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. Two weeks ago I presented two angles of several lights that radiate from the prism of inclusion: Genuine Compassion and Authenticity. This week I want to touch on the importance of and the role that voice plays when considering how inclusive you and your organization are.
I'm certain that you have heard the statement before, nothing about us without us. If not, you might wanna read that sentence slowly again until you receive the message intended. Most systems have infrastructures of good intentions, built upon facts, data, research, projection etc. Again, we often make the mistake of not asking the persons, most impacted by programs, for inputs until situations arise that shed light upon that lack of including all voices. Including voices helps to determine who's on the bus, should the bus be the vehicle, who should drive the bus, where should the bus go?
Voices vary. Some voices are colorful. Some voices are logical. Some voices are hidden behind fears. While other voices come from a place of privilege, power or ignorance. Some voices are emerging while other voices have been silenced for so long and spoken for that they parrot others or speak to appease rather than to identify and express their own true thoughts.
All voices are valuable. Perspectives unknown lie beneath those untapped voices. Sustainable successes are rooted in the inclusive circle of voices that plan and execute together based on what each one learns to hear and brings to the table. Understand that in order to establish and foster an atmosphere where voices are valued, expect to need some assistance at times. Expect for it to take more time to get to the hearts of the matters. Expect that it may get a little bit uncomfortable hearing truths that are new to the surface of conversations and discussions. Expect to be challenged and above all expect to grow.
In closing, the Arcadia Institute has learned that each and every person not only wants to be heard but needs to be heard. We constantly challenge ourselves about the language that we use, the assumptions that we make, the place from which we speak. Do we get it right all of the time? Absolutely not. But if we are to be about the work of our mission, voice must be at the forefront of what moves, with whom and to what end. Inclusion must be intentional. Are you inviting others to speak? Are you listening when they speak? Will everyone involved in your organization truly feel that their voice matters? Will it be reflected in the day-to-day operations? Will you find those voices in the material? The curriculum? The methods? The outcomes? Or will you just be talking to hear yourself talk? Because that may have been modeled before you. Who's voices? Are you listening?
Contact Executive Director, Allison Hammond, PhD. at (269) 254-8224 for information regarding the Commitment to Inclusion which includes many layers of the onion peeling associated with becoming more and more inclusive.