I had the honour of being asked to join Asda and their Diversity and Inclusion Lead Katie Wynn, on Wednesday last week, to share our journey. It was a step out of the education bubble and into the wider world of how people can be themselves and accepted and supported in everyday life. Asda’s ‘Being You’ campaign is at the forefront of their business and minds, and they want everyone to have a seat at the table. I was bowled over with the humanity in the room and the people who really want to make a difference. There was nothing trite about it either – because it was far from that, and their drive was authentic, not tokenistic.
When we think about it, education is only part of life (and a significant one), but it’s the part that should effectively set you up for the rest of your life and being able to walk with your fellow humans, in the wider world. For many right now, it is a struggle everyday to even be in that space. There are hundreds of children and young people out of education, who are still deemed so different to the rest of the population. It doesn’t make sense does it? Why can we not include everyone?
‘Education is not a chocolate biscuit’
Professor Katharine Runswick-Cole poignantly stated; it’s a vital human right and service, for every human being, to ensure that they are ready for the next stages of life. Yet we are still, it would seem, struggling to find the way to include everyone and deliver on that.
I thought about this a lot when working with Asda and their motivated team. They didn’t profess to be experts – they wanted to be able to help, and they accepted that like everyone, people, humans, can get it wrong. But the will to try was quite something, and it was connected across the varying areas everyone worked and walked within, both professionally and personally. Asking for help and listening, were core components of their ethos. Taking an idea and actioning it across their whole business, meant steps towards change happened. Being accountable and responsible were necessary to delivery. The communication was high – that meant they, as connected, everyday humans, who wanted to know how they could do things better, could do things better. That lifted my heart beyond imagination. It all makes perfect sense doesn’t it? So you can perhaps see why I felt at a cross roads with how the world is working towards including everyone, and how education feels still far behind the curve at times.
So, what do we need to collectively do, to #flipthenarrative? We need to stop tolerating blatant inequality and demand better for our fellow humans. We need to be curious and creative rather than linear and dogmatic. Humans aren’t one type – we are many, and our diversity is growing not reducing. We need to be the person that steps up rather than steps back. We need to be brave and fearless and know that being the one to signal change is a strength, rather than remaining behind a narrative of it can’t work, or it’s too hard, or there is too much red tape, or it’s someone else’s job. It’s everyone’s job. Most of what needs to happen, to bring about change, lies within each of us doing something every day to change the lens – reshape the view. Change rarely comes from a place of comfort, it comes from a place of vulnerability that we all share and know. It means stepping out of our comfort zone and being committed to doing the right thing. It means seeing the benefits that come for all, once that change is underway, and trusting that others will follow.
Because they will. The change is already happening, the glimmers of hope are growing, people are ready to reconnect with their humanity and ensure their fellow humans have a seat at the table. It’s a positive and it’s a necessity for everyone. It feels like an inordinate thing at times perhaps, but fears are shadows and mountains can’t withstand tidal waves.
The world of work and life is already ahead and gearing up for the changes needed, there is excitement and energy and a will to include. Technology is advancing, so everyone can be within the world, reasonably adjusting within workplaces is stronger, acknowledging that diverse thinking is necessary and everyone has value is central to many businesses ethos now. One of the most poignant things that struck me, was once the measuring stick was removed, inclusion was much easier. There is much for our education system to learn and that the whole means everyone together.
If disability is not on your board agenda, neither is diversity
(Nor is innovation, productivity, brand experience, talent, risk, reputation…)
The Valuable 500, have this #NIW2019, delivered a strong message to ensure diversity really is about everyone. Is it a utopian dream to want education to really feed into this world – the one we all have to live in and be within? Is it so difficult to ensure our children and young people are ready for it? We know the issues, we know the system needs to change, but we also can all do something to make that happen sooner. Perhaps I’m naive? I absolutely don’t have all the answers, but I can see the possibilities. I strive for this daily, because I know it can be done. And no, I’m not saying for one moment that everyone gets it right outside of education, but it was hugely refreshing to listen to people who wanted to know what they could do daily, to improve things.
The compassion and empathy, and the will to try – to take the step towards including everyone was inspiring. To see their leaders empower and drive the change. It’s given me hope for the future that my daughter and fellow humans do have a space to be within our world, alongside everyone else, and we can make that a reality and finally see the benefits of doing so – for everyone.