Promoting Your Values Effectively
I come from a very diverse cultural society, South Africa. I grew up in a cosmopolitan society with various cultures and religious beliefs. I am very grateful for living there as it has shaped my attitude towards all nationalities in a very positive way.
Promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion in your community can be a big task, but you can find ways to make a difference! To call attention to these values, reach out to your local leaders, use social media, and act as a role model for your peers. At your school, join or start organizations that can host events and speakers.
In the workplace, training workshops and inclusive hiring practices can create more diverse and equitable spaces. By spreading the word about these ideals, you can help create a safe, friendly community for all.
Act as a role model for your peers. Sometimes, the most effective thing you can do is model inclusive language and actions for others. Put your values into practice, and help your peers understand what it means to treat others with dignity and respect.
- Use the language preferred by individual communities. For example, “autistic people” instead of “people with autism” is the preferred language of the Autistic community.
- Respect other people’s chosen pronouns, names, or identities. If someone prefers to be called “he” or “they,” respect their wishes instead of trying to correct them.
- Challenge yourself and your friends to have lunch or start conversations with people of ethnicities, faiths, social groups, and identities other than your own.
Involve the leaders of your Community
Any programs you organize to promote your ideals will be most effective if you tap the resources of whoever’s in charge. A school principal, supervisor at work, or local government representative can broaden your impact and help you correct any specific injustices you’ve observed.
- You could write in a letter or email, “I’ve noticed fellow students, faculty, and staff have good intentions, but don’t know how to foster an inclusive atmosphere. Our community would benefit from a mentor, and I’d like to seek the administration’s support in hosting educational programs.”
- Reaching out to those in power can be intimidating. However, remember that principals are responsible for your well-being, bosses need to be stewards of companies, and your elected officials work for you.
Focus your effort on specific issues so your message doesn’t get lost.
Instead of taking on all social issues at once, tackle 1 issue that directly affects your community. Raise awareness of the problem through social media, public events, and 1-on-1 conversations.
- For example, you might notice that sidewalks in your town are poorly maintained, which poses a hazard for people who may have mobility issues. Contact your city councilor, write to your local newspaper, or reach out to your local public works department to correct the issue.
- You might run a public fundraiser to donate books or clothing for children in need. You can also ask volunteers to offer free tutoring for these children.
- In areas with unequal access to healthcare, you could ask local doctors if they would be willing to offer their services for free for people with no health insurance.
Tailor your approach to your audience to make a meaningful impact. Sometimes, people have a hard time getting out of their comfort zone. For friends or relatives who are confused by or resistant to your ideals, try to correct them in a positive way. Since a long lecture might go in 1 ear and out the other, try to keep your response brief and matter-of-fact.
- For instance, if someone makes an offensive comment, you might say, “I understand you have a right to your opinion, but try to see things from a broader perspective. That joke might seem funny to you, but you wouldn’t be laughing if you were on the receiving end.
Organize cultural events to expose people to different lifestyles. Fairs, festivals, and other events can help your community learn about other cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs. If planning your own event isn’t possible, you could bring your friends or family to one to help them learn more about your values. Great ways to engage other cultures and lifestyles include:
- International food festival
- International film screenings
- Pride parade
- Lectures and speeches from civil rights leaders
- Ceremonies and celebrations for different religious traditions
- Documentary screenings on important social issues
- Fundraisers for non-profits supporting diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives
Host a town hall where community members can voice their issues.
Making sure that everyone’s voice is heard is an important part of inclusion. Try asking your local elected representative to host an open town hall for the community. For the greatest impact, choose a specific issue that affects your community, such as lack of healthcare or racial injustice in housing development.
- Invite community members to sign up for speaking slots at the beginning of the event. Give each person a certain amount of time to make sure that every person has a chance to be heard.
- Be sure to invite local government figures and policymakers at the event, such as the mayor, town council members, school board members, and chief of police.
- If your local government will not host an open town hall, hold your own. Book a room in a local library, community center, or school to host the event. Promote it on social media, by going to door to door, and by posting fliers at nearby businesses.
Create a fundraising campaign for a charitable cause. Many charitable organizations offer resources for planning fundraisers on their website’s “Get Involved” or “Take Action” section. To host an event at your home or office, offer light refreshments, make quick informative remarks, provide guests with educational pamphlets or fliers, and request donations for your cause.
- You could also host a voter registration drive and inform your peers about the importance of diversity among elected officials..
Start a blog or social media account to spread awareness. A blog on a website like WordPress, Blogger, or Tumblr can help you raise awareness for your ideals. If you don’t have time to publish your own blog, share articles, opinions, and thoughts through Facebook or Twitter
Encouraging Inclusion at Your School
Join or start a social justice club. See if there’s a multicultural association, LGBTQ support network, a volunteer group, or related organization at your school. If there isn’t an organization at your school or university start your own! Talk to a teacher, your school’s administration, or the office of student activities to learn your school’s specific procedures for starting a club. Your club could host speaking events and other educational programmes
- Collect donations, and campaign for specific issues related to diversity, equality, and inclusion. For instance, you could invite a local elected official to offer her take on the importance of women in politics.
Host events that offer opportunities to engage other cultures. Help organize free events for your school community that are both fun and informative. Coordinate with various clubs or organizations to build bridges between interests, activities, and academic subjects. For instance, team up with the language department, LGBTQ center, and writing lab to host a gender neutral writing workshop. Other great event ideas include:
- Cultural fair: celebrate holidays from different religions, hold a food festival with cuisine around the world, or showcase various forms of dance.
- Open mic nights: invite students from a wide range of backgrounds to tell stories, sing songs, or recite poetry about their unique experiences.
- Public lectures: ask scholars, civil rights leaders, and community leaders to talk about how others can help promote this cause.
- Networking events for marginalized groups: ask business leaders and teachers to meet with students. Students can workshop their resumes or find internships through this network.
Volunteer at your school or university’s office of diversity and inclusion. Your school might have an administrative office dedicated to promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion within your community. If your school doesn’t have a diversity and inclusion office, look for opportunities to volunteer with its women’s center, LGBTQ center, student accessibility services, student health, or counseling and psychological services.
- Ask if you can volunteer at an event or help out in the office. At colleges and universities, some offices may even have work study gigs for students.
- Encourage friends to take sensitivity training. Search online for a nearby charitable organization or local chapter of a national non-profit related to your values. They can put you in touch with an expert who could offer training programs at your school. Programming ideas include:
Training for helping people who have experienced sexual assault.
- Safe Zone Training for supporting LGBT students.
- Green Zone Training to help military veterans transition into academic life.
- Disability awareness training to provide helpful assistance and access for students with disabilities.
Create Safe spaces on Your Campus.
A safe space allows students to discuss their experiences without judgment or criticism. You could create a general safe space for students or make specific spaces for students struggling with their sexuality, sexual harassment, racism, or mental health issues.
- Get help coordinating safe spaces from your school’s diversity and inclusion office, women’s center, counseling office, or from teachers who share your ideals. Work with faculty and staff to find and book a suitable location, develop warm-up exercises or icebreakers, and advertise meetings.
- You could book a room through your school’s administration and invite students facing specific challenges to talk about their experiences. It’s helpful to have a teacher or counselor to moderate the discussion.
- Remind allies that the safe space is a place for others to express their challenges. They may not be looking for advice or sympathy. Ask allies to listen, not to talk.