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June 2, 2019


Everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent, whether we acknowledge that or not.
~ Hildy Gottlieb, The Pollyanna Principles

Inclusion as a Habit
What would it take for inclusion to become a habit - a way of being?

As it is with any new habit, to be inclusive, we first need to learn how to do inclusion. Then we need to do it over and over, until it is just how we be about everything, without even thinking about it.

This is not just about racial inclusion. When inclusion becomes a way of being, you are seeking inclusion in everything you do. The result will mean including people of all races and ethnic backgrounds, all socio-economic and religious backgrounds, all levels of ability... everyone.

This week’s “try this” exercise will help you begin exercising your inclusion muscles - the first step in moving from doing inclusion to being inclusive.

Try This
Just like everything in life, inclusion begins not with our actions, but with the thoughts and decisions that guide those actions.

That is why this week’s exercise is about changing the questions you ask, long before you take action. Those questions are simultaneously simple and powerful.

  1. Who will be affected by whatever decision we make?
  2. What will it take to include them in this decision / plan / action?

If you are thinking about a new social change program, who will be affected by your plans?

  • The people in the program
  • The people those individuals regularly connect with – their neighbors, friends, families, coworkers?
  • The people who will put on the program – your employees, volunteers, community members
  • Members of the community overall
  • Who else?

Move beyond the likely suspects:

  •  For each party you list, are there groups who have traditionally been excluded from these sorts of conversations? If your program requires people to be physically active, what about people with disabilities? If your program occurs on nights and weekends, what about people who work nights or weekends? Dig deep. Who are you including? And importantly, who are you realizing you have NOT been including?

The second question will move you from thinking to action. What will it take to include those individuals in your decisions / plans / actions? What will you do to people in the decisions that will affect them?

This is about doing things WITH people vs. FOR (and often TO) people. The old watchword of the Disability Rights Movement comes to mind: Nothing about us without us.

The more you practice asking these two questions about any decision you make, the more you will be flexing your inclusion muscles. Rather than tokenism (“We need two of these and three of those…”), you will be baking real inclusion into all your decisions and actions, from thinking about who to invite to a party to thinking about who to invite to your board of directors.

And the side benefit of all that inclusion may surprise you: a reduction in unintended consequences. Why? Because unintended consequences are a direct result of excluding people from your thinking in the first place.

Embedding inclusion into every decision you make is guaranteed to make a big difference in the results you see. That is why these questions are the very first step in Catalytic Decision-making – one of the three core practices of the Catalytic Thinking framework.

Resources to Support Your Practice
These resources will help you exercise your inclusion muscles:

Want to learn alongside other people who are also trying out Catalytic Thinking practices? Join our Catalytic Thinking in Action community on Facebook - a welcoming place where you can ask questions and learn from people like you who are experimenting with these practices. We look forward to seeing you there!

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eJournal Archives:
If you’re new to our eJournal, or just want to remind yourself of past practice exercises we’ve shared, check out our eJournal archives here.

Creating the Future
is a collection of people around the world supporting each other in a grand experiment:
To determine how much more humane the world could be
if the systems that guide our work and our lives 
were rooted in questions that bring out the best in each of us.

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