An inclusive conversation with our knowledge brokers

Civic Action,The Spindle Series on Civil Society07 Jan 2020Kim van Wijk, Yannicke Goris

For 6 months, knowledge brokers Yannicke Goris and Kim van Wijk, submerged themselves into the concept and ideal of inclusion. Why? For The Spindle – Partos′ innovation platform – 2019 was the start of a series of activities on inclusion. No coincidence that this year’s publication had – besides creativity, courage, tenacity, collaboration and resourcefulness – one key element: inclusion. Together with The Spindle, Partos, CIVICUS and members of the Partos Leave No One Behind Platform, Yannicke and Kim shared ideas, interviewed, wondered, reflected and maybe even dreamed about inclusion. Finally, they wrote the colourful book: Digital Dalits and Colourful Carroças – Civil society action for inclusion. Looking back on writing this book: which moment stuck the most, persons they’ve met impressed the most, initiatives they got to know inspired the most and did the creation process have an impact on them as well? Most importantly, they both give you 3 reasons why you why should read Digital Dalits and Colourful Carroças.

For this publication, you had various conversations and held multiple interviews. Which conversation or interview impressed or inspired you most?

Yannicke: I had a conversation with a strategist of a large NGO who told me that developing truly inclusive programmes is a major challenge. He shared some questions such as how can we reach the most marginalised? And, compared to the costs and efforts we must put into reaching the, comparatively few extra people, is it worth it? Who should take responsibility? These questions were pretty shocking but also made me more aware of the hard dilemmas NGOs – with limited budgets – are facing. Not the most cheerful conversation I had, but one that made me realise that this notion of inclusion and the way I perceived it (of course we must try to always reach the poorest, the most vulnerable!) may be somewhat naïve.

Kim: My conversations with Omad and Nouraldin from the Holot theatre in Israel were meaningful and important. They represent people that are – or have recently been – struggling to find their way to be included. Their culture, their way of doing things, the way they look differs from the society they ended up living in; challenging Omad and Nouraldin to feel welcome as a contributing individual to society. Their honesty in sharing their experience with me felt humbling. They provided me with insights on how initiatives like Holot theatre are incredibly meaningful in opening up the possibility to create a more inclusive environment. It’s the individual stories that matter, especially when it comes down to inclusion.

Inclusion to me is a situation we should all actively strive for. It means that every person -regardless of who they are, what they do, or who they love- can benefit from the opportunities our world has to offer. – Yannicke Goris

Which chapter are you most proud of?

Yannicke: Probably the first chapter on intersectionality because I think it’s a crucial addition to the rest of the chapters. It draws attention to something that, in my view, is essential if we want to meaningfully contribute to inclusion. I knew of the concept ‘intersectionality’ of course. However, like many others, I had a very narrow understanding of what it means. I only associated it with the specific forms of oppression experienced by black women. But they’re not the only group facing intersecting disadvantages. This chapter has opened my eyes to the vulnerability and hardship of so many people and groups that face multiple obstacles. It made me realise that we cannot simply talk about the inclusion of specific groups or addressing particular identities or disadvantages. If we really want inclusion, we have to always look at the world with an ‘intersectional lens’.

 I have to agree with Yannicke that the intersectionality chapter is crucial for this publication. As knowledge brokers, we felt challenged to break this concept of inclusion down into multiple chapters, as we emphasize the importance of context and interdisciplinarity. People are not ‘just’ economically, culturally, or physically excluded; there are different layers to inclusion and many contextual factors that play a part in this. It is important to try to understand where this intersects and to refrain ourselves from ‘putting people in boxes’. Thus, we feel the Intersectionality chapter really adds to the dialogue of what inclusion means.

In the introduction of the book, you write: “Rather, what the following pages serve to do is foster an awareness of the importance of inclusion and make our readers take a good hard look in the mirror: Are you leaving no one behind? Are you contributing to an equal and inclusive world? Is there anything more you, or your organization, could do to make sure everyone is included?”Based on this statement above, did you start to think, do or act differently yourself after writing this book?

Yannicke: It made me much more aware of the many ways in which people are still excluded day after day, even if we think that society, a place or an initiative is inclusive. More than anything, writing this publication has opened my eyes and made me more sensitive to the topic. It was always there, being mindful of not leaving anyone out, but it has become more prominent.

Kim: The many conversations Yannicke and I had for this book about inclusion really resonated with me, ending up becoming a major personal and introspective topic for discussion. As I still need to learn a lot about how inclusion applies to my personal life, most of my efforts have been going towards awareness of inclusion and exclusion in daily situations. For example, I have been reading up on – and thinking about –  (white) privilege; trying to establish understanding in what way I’m privileged in this life and how I can use this understanding to become more inclusive. Helps that I am married to an anthropologist – always open to discuss these important societal constructs that we are dealing with on a daily basis.

3 reasons why everyone should read Digital Dalits, Colourful Carroças?

Yannicke: First of all, it has some amazing stories! Even if you’re not necessarily interested in the topic of civil society activism, the creative initiatives from across the world are simply a joy to read about. Secondly, it will make you familiar with the key dynamics of in- and exclusion in an accessible, easy to read way. While it’s based on many different, and also academic sources, this publication aims to present the most important issues and dimensions of inclusion in a reader-friendly fashion. And most importantly -and especially for those working in the development sector- I think this publication will raise their awareness of inclusion positively. Everyone working in this sector is currently working on inclusion in some way or another – it simply cannot be ignored. However, it’s often something we have to do, an extra intervention to avoid exclusion. This publication draws attention to the positive side of the story. Of course, it does draw attention to exclusion and hardship, to what is going wrong. But mostly it focuses on what we are doing right, on those stories that make working on inclusion something wonderful, positive and worthwhile.

Kim: To give credit and power to the community-based organizations, initiatives and individuals that are working so hard to increase the level to which people can be included. Also, to broaden people’s understanding of what inclusion challenges and opportunities are in different parts of the world. Lastly and most importantly, for people to find inspiration as to how we can all contribute in our own ways to make this world more inclusive.

Inclusion to me is about the awareness of the diversity of people around you – their strengths, abilities and opportunities – as well as opening yourself up to learn about privileges people do or do not have. And it’s about how one acts upon this awareness; to aim for a level playing field for all – Kim van Wijk

This interview was originally posted by The Spindle. Please find the original here.