Inclusion: A Journey of Failing Forward Towards a Just and Equitable World

2 min read
Inclusion often embodies the concept of failing forward — navigating and constructing the bridge as we traverse it, marked by stumbling and faltering. It’s a topic that transcends traditional boundaries, one that doesn’t fit neatly into a single category but intersects with every existing and future domain, such as biodiversity, sustainability, innovation, and efficiency, to name a few.
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Inclusion is about being heard, contributing, and fully participating. It matters to the lonely elder in a nursing home feeling out of touch with the current world; to farmers caught in the grips of feed and pesticide manufacturers; to teachers, scientists, parents, or inventors who, once diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, are reduced to their neurological condition. It’s vital for those of us who may need to navigate sidewalks, or try catching a train or bus in a wheelchair due to an accident, illness, or aging; for students who find themselves misrepresented or not represented at all in educational materials; for anyone who has ever held back a potentially solution-contributing idea in a meeting to avoid appearing too loud, too eager, or too dominating. In short, inclusion is essential — for everyone, for prosperity, and for well-being. It enables us to engage in meaningful discussions, to agreeably disagree, and to skillfully collaborate and coexist.

Lost in Translation
In principle and theory, there’s widespread agreement that inclusion is the right path, aligning with human rights and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Each goal could be appended with “for everyone”: clean drinking water “for everyone”, good health and well-being “for everyone”, climate action “for everyone”, and so forth. However, translating these principles into practice is far from straightforward.

SDGs and Inner SDGs
Just as laws and decrees help countries align with human rights treaties and SDGs, there are translation layers for inclusion at the level of companies, organizations, and human interactions. For instance, the inner development goals provide a transformative skills framework for sustainable development, encompassing five dimensions and 23 skills and qualities.

Diversity Competence
Instead of muddling through with diversity and inclusion, confusing terms and actions, we could work on developing diversity competence, as proposed by Mounir Samuel: the ability to live, work, and create in a dynamic environment enriched by diverse perspectives, worldviews, lifestyles, experiences, and personal stories.

Another practical translation of theory is intersectionality, likened to a game of pick-up sticks, recognizing that everyone has their sticks arranged differently. This concept encourages us to consider the unique intersections of identity axes in each individual. Understanding that no one is neutral, we must acknowledge that we view the world through specific lenses, often influenced by unconscious biases.

Stereotypes and Connection
It’s not about feeling guilty for viewing the world and others from our perspective but acknowledging it and seeking strategies to consciously address it. For decision-makers, founders, and investors, fostering connections with people whose life experiences differ from our own is crucial. Cultural intelligence plays a key role in facilitating these connections.

Cultural Quotient
More practical and hands-on than IQ or EQ, the cultural quotient (CQ) offers a framework that accelerates inclusion. CQ differs from EQ by focusing more on internal reflection than external curiosity, challenging us to understand our own cultural backgrounds and biases.
The cultural quotient is built on four pillars: motivation, knowledge, reflection, and behavior. These pillars encourage us to connect with our why, understand and reflect on our knowledge (or lack thereof), and translate motivation and reflection into actionable behavior.

Meeting and Action
“A meeting happens twice: once in the mind and then lifelong in reality” - as a Cherokee saying goes. Inclusion is about fostering those real-life encounters. It’s time to act on inclusion. We possess the tools and means, and everyone has a stake in the game.
Let’s ensure we’re not lost in translation, remain firm on principles while being gentle with people, and nurture an eternal curiosity — not just towards “the other” but more so towards ourselves. Reach out to Artemis Kubala for sound boarding, a scan, or a chat on inclusifying your strategies, scanning potential or surveying links between mission, vision and daily practices.