The permanent marks of the Covid-19 pandemic along with the adoption of new technologies have necessitated the need for most organizations or companies to constantly innovate their diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. The profound ways in which our workplaces are changing have provoked us to constantly generate policies, ranging from how people communicate, to corporate culture, and how we do our jobs daily; hence the pace of change is fast-evolving. The purpose of IMPACT Institute of Canada is not about taking control of the narrative, aligning itself as the heroes/heroines of human socio-economic development trajectory. It is about using its power, objectivity, influence, scientific findings, data to assist communities and public institutions with conceiving their vision of equitable change, where they are the main characters and warriors of their own fate. This cherished partnership between the Institute and its diverse and varied stakeholders involving research, advocacy, delivery of implementable strategic policy and education, entails promotion of skills development, training and knowledge sharing, and access to information. This magnanimous approach aligns with the Ubuntu philosophy that puts forth an "extroverted communities" aspect in its sincere warmth with which people treat both strangers and community. The overt display of warmth is not merely aesthetic but enables the formation of spontaneous communities. Ubuntu is the basis of African communal cultural life, and is an expression of interconnections between people; the common humanity, and the responsibility of individuals to each other.
While IMPACT institute of Canada provides scientific and academically sound research, briefings and action plans to address issues of socioeconomic and environmental protection, its strategy aligns with the Ubuntu spirit of “society giving human beings their humanity.” By using its approach of bringing together experts in engineering, economics, environmental sciences, agriculture and racial relations, IMPACT institute of Canada provides cross disciplinary evaluations and actionable strategies. This gesture resonates with the Ubuntu ideology which asserts that “people have different skills and strengths; they are not isolated, and through mutual support they can help each other “to complete themselves.” Ubuntu is a South African ethical ideology that focuses on people’s allegiances and relations with each other. The word comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages; it is a counterweight to the culture of individualism in our contemporary world. It shows the significance of community and shared humanity.
Thus, the IMPACT institute of Canada has its legacy rooted in Ubuntu as its actions are central to the idea of interconnectedness — that human success and well-being is intricately intertwined with the success and well-being of others.
It is understood that people choose the world they live in. If people approach the world with fear, then they’ll experience a dangerous, scary and violent world; if they approach it with love and joy; they’d experience a welcoming and kind world. Xenophobia, racism, judgment, and the like are all rooted in fear. Fear should not drive us to focus on our differences rather than on our common humanity. We know that people always want to feel safe, connected, and heard. We need to find ways to incorporate empathy, dignity, and respect into our lives; mainstreaming it in our leadership styles and our core values to show people that we care - the powerful message that this relays is each individual is valuable: each individual affects the whole, and the whole affects the individual. No one gets left behind! This implies that “people are only people through other people.” We’ve heard so much about western society’s problems of isolation; their search for meaning and connection. Would embracing the fundamental concept of community and its importance help sort out inherent issues? Is it necessary to embrace the needs of other people so as to appear truly human? When we left our native homelands to find better opportunities across the sea, did we care to bother about those we left behind? Are we obligated to actively support them, at our cost, even when so far removed? Is it true that when we lose sight of the collective, things fall apart?
The concept of caring for extended family members and neighbors is prevalent in Africans, and echoes iteration of Ubuntu (a belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all of humanity). No matter what an individual’s role is in an institution, one can strive to bring the principles of Ubuntu to an organization and its project teams – welcome everyone into the circle and the kind gesture will create space for those who need it. This also includes inviting the quiet person into a discussion, and you may uncover a gem! When dealing with people, or even colleagues at the workplaces, I think we should not merely look at them; we should see them! Acknowledging that colleagues have lives and responsibilities beyond their workplaces could enhance an organization’s culture. This may create an extended family of employees while increasing loyalty and job satisfaction. It is the understanding that we are because others are, that we are the same and yet different – different expressions of the same humanity deriving our unique characteristics through the difference of expression from others, but fundamentally the same, human, goodness.
Work-forces are more dispersed as some employees work remotely while others are at – or returning to – the physical office or worksites. These new working arrangements could further exacerbate existing diversity challenges and highlight unconscious biases that may exist. Essentially, a dispersed workforce can distance employees and teams from one another, undermining inclusivity efforts and initiatives that existed in the traditional working environment. It is, therefore, imperative to pay more attention to unconscious bias because it does not necessarily align with our conscious beliefs or declared beliefs. It could include associations or feelings of bias which may be hidden underneath the surface, whether on-site, in the office, or working at home. We know that individuals or organizations that prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion create an environment that respects and values individual differences along varying dimensions. In addition, inclusive organizations foster cultures that minimize bias and recognize and address systemic inequities, which, if unaddressed, could create disadvantages for certain individuals.
It’s important to remember that diversity is less about what makes people different—their race, socioeconomic status, and so on—and more about understanding, accepting and valuing those differences. We like to conceptualize diversity as an embodiment of a group’s composition; it’s a composite of the various differences represented—and talking to each other—therein. Whereas diversity refers to all the many ways that people differ, equity is about creating fair access, opportunity, and advancement for all those different people. It’s about creating a fair playing field, to use a familiar metaphor. Successful equity initiatives, then, must build fairness and equal treatment into the very fabric of organizations. This may require a design for creating, maintaining, and protecting equity organization-wide—a framework that supports equitable talent screening, hiring, workplace standards, and so on. Inclusion is the extent to which various team members, employees, and other people feel a sense of belonging and value within a given organizational setting. The important distinction here is that even among the most diverse teams, there’s not always a feeling of inclusion. For example, women might be well represented at the senior management level, but still not feel included due to longstanding gender norms, salary discrepancies, and other factors.
We recognize that diversity, equity, and inclusion play a pivotal role in recovery, resilience, and overall socio-economic progress in the future. Ubuntu being a people-centered philosophy, holds that if people are treated well, they are likely to perform better. As a result, the philosophy of Ubuntu can play a role in corporate building and in performance management. This is clearly manifested in the intent and purpose of IMPACT Institute of Canada as reflected in its mission, vision, and values that are incorporated into its strategic plan, and cascades over its operations. In addition, Ubuntu understanding could help improve people’s cross-cultural interaction skills, as well as increasing their awareness of social justice issues within our society. By practicing Ubuntu doctrine, people may experience an improved workplace climate, increased awareness of others’ experiences based on their identities; and better able to serve our diverse Canadians. Furthermore, Ubuntu may become an enabler of social relationships building with community organizations connected to social identity/ ethno-cultural society. This moxie of Ubuntu philosophy respects everyone’s humanity and inspires the act of giving which is quite impactful, and echoes the guiding principle of IMPACT Institute of Canada.