Last week at the Cities of Migration conference in Toronto, one of the panelists was Rachel Peric – the Deputy Director of Welcoming America. She and the organization were introduced as having helped to turn hostile communities into welcoming ones, which of course caught my attention right away. When Rachel spoke, she mentioned the personality of a welcoming city: equity, opportunity and inclusion.
These are components that can be applied to an organization or a corporation (or any other structure) to create a welcoming environment where people feel a sense of belonging.
Equity asks us to look at and consider people’s needs, power and access to resources, information, and opportunity – and address the imbalance so everyone can participate fully.
Opportunity is not just about what is available, but about being able to access it.
And inclusion is about bringing people into the conversation, creating a space for participation and to be seen and heard, and using the information that comes out of that space to create something new together – whether it’s a community, a city, an organization, or a corporation.
One of the things that Rachel said that stood out most for me was the importance of empathy for all involved, and that these three components of a welcoming city’s personality apply everyone. She made specific reference to the people who are already living in a city that is becoming a welcoming city, who are feeling left out and marginalized. How do we welcome others, when some of the current citizens don’t feel they belong?
It’s a powerful question. And it echoed the question someone asked at the conference about the attention paid to assisting new immigrants and (specifically now) the Syrian Refugees coming to Canada when our Aboriginal/First Nations populations continue to deal with poverty, lack of access, and discrimination on many levels. Our Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said he believes we can chew gum and walk at the same time – that both is possible. Too often, however, we look to who is coming and forget who is already there. We look to who we want to attract, welcome, include and in so doing alienate others.
Inclusion means everyone.
When we commit to it, we make a big circle around all involved and we find ways to see and acknowledge who people are, what they need, and what they have to offer – and we move forward together with these things in mind so that everyone feels a sense of belonging and can contribute to making the city, community, organization or corporation a better place – for everyone.
Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
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