Spring is in the air in Toronto. Today at least.
But there are other signs – last week my daughter and I saw snowdrops – small white flowers – on our way home. And for the past week we have spotted a few Canada Geese Vs. So today I’m taking a bit of a departure from the ordinary, and I’m going to draw some D&I inspiration from nature.
Canada Geese are quite amazing and we can learn something about Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) from them.
First, it’s hard to miss the Vs in the sky as they fly by. There are a few reasons for this:
- Energy conservation. Each bird flies slightly above the other, which means wind resistance is reduced.
Any social justice work has the goal of making things easier for the people that come next. D&I in organizations is no exception – whether it’s policies or practices, programs or in the workplace. And to do that, someone needs to lead, do the work and “go through the wall first”.
- The V allows the geese to see each other – important for knowing that everyone in the group is still there.
Flying in a line would mean it’s possible for the last goose (or a bunch of geese at the end) to be left behind. Keeping our eye on everyone in the group, workplace, or program is not just about seeing people, but seeing and recognizing their needs.
Seeing everyone also allows us to notice representation – who is missing from the group in terms of our population and what does that mean for who we are serving, who we are serving well, and what information we have access to?
In the V, the goose at the front is doing the most work. They are the leader. However, Canada Geese take turns being in the front. When the leader gets tired, they change position and go to the back of the V. What that means is that, ostensibly, every Canada goose in the V has the opportunity, at some point, to lead. Let that sink in for a moment. Where do you see that happening in human lives? And what could that mean for D&I if it did happen?
Besides the V, there is another interesting fact about Canada Geese: if any goose has to land, another goose always goes too. They are never left alone.
Hmmm…that’s food for thought about allyship.
But it also brings to mind acceptance and compassion.
I can’t be sure, of course, but I would bet that the companion goose isn’t heckling the goose that went down first to get them to hurry up, or making the goose feel bad for the fact that they are now both down on the ground instead of up in the sky. I imagine, that there is an acceptance of circumstances by the support goose, a recognition of their role for as long as it’s needed, and that they both get on with the business of doing what they have to do – together – to get back to the V.
Allyship requires that we see the person or community we are an ally to, doing what needs to be done based on what that person or community needs and that we walk together (with those being supported as the lead in what that looks like) until we get to a place of equity and equality.
Leadership, efficiency, teamwork, and support. And these are geese.
Who says human beings are the smartest?