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Posted by Philip Patston on 18 June 2010, 1:36 pm in , , , , ,

Inclusion alone is not enough

Creating inclusive environments is a key part of allowing diversity to add richness and value to everything we do in our organisations and businesses. But inclusion - or ensuring equal opportunities for people to access environments, services and  networks - alone is not enough.

Yes it's important to notice when people are not present on our boards and staff, in our audiences and programmes. And we must identify and address barriers that disadvantage, marginalise or exclude people.

But, according to "Social Inclusion and Participation: A Guide for Policy and Planning" published by the NZ Ministry of Social Development in 2007 (download it as a Word doc), there are four other key dimensions of social inclusion: belonging, participation, recognition and legitimacy.

Let's look at these one by one.


The need to feel that we belong in any community is a common experience among us all. When people do not feel they belong, they may experience isolation and alienation. Before we can promote true inclusion we need to create opportunities where people are encouraged share common experiences, aspirations, norms, values and attitudes.


In order to participate, people need to feel able to both contribute actively and influence decisions about a community, workforce or organisation’s direction, management, environment and programming.


Public acknowledgment and affirmation of differences and similarities and the positive contributions these make to a community is an important part of communicating an intent to be inclusive. A lack of recognition often leads to prejudice and discrimination.


Finally it is legitimacy that cements inclusion by protecting the rights of all people and ensuring universal access. It is necessary to promote a culture of tolerance and acceptance (which means more than passively “putting up with” others). Legitimacy institutionalises recognition. It requires people to have confidence in the integrity with which our business dealings and employment relations are conducted, our organisations are governed and our communities are organised.

So if you are serious about creating an environment, community, workplace or society that is truly inclusive, here are the questions to ask:

  • What opportunities can you create for people to share common experiences, aspirations, norms, values and attitudes?
  • What mechanisms exist for people to contribute actively and influence decisions?
  • How do you publicly recognise and affirm the differences and similarities of people in your community, workplace or society?
  • How do you recognise the positive contributions people make?
  • How do you know that people trust you?