In light of increasing fragmentation, polarisation and demographic changes, notions around inclusivity feel more urgent and contested than ever. While inclusivity is widely discussed today in different contexts, it remains complex, sensitive and at times abstract.
Spaces for learning and unlearning
Too often, inclusivity is approached as a problem to solve or a list that could be ticked off. However, this attitude tends to stay on the surface, ignoring the bigger questions that lie beneath. It leads, for example, to ‘diversity on occasion’, or ‘window dressing’ but does not challenge the deep systemic issues of exclusion we face in society and the blind spots that are embedded in us all.
An inclusive society is one in which multiple voices are heard, access to power is shared, and we relate and care for each other. Plurality is essential to meet each other in our differences. On a systemic level, inclusivity also means thinking of our society as an ecosystem of relationships and dependencies. Our actions here influence others far away from us, geographically but also temporally.
What happens when we engage with inclusivity as a process? Not offering quick-fixes to problems encountered by specific communities or groups, but choosing to work for inclusion as an ongoing collective effort, moving at different speeds and across different spaces. How can we work for an inclusive society through reflecting on our own (personal and societal) position as a process of learning and unlearning?
In the Embassy, we choose to approach inclusivity as a continuous journey of learning and unlearning. In this process, we collectively explore how to challenge our own thinking patterns, imagining and designing alternative systems for a future society based on social cohesion. We work to create meeting spaces where we learn to relate to each other, can be vulnerable and make mistakes, while understanding that the work is never complete. To navigate the complex landscape of inclusivity, design offers us a compass, a map, walking shoes and most importantly back-mirrors to seek our blind spots.
If design for inclusion moves away from the problem-solution approach, can it act as an enabler for us to experience the hyper-diverse societies we live in? Through design, can we become more prepared to live with the presence of differences and unexpected situations?
This year, the Embassy provides an inclusive space for exchange. Different design propositions help us imagine how multiplicity and plurality can counter representation and othering. Workshops and dialogues offer practical tools for collective learning. And by sharing design methodologies, such as design anthropology and embedded design, we can move away from quick fixes and work towards durational, local and relational collective actions.