tool for public and private sector firms that see themselves as good corporate citizens and community partners. It takes strong facilitation skills and patience to get clients through this process, which at times can be nebulous and messy, and bring them to a place of clarity and meaning. As a facilitator, my role was to help them come to a shared understanding of their potential impact, while holding the up the DEI lens – a challenging role to be in when the ToC process is, itself, can be so complex.
The group I was working with was brilliant, bold and engaging, open to asking the tough questions at every step of the process. Things were going great… until I started sensing the mid-afternoon lull that sometimes happens after a hearty and delicious lunch. I did not want to lose momentum, but I knew it was almost time for a break.
Just when I was about to call time, it happened. The moment all facilitators hope for. The moment when the client suddenly sees everything clearly and all the pieces fit together. The moment that you smile and realize that they’ve found their “why”.
This moment came deep in the ToC process (we had mapped out goals, steps that needed to be taken, preconditions to be met) and one person bravely requested that we shift the goal post. Not content with the goals you would typically see in a ToC, such as ending world hunger or fostering a green and sustainably community, she suggested a new goal altogether: that we place value on people. Once we take this shift, ending world hunger or embracing green business practices become the ways in which we demonstrate our value for people. Doing so requires recognizing that we are all different, and have different needs and experiences. Valuing people means nobody can be left behind.
As she spoke, I looked around the room. The energy had changed. Everyone was nodding and smiling, and I knew I was no longer holding up the lens. They had taken up the mantle.
For an Inclusion Consultant, you live for moments like this. Your client has internalized what it means to be inclusive. They believe it and they own it. And whatever path they take from here is going to be a success. Whether it is an entity-wide program, enhanced HR policies, or a small localized DEI strategy, it will work because they have a shared understanding of the “why”.
So when people ask me about my “why”, it’s because of moments like this. Moments where I can help organizations see the possibilities in DEI instead of focusing on the challenges. Moments where they can see how DEI aligns with their goals and values. Moments where the engagement is deeper, and so is their commitment to success. These are the moments when I really love my job!