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Post-urgency diversity strategies for real change

diversity

Published by:

4 September 2020

Author: Momo Amjad and Alena Joyette

Image: MQBMBQ

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As businesses re-assess their role in society and take active and meaningful steps towards inclusion, The Future Laboratory is seeking provocative radicalisation of the way we work

With the recent Black Lives Matter protests bringing to life the failings of the creative industry in its inclusivity and clear prejudices, brands have been responding to the calls from consumers and their own teams to address inequality. With the current trends of inside-out improvements, amplification of diverse businesses and taking a political stand, it’s clear that the responsibility for addressing inequality rests with all of us but that we are not going far enough to make the real and meaningful change required.

Meaningful change requires us to sit with the discomfort of our complicit inaction and dismantle the systems that seek to benefit us over others. As a business, everyone at all levels needs to be on board and willing to participate. But that participation comes at a price: a financial cost, with accountability of our role, the inconvenience of responsibility and the willingness to do the exceptional amount of labour required.
One of the main reasons that Diversity and Inclusion continues to lose momentum and fail within businesses is our unwillingness to pay that price. Companies need to reframe their thinking of Diversity and Inclusion as a problem that needs to be tackled, and instead look at it as the clear opportunity it is.

The New Faces of Fashion by Teen Vogue, US
‘Companies need to reframe their thinking of Diversity and Inclusion as a problem that needs to be tackled, and instead look at it as the clear opportunity it is.’

It’s a programme often relegated to the Corporate Social Responsibility umbrella due to lack of understanding or it relies on the unpaid and unsustainable labour of already marginalised groups within the team. 

Its lack of success can be attributed to the fact that it’s frequently, if not almost always, a well-meaning but reactive step disconnected from the heart of the business rather than a strategic and long-term commitment and investment at all levels.  

‘Urgency’ continues to pervade many reactionary responses to inclusion, equity, equality and justice. If you’ve been doing any of the reading on intersectionality and anti-racism, then you’ll know that white privilege, white fragility and white saviour complexes continue to be barriers to equality and inclusion.  

Guilt is often a key driver of these urgent responses and initiatives. The result is a refocusing on the privileged, rather than the marginalised, often to their cost. Urgency holds no space for necessary healing, especially as the privileged learn about their role in marginalisation and oppression at the cost of those who are still being harmed by the infrastructure and systems. 

Sense of Urgency: Continued sense of urgency that makes it difficult to take time to be inclusive, encourage democratic and/or thoughtful decision-making, to think long-term, to consider consequences 

: Frequently results in sacrificing potential allies for quick or highly visible results; for example, surrendering the interests of communities of colour in order to win victories 

: For white people (seen as the default or norm community) reinforced by funding proposals which promise too much work for too little money and by funders who expect too much for too little

Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture from Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups 

At The Future Laboratory, we have always been committed to Diversity and Inclusion. With the accelerated importance of intersectionality and identification of the roles we have in the dismantling of structural inequality through the recent Black Lives Matter protests, we felt that it was important to be led by marginalised members of our team, re-invest in our long-term strategy and commitment to disrupting the status quo and provoking real change in the way we work. 

Die For Love by Dilara Findikoglu
‘We felt that it was important to be led by marginalised members of our team, re-invest in our long-term strategy and commitment to disrupting the status quo and provoking real change in the way we work.’

Our Diversity Strategy 

It’s key that any diversity strategy empowers, heals and creates spaces and platforms for the most marginalised. Top-down diversity approaches by affluent, white, able-bodied and cisgender members of our industry are just another form of flawed assimilation that upholds the systems that seek to exploit and harm so many of us. Telling us you’ve made space at your table, but that we must cross through the requirements and jump through hoops set up by you does not address inequality. It only serves to further entrench power in the same places.

Using our creative expertise in strategy, foresight, trends and behaviour, our new strategy embeds diversity, inclusion, accessibility, justice, equity and anti-racism at the heart of the business. Our experienced Diversity Coaches approached the strategy with our company in mind, looking to build a provocative approach that embraces the best of The Future Laboratory and seeks to expand, evolve and grow our business from its core. It uses a four-stage approach, led by members of our team with marginalised intersectionalities, to address structural inequality:

1. Foundation: Establish a robust, accountable and measurable foundation before starting any strategy, to ensure we can track the metrics, progress and impact of our programming.

2. Education: Create a progressive, consistent and iterative education ‘de-programme’ to ensure that we move away from basic understanding of inequality systems rooted in reactionary ‘saviour’ responses to developing tools of advanced structural dismantling and decolonisation within the business, the industry and beyond.

3. Diversification: Create a crowdsourced manifesto to establish new processes for diversification through recruitment, retention, remuneration, promotion, accessibility, healing, culture and language.

4. Liberation: Establish and embrace our political role and social responsibilities within the industry, the local area, the local community and beyond.

'We can no longer continue to be passive to the language that continues to uphold systems and stereotypes and our own responsibility in using these expressions.'

Introducing Communities 

One of the immediately visible changes to the LS:N Global platform in the past year has been in how we report consumer behaviour.  

Previously known as Tribes, the series focused on ethnographic reporting of consumer behaviour. Despite being a global report with hyper-local direct perspectives on consumers, the Tribes label was previously rooted in romanticised colonial anthropology and racial insensitivity. It’s important in any diversity strategy to take accountability of the potentially harmful language we have used. The word has a history of being used by European colonialists to segment native people and groups in the lands they invaded, and is historically synonymous with ‘savage’, ‘barbaric’ or ‘primitive’.  

We can no longer continue to be passive about the language that continues to uphold systems and stereotypes and our own responsibility in using these expressions. As a result, we’d like to introduce the new Communities series, which focuses on emerging consumer behaviour without the colonial baggage.  

Over the past year, we have been expanding the format through the use of qualitative and strategic foresight thinking supported by global and local experts, early adopter and innovator consumers and local market cultural navigators to build deeper, meaningful profiles of future consumers that brands need to engage with. The articles have been restructured to focus on more tangible insights for brands by illustrating a clear behavioural consumer journey and opportunities for brand engagement. 

Toward a Racially Just Workplace by Laura Morgan Roberts and Anthony J Mayo

Beginning a journey 

The changes we’ve made so far are only the beginning of our journey to embed equity and justice at the heart of our business and invest in diversity and inclusion. The road ahead is long, challenging, uncomfortable and necessary for us to continue to de-programme ourselves as a business and as individuals. We need to continue the ongoing conversation within our industries on how we can create a future free from structural inequality, while creating crucial spaces for healing for those of us affected most. The workplace of the future will be one that benefits everyone, and it starts with us.

Get in touch with our Diversity and Inclusion coaches at dandi@thefuturelaboratory.com to find out more about our strategy. Read more on our Intersectionality series where we cover important trends, big ideas and opinions on inclusion and equality.

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