The IDEAL22 conference, hosted by the Training, Learning, and Development Community (TLDC), was a week full of inspiring and thought-provoking sessions all focused on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility for Learning.
If you missed the event, or you want to reflect on what you learned, review this recap for the highlights, and then head over to the event website to watch the recordings. If you prefer to listen rather than watch, you can also get the recordings as podcasts.
Throughout this post, I will use the acronym DEIAB or DEI. Here’s what those letters stand for:
- D = Diversity
- E = Equity
- I = Inclusion
- A = Accessibility
- B = Belonging
Elsewhere, you may also see the acronyms DEI, IDEA, and JEDI (in which the “J” stands for justice).
Overview of IDEAL22
To help you plan which IDEAL22 recordings you want to review first, here’s a list of speakers and session titles:
- Bela Gaytan: Understanding the Differences Between Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
- Julie Kratz: Allyship in Action
- Liza Wisner: The Future Is Evolutionary: 6 Ways to Optimize Your DEI Potential
- Bridget Brown: Examining Unconscious Bias and How It Affects What We Create
- Kayleen Holt: The Inclusive Learning Pledge: L&D’s Role in DEIAB
- Erin Huffman-Richard: Social Identities Impact on the Learner
- Sudeep Mohandas: The Uncanny Understanding to DEI: A Global Context
- Devin Torres: Inclusive Assessment Design
- Kim “Kimfer” Flanery-Rye and Terry Rice: DEI—Beyond Traditional Learning and Development
In addition, Lisa Spirko was originally slated to talk about accessibility for PowerPoint, but that session was cancelled due to illness. Watch TLDC’s social media and/or newsletter for more information when that one gets rescheduled. (Lisa, I hope you are feeling better!)
The six action steps in this post consist of themes that speakers recommended again and again.
1. Know Your Why
In my presentation about The Inclusive Learning Pledge, I first shared why inclusion matters to me—part of which I discussed in last week’s post. Some of the other speakers did the same. As Julie Kratz put it, “if you don’t have a strong why, you’re not going to stay for long.”
It’s important to ask yourself, “Why do I care about diversity, equity, and inclusion?” Keep your “why” at the forefront of your mind, and it will be easier to put in the work that DEIAB advocacy requires. For the speakers who shared their “why,” it often revolved around making the world a better place for our children.
If you do nothing else with the information you read in this post, take a few moments to think about and write down your answer to this question:
Why do diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging matter to me?
2. Confront Your Biases
One of the most important things we can do as allies and DEIAB advocates is to recognize and address our own unconscious biases. We all have them. If you don’t believe me, take some of Harvard’s Implicit Association Tests.
Even the data we rely on is biased—because people generate that data, as Devin Torres discussed in her presentation. When our assessments and evaluations are not inclusive, we get incomplete or even inaccurate data. More importantly, it “makes people feel insignificant, unseen, and unheard.”
Bridget Brown shared a New York Times video explaining that implicit bias comes out of “ordinary mental functioning” and is not the same as being “racist.” It’s a “fog we’ve been breathing our whole life” as a result of our upbringing, experiences, and associations we’ve seen in the media.
Bridget shared that the key to addressing a biased thought as it comes up is to “hear it; catch it; check it; change it.”
3. Build a Strong Foundation
Foundational work came up over and over throughout the IDEAL22 conference, centered around two main concepts.
First, to build inclusive cultures, we need to make sure that people understand the terms we use and can speak a common language. Bela Gaytan broke down the differences between diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (and of course, she also discussed accessibility). Several other speakers included their take on these terms as well. Bridget Brown and Erin Huffman-Richard defined unconscious bias, and Erin also defined microaggressions. I especially liked Kim Flanery-Rye’s definition of inclusion, which aligns with the way I described it in my session as an umbrella term for all the other parts of DEIAB:
Inclusion = Diversity + Equity + Accessibility
Second, building a strong foundation for DEIAB work means that first, we must meet people’s basic physical and psychological needs. The concept of psychological safety came up in several sessions, including Liza Wisner’s presentation, in which she discussed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my session as I discussed my “why,” and Bela’s session as she discussed the concept of belonging. We need to think beyond physical safety and accessibility. To create a culture of belonging, people must feel psychological safe to bring their whole selves to work. As Bela Gaytan put it, “no part of anyone is ‘left at the door’.”
4. Do the Work
Kim Flanery-Rye often shares the hashtag #DoTheWork. It’s a great reminder of what many speakers reiterated throughout the conference: inclusion is an ongoing effort. Julie Kratz discussed the difference between active and performative allyship. She pointed out that active allyship is a “consistent, daily approach.”
Sudeep Mohandar shared a powerful (and heartwrenching) video about the effects of racism on children. In it, children are shown a white doll and a Black doll. They are asked to point to the doll that is pretty or ugly, nice or bad. Over and over, the children pointed to the white doll when asked about positive traits and the Black doll when asked about negative traits. This experiment replicated one designed in the 40s, showing that we still have a great deal of work to do. And as Liza Wisner pointed out, “our work is not only evolutionary, but it is also revolutionary.”
DEIAB work requires deep, systems-level change. As Liza Wisner mentioned, we can’t only focus on surface-level training that barely scratches the cognitive domain—we must also focus on changing people’s attitudes and behaviors (the affective domain) throughout our organizations.
5. Be Curious
Another theme that came up time and again was the concept of being curious—asking questions and being okay with not being the “expert.” Julie Kratz shared ten practices from her book Allyship in Action, one of which was to embrace what we don’t know and get curious about people who are different from us. In my session, I also talked about the importance of learning from others.
As Bridget Brown put it, “you can’t know what you can’t know.” To paraphrase her, I can’t know what it’s like to be a man, or Black, or gay, or an immigrant. But what I can do is listen to those who have lived experiences different from my own. And I can ask questions to learn more.
Devin Torres advised “developing a deep understanding of learners as well as the culture of the organization” we are designing for. How do we do this? We ask questions, and we listen.
One reason Julie Kratz shared that more people don’t talk about DEIAB is that we don’t feel like we’re an expert. But she also said we must lean into it and “do it afraid” anyway. Allyship and DEIAB advocacy work aren’t meant to be comfortable. We need to get comfortable with a certain amount of discomfort.
6. Call People In, Not Out
Speaking of discomfort, we have all been in the awkward position of witnessing someone say something racist, homophobic, or xenophobic (or otherwise bigoted) and wanting to address it. When people say something that’s harmful to us or our loved ones, our first instinct may be to say something harmful back. It’s the mindset of “you hurt me, so I’m going to hurt you.” But is this productive? Does it change minds and hearts?
Julie Kratz talked about calling people in, not calling them out, referencing a wonderful TED Talk by Loretta J. Ross. As Ross says, “a call-in is a call-out done with love.” She points out that “blaming and shaming invite people to a fight, not a conversation.” So how does this work? Here are a few ways that Ross and some of the IDEAL22 speakers recommend responding to harmful comments:
- “What do you mean by that?”
- “Is there a specific person you were thinking about?”
- “Is one of the values of your company inclusivity?”
- “Help me understand…”
- “That’s an interesting viewpoint. Tell me more.”
- “I beg your pardon?”
As Ross puts it, calling someone in means leading with love instead of anger and allows that person to grow rather than immediately putting them on the defensive. Keep in mind that we all have unconscious bias, so we should extend to others the same grace we’d like to have extended to us when we mess up—because we will mess up.
I hope you will check out the recordings of the wonderful sessions from IDEAL22 if you haven’t already. And I hope you will join the commitment to DEIAB by signing The Inclusive Learning Pledge.
I cannot thank Luis Malbas enough for the wonderful community he has built and the amazing events he consistently puts together. He is just a wonderful human with a loving heart for inclusion that shows in everything he does.
Many, many thanks as well to these other good humans who volunteered their time to plan this event:
You can access the IDEAL22 recordings using this link. In addition, the following resources were shared during the conference. I have not vetted these resources, so if you find something that isn’t inclusive, please bring it to my attention by emailing kayleen@scissortailCS.com.
Videos, Shows, and Movies
- Allyship in Action by Julie Kratz
- Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- On Intersectionality: Essential Writings by Kimberlé Crenshaw
- The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
- We Had A Little Real Estate Problem by Kliph Neteroff
- Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk
- Salina Bookshelf (multicultural publisher with an emphasis on Navajo and other Native American content)
As an Amazon affiliate, I earn a small amount if you choose to buy a book using the above links. This doesn’t affect your price and helps to support this blog.