The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. "Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community" is the mission of the Arcadia Institute of Kalamazoo. How different would our community be if every organization paid closer attention to how welcome and supported their customers, clients, students, members, volunteers and staff felt?
One of the ways in which Arcadia Institute digs deeper into the "how" is by being intentional about building inclusion into the fabric of our work. We start by holding each other accountable as team members. A lot of reflection and planning go into most all of the moves we make whether we are doing Community Brokering, organizing an Annual Forum, networking, researching, responding or discovering.
Like any prism, there are several points of light. For the purpose of attempting to provide some suggestions of inclusion "starters", I will focus on only two of several considerations that Community Brokers MUST keep in mind when it comes to inclusion:
This word, when considered as important to inclusion, assists with the making of safer spaces. Not pretending to be who you are not. Not pretending to know more than you know. Being open to listening and receiving the voices of others. Willingness to tell your own story and to make space and encourage others to do the same. In more laymen's terms, it's kinda like "keep it real". Acknowledging what's in the room and what's not. Having sensitivity antennas up and functioning in such a way that the team discerns that more time and attention is needed in certain rocky patches. Being willing to adjust the agendas to make room for the authenticity of the moment and everything teachable that emerges when safety is in place and maintained.
2. Genuine Compassion
Not everyone grows up in environments where they learn to be genuinely compassionate. However, when working with an intent to be inclusive, genuine compassion truly matters. Acquiring multiple compassion lenses equips you with the ability to embrace the value of persons as if they were blood relatives that you cherished. Genuine compassion makes room for persons to live/love beyond differences and beyond experiences. Conversely, lack of genuine compassion can contribute to inclusion accidents waiting to happen. Making plans, moves or assumptions from the head and not from the heart often result in contributing to persons not feeling included.
In closing, the Arcadia Institute designed and utilizes a user-friendly Commitment to Inclusion that helps organizations begin to asses just where they land on the scale of inclusion along with suggestions to address those findings.
Contact Executive Director, Allison Hammond, PhD. at (269) 254-8224 for information regarding the Commitment to Inclusion