When I first heard about the opportunity to help launch a media brand focused on inclusion, I’ll admit I had mixed feelings. Most often in my career as a business journalist and editor, ‘inclusion’ came as part of a double act with ‘diversity’ that somehow greatly diminishes both.
D&I is grimly virtuous, something leaders and board directors want to be seen to talk about, one suspects largely because they think it makes them look good. It is often tedious, a clipboard exercise in the worst traditions of HR, lots of echo-chamber chatter without any meaningful change. It’s also dangerous, an uninviting landscape of eggshells and Twitter pile-ons that any self-respecting neurotic would assiduously avoid.
This image problem is more than just a shame. It’s harmful. We live in a diverse society where opportunities are not equally distributed. We encounter exclusion wherever we look. It’s a sad state of affairs when efforts to do something about it are derided as either ineffectual box ticking or cynical virtue signalling.
The team behind Belong see things in an altogether different way. They believe diversity is important, but they realise that inclusion is utterly essential, and far, far bigger than the confines of D&I, or indeed business.
Inclusion is welcoming people and accepting them for who they are, wherever they are. It is celebrating our differences at the same time as our common humanity. It is being considerate to one another as individuals, and alive to the social structures that we’re all party to, transcending the realms of work, sport, culture and politics.
It’s a headmaster opening his school to refugees, and ex-offenders launching a fashion brand because someone gave them a second chance. It’s a CEO courageous enough to look in the mirror and make hard changes, just as much as it is the countless unsung people who spend their time opening doors for others that most of us don’t even realise are shut.
As worldviews go, I’ve discovered, it’s rather catching. So you won’t see us writing often about D&I at Belong, in the traditional sense of the term, a sense that needs to change if we’re to make progress. But we will bring you stories of inclusion that we hope you will find uplifting, and worth sharing with your friends and colleagues.
We’ll probably tread on some eggshells along the way, so please forgive us if we do, because we’re learning too. Inclusion isn’t always easy – in fact it rarely is – but that is a poor reason not to try.