Archive for June, 2013

Cities of People

Posted on June 28, 2013 by Leave a comment

Last week I came across an essay that I wrote in 1996 examining the role that a city’s inhabitants play on transforming their space and how they are the architects of the future, especially through their diversity of thought.  This essay is as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. I asserted that cities are comprised of people whose lives, experiences and perspectives are the pulse of any community.  I contended that the diversity of human thought and experience breathes life into every city’s sky-scrapers, tenements and developments.  Though ever-changing skylines may reveal the physical history of cities, it is the people themselves who define the culture of cities.  As Lewis Mumford, observed in The City in History, the common denominator of all cities is that they bring together “not only the physical means but the human agents needed to pass on and enlarge.. [our cultural] heritage.”  Consequently, multifarious voices of city dwellers speak to us from the past and inform our future, enabling us to recognize diversity as a vital, rejuvenating element rather than a reason for urban demise. 
The Message

The recent developments in Turkey and Brazil are powerful illustrations of the capacity of diverse people to act inclusively when they share common goals.  Like many of you I have been paying close attention to these events.  I have been observing how people respond when they believe that they have been excluded. The people who have been filling streets and plazas in Turkish and Brazilian cities represent a diverse range of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, education level, profession, parental status, marital status, and political affiliation.  They have come to send a message to the leaders of their nations:  “We matter!  What we think matters!  Listen to us!”  
Our Space
When developers or politicians make decisions that result in an altered public landscape without the informed consent of the public they risk the wrath of that body.  Few people who grew up in New York in the 1950s and 1960s hear the name of Robert Moses without thinking about the neighborhoods in New York City that were destroyed as a result of his arbitrary decisions to build highways that cut off the life blood of those communities by separating residences from shops and schools and services.  The South Bronx suffered the most critical damage as a result of Mr. Moses’ actions and the urban blight that became synonymous with that borough has yet to be completely cured. 
The people of Turkey and Brazil have spoken up and reasserted their right to decide the fate of their cities, neighborhoods, and public spaces.  This is not just a response to the use of their hard earned tax dollars, but an expression of revulsion that they have been told, by the actions of their nations’ leaders that they have no voice, no opinion that matters, no stake in the outcome of decisions.

Ayse Diskaya in Istanbul
Reuters June 12 2013

Never Say “Just A Housewife!”
People matter, not just in an abstract way, but in a very real way. As the personal stories of those who are risking a great deal to raise their voices begin to emerge, I hear what can be described as spontaneous harmony.  One voice is that of Ayse Diskaya, a 48-year-old housewife who Murad Sezer wrote about for Reuters:  http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2013/06/12/taksim-square-one-womans-protest/  Ms. Diskaya’s story is a poignant one of a women who has risen above adversity.
Diverse Voices
As I stated above the protestors represent a diverse range of people, thoughts, ideas and issues.  People are also protesting for various reasons and causes.  That is the beauty of democracy, we can really agree to disagree and still stand side-by-side in opposition to being excluded.  You were wondering when I would get to the word inclusion, weren’t you?  Well, people need to be included.  It really is quite simple.  As a result of the protests in Turkey the demolition of Gezi Park has been halted, at least temporarily.  In Brazil, the bus fare increase that sparked the protest has been rescinded.  The protesters in both nations have cited many issues as the reason for their outrage.
Datafolha 18 June 2013

The New Public Arena
One way that people are speaking up all over the world is via social media, Twitter and Facebook, in particular.  Those who formerly gathered in the public arena, the local plaza, and the corner pub, have all convened on the internet with access to all in unprecedented and unpredictable ways.  The diversity of opinion that is exchanged in the span of one hour of any event is mind boggling!  People are free to say whatever they want about any subject and to get feedback from a huge number of other people.  This may seemed chaotic at first, but order really does emerge and people really do let each other know when they are being rude or ignorant or anti-social.  The democracy and inclusion of their diversity is what makes social media so astronomically successful. 
Harmony
On June 10 hundreds of people in Taksim Square in Istanbul sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from “Les Miserables.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FctAww-4p9k
When people sing in harmony, the sky is the limit!
W. Wark, 2011
People need to be included in decision making whether those decisions are about the alteration of public space, their access to health care and education, their right to free speech, or their right to assembly.  Demos, after all means “the people” in ancient Greek.  We cannot have democracy without the people.  Just as we cannot have cities without the people.
So, what do you have to say about it?
Onward,
~ Wendy

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Learning to be Inclusive

Posted on June 13, 2013 by 4 Comments


I’m Done”

Several years ago I was in California’s central valley to facilitate training sessions for a large organization with many locations.  It was well over 110 degrees and despite the low humidity, it felt very hot.  I had spoken with my contact the day before to make sure that all of the details for the sessions were taken care of, but when I arrived at the training location the laptop that was needed to convey the information that I was there to share via Power Point was not in the training room.  My contact did not recall confirming that she would provide said laptop during our conversation the day before and after emitting a long sigh, said that she would go and find one.  The room was inside of a large trailer as the client’s office building was under construction, so my contact did not have to go very far to find a laptop. In fact, she just stepped outside of the door of the training room and returned a moment later with a plastic supermarket bag.  The bag contained a laptop which she proceeded to look at along with its corresponding power cord as if unsure how the two objects were related. I offered assistance and asked her if she knew how to use the laptop and projector which needed to be connected within the next few minutes if I was going to be able to use them for the upcoming session.  She responded as follows:  “I’m an omelet.” I was not sure if I had heard her correctly, so I asked her if she said ‘omelet’.  She responded, very slowly: “Yes, I’m an omelet. I’m done. I am tired of learning things just so that other people can use them.”  I asked if she had any use for the computer and she said that she was retiring in a few months and did not see any reason to learn anything new.  “I am here just to set up the training room.” She shared that she had almost completed her bachelor’s degree, with only one course to go, but did not see the point in finishing.  I suggested that since she was retiring that she might use some of her new found free-time to take that one last class, to which she snorted, “Why?”  What a profoundly sad woman!  How could anyone not want to learn something new every day?

Learning as a key to Inclusion

Last week I facilitated a panel titled, “Driving Innovation for Greater Business Results” at NALC NY (DiversityBest Practices Network and Affinity Leadership Congress).  When one is presenting at a conference the conference fee is usually waived, encouraging speakers to attend the entire event including other speakers’ sessions.  NALC is organized with three tiers of sessions:  Emerging ERG Leaders, ERG Program Managers, and Experienced ERG Leaders. Employee Resource Groups are groups that facilitate the development and engagement of employees and are usually centered on a common interest or affinity shared by its members such as a women’s group, LGBT group, etc.  As I have been in the field of diversity and inclusion for many, many years I find that it is rare that I learn something new at conferences.  I was pleasantly surprised and happy that I attended all of the sessions at NALC that I could since I did learn new things. I learned from the seasoned presenters, from the panelists at my session and other sessions and from the other conference participants while practicing what I preach about listening and learning as critical elements of inclusion.   One has to be open to listening – really listening or actively listening – to someone regardless of whether they have less experience in one’s field or are a competitor if one wants to really learn something new.  

Reach & Teach

My dear friends Craig Wiesner & Derrick Kikuchi give all of us who are hungry for new information lots to fill up on with their company Reach & Teach!   Reach And Teach, the peace and social justice learning company, is helping to transform the world through teachable moments. We offer books, games, puzzles, toys, curriculum, music, posters, DVDs, maps, and other products for people of all ages.”  Reach & Teachhas been an online business since 2004 and they are about to move into their new location @ 144 West 25th Avenue, San Mateo, CA. (In case you are fortunate enough to be in the area!) Going into Craig & Derrick’s shop is an amazing experience!  Craig & Derrick’s love of learning is contagious and the two of them come at you with an array of books, games, origami, and some of the best puzzles around.  It is always difficult for me to tear myself away from the wonderland of inclusive learning that they have created!


Learn from Everyone!

I recommend that we try to be open to learning from everyone, not just the ‘expert’ at the front of the room, but from everyone in the room and those who are not in the room, too.  We even have the opportunity to learn from those who may not be inspired or curious, those who are “here just to set up the training room.”  We have the opportunity to learn from the person squished in next to us on the subway, and on line in front of us at the supermarket, and from the marginalized in all places in society.  Who have you learned from today?

Onward, 

~ Wendy 
Inclusion Strategy

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