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An I.D.E.A. For Social Justice

“Social justice is the surest guarantor of peace in the world.” – Guy Ryder

An awakening to systemic racism, inequality, stigma, and other harmful behavior in the context of a global pandemic has made these social injustices impossible to ignore anymore and is slowly driving governments, world leaders, and organizations to establish and strengthen approaches to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (I.D.E.A.). Countries and organizations within them are shaping the future of humanity and therefore have a responsibility to make IDEA central to their missions. So far, we have seen many organizations taking firm action critically important to embedding IDEA principles, but permanent change will not be achieved until the IDEA framework becomes a core leadership competency.

What Does IDEA Stand For?

Inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility, or IDEA for short, is an acronym that broadly outlines the efforts institutions and organizations make to create a more welcoming environment for people of less-privileged statuses. As a whole, inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility efforts seek to create meaningful systemic change toward more equitable environments. Part of the problem with building an IDEA strategy is not knowing the difference between these four concepts and how to address each. To help you better understand and properly start, let’s break down the individual parts:

1. Inclusion – Everyone feels welcomed and valued: Inclusion is the act of forming environments in which any group or individual can be and feel welcome, represented, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming environment is one that embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions towards all people. It is important to mention that while an inclusive group is by definition diverse, a diverse group isn’t necessarily inclusive. By recognizing unconscious or implicit biases, institutions and organizations can be deliberate in addressing issues of inclusivity.

2. Diversity – All the ways people differ: Diversity includes all of the ways we as humans differ, encompassing various characteristics that make one person or a group different from another. While diversity is often used in relation to race, gender, and ethnicity, it, in fact, embraces a broader spectrum of characteristics such as age, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation, education, socioeconomic status, marital status, language, physical appearance, and other identifiers that make one person or group different from another.

3. Equity – Everyone has the opportunity to fully participate: Equity incorporates the policies and practices used to ensure the fair treatment, opportunity, access, and advancement for all people, while it also tries to identify and eliminate the barriers that have historically prevented the complete participation of some people or groups. Improving equity means increasing fairness and justice within the processes and procedures of institutions, systems, and organizations, as well as in their distribution of resources.

4. Access – Of any and all abilities: Access refers to the commitment of institutions and organizations for everyone to be included in all activities and programs. In other words, it is the means of enabling every individual or group to participate in society as independently as possible. 

Using an Abundance Mindset to Advance Social Justice

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”– Alvin Toffler.

We’ve all heard about the terms abundance and scarcity mindsets. These terms are used to explain the mindsets of people who think in scarcity mindsets as opposed to others who think in terms of abundance. Having a scarcity mindset will make you believe there are not enough jobs, not enough resources, not enough innovation, funding, simply – not enough. This way of thinking ultimately limits us and closes us off from the world. Contrary to this, an abundant mindset can help us acknowledge various business opportunities, plenty of resources, funding options, and innovation (just look at what’s happening with Web 3.0, blockchain, innovation in utility management that can save us from climate change, etc.).

Within reason, a scarcity mindset can help us keep our focus on important things, plan, budget, and predict, all so that we may safely run our lives, businesses, organizations, and governments. On the other hand, an abundance mindset allows us to focus on the emergence of new opportunities and new options, which in turn leads to larger visions. Once we start to look for more, we soon see more everywhere around us, and we begin to expect more. Undoubtedly, turning a scarcity mindset into an abundant one leads to positive results, both on an individual and global level. So, how can leaders of organizations, institutions, and even governments make a shift towards an abundance mindset and with it advance social justice?

Well, it’s obvious where they need to start – from their own mindsets. Leaders must infuse the social justice narrative with an empowering, abundant perspective to kickstart the change and break free from things that have held us back so far. From there, we must: 

1. Acknowledge the gap between the current state of social justice issues and what needs to be changed

2. Commit to unlearning, no matter how challenging it seems for leaders to stop their scarcity mindset from becoming a barrier to learning and building new ways of functioning that would be based on the IDEA framework, and finally; 

3. Practice the new model of functioning continually. Like any bad habit, unlearning requires commitment, practice, and repetition. 

The World Happiness Foundation’s goal is to help connect organizations and world leaders to each other around the important subjects, initiatives, and programs so that they can explore and create (so much needed) shared roadmaps toward achieving common social justice goals. But, to begin this important work, we must reframe how we think and address the issues that will allow all people to live with dignity, respect, opportunity, and safety. I believe we can do this. 

Keep reading the series. Harnessing Anger to Drive Change


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