The story of Get Inclusive is a story of spontaneity - a simple idea landing on the fertile imaginations of a few individuals. There was no business plan, no grand vision or a carefully crafted strategy on what we were doing. Our narrative to-date has been heavily inspired by encouragement of many individuals who are not in the "about us" page on our website. While we now have a clearer idea of what we are trying to do, our story is still constantly shaped by our experiences and people we interact with. We have been very fortunate to get endorsements and support from individuals who have opened up their organizations to us and piloted our service. It's been this faith by our supporters that has continued to fuel our progress.
An Elevator Conversation turns into a Collaboration
In early 2011, while sharing an elevator ride with my neighbor in New York, we started random pleasantries which turned into a conversation about the work she had done with Scott and Diane in developing a race morphing kiosk - a booth that allows a user to take a photo of themselves and see it morphed into other races. Shortly after being introduced to Scott and Diane, we formalized our working relationship and started developing the next iteration of the Race Morphing Kiosk - "The Race Experience." Within a year of its launch, the new and improved kiosk was rented by over 50 colleges and universities as a centerpiece of campus diversity and inclusion programming.
Constraints Inspire Curiosity
Many of our Kiosk customers wanted us to introduce more educational elements in the Kiosk experience. There is, however, a major contradiction in this simple request - a Kiosk, by design, is created to have as many users go through the experience as quickly as possible and in most instances, not more than 3 minutes per user. While an educational experience would need at least an hour. We quickly realized that Kiosk was not the right medium for educational content. This customer inspired curiosity led us to ask two broader questions:
- What options are there for online education in diversity and inclusion?
- How do the organizations measure if this training is actually making any difference?
We spoke to several customers and researched available options. The answer became very clear... and once again... customers were right. They were asking for something that didn't exist in the way they were envisioning it. There were a few online offerings with the obligatory videos and images of multi-racial team-members striking a "we are diverse" pose but almost none of the online or offline training had measurement of impact at the core. We saw an opportunity there, to envision a better approach that combines the best of research in online education, technology and convenience.
Online Diversity and Inclusion Training... from Scratch
Compliance? NOT! We started with a broader definition of diversity and inclusion and quickly eliminated compliance as a potential focus area. While there is a strong existing demand from institutions who, under the fear of potential lawsuits, would be willing purchasers of a compliance specific product, it didn't feel like the right approach as it did not seem to be addressing the underlying gaps in the foundational concepts of identity, privilege, implicit biases, stereotypes etc. Furthermore, a Harvard/Berkeley/U Minnesota study which analyzed 800+ organizations concluded that:
In firms where training is mandatory or emphasizes the threat of lawsuits, training actually has negative effects on management diversity.
This made sense, if the announcement is made to people in your organization that persons with XYZ attribute are a liability risk and need to be "handled with care" then one should expect to see (overtly or subconsciously) less of persons with that attribute. While our decision to stay away from compliance focused product may not be commercially "sound", we are experimenting with a new approach and the results from 150+ participants who have taken the course has been very encouraging.
Measurement - Online medium is far from ideal and like any instructional medium it has its downside, e.g. it cannot even come close to matching the immersive first-hand experience of living in a new environment. But the online medium can supplement existing efforts and even create additional benefits. For instance, it is very easy to:
- Measure improvement in awareness and knowledge
- Track these improvements over time across various cohorts in your organization
- Compare impact in your organization to that of your peer organizations
- Have access to data to make more informed decisions about diversity initiatives in an organization
Journaling and Self-Reflection - Benefits of journaling and self-reflection have been thoroughly researched and verified by several clinical research studies. Journaling helps formulate thoughts about concepts one may not have committed to "paper" before, and it also helps to commit to new behaviors and beliefs. We saw an online course as the ideal platform to incorporate journaling as a key part of the learning process. And better yet - making it 100% anonymous encouraging a safe space for participants to think out loud and benefit from the power of journaling as they self-reflect. Kim's experience in designing diversity and inclusion curricula was instrumental in developing a curriculum that takes participants through series of lessons and activities with journaling as a key component of learning experience.
Customizable curriculum and Easy to Deploy - We don't claim to have a magic-pill training course that will change the hearts and mind of whoever takes it. Diversity and inclusion is a process and we want to be one of several initiatives that an organization undertakes to enable a larger strategy which includes mentoring, personal coaching, and employee workshops/activities. We seek to make inclusion training accessible and customizable for organizations, so that any new member who comes on-board, be it a freshman at a college or a high-school or a new employee, has exposure to foundational concepts about inclusion. Our intention is to be at the forefront of this journey.
We have created the custom platform to host the diversity and inclusion online curriculum and are currently in the pilot phase. We have conducted pilots with an independent high school, colleges, non-profit and commercial organizations. We look at the attitudes and belief data meticulously in order to measure impact and the results have been very encouraging. We are seeing 40%+ improvements in the understanding of privilege, which we believe is the cornerstone of any discussion about diversity and inclusion. Similarly, we are seeing significant improvements in the awareness of stereotypes, identity and other measures that are key to what we evaluate as participants take the course.
Our plan is to become the leading provider of foundational training that promotes inclusion. We want to do it in a convenient, effective and measurable way. Early results form our pilots have been very encouraging and we plan to continue our outreach to for-profit, non-profit and academic institutions who want to go beyond compliance and join us in changing hearts and minds.