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Another small step: The power of partnerships. #ADA

Carrie Blake, is Broadway’s Marketing and Outreach Assistant. As Carrie draws to the end of her time as a Fellow on the Audience Diversity Academy, she’s currently developing engagement activities for and with Children, Young people and Families in North Nottingham and Nottingham City, aiming to increase socio-economic diversity of participants engaging with Broadway’s creative learning programme.

Broadway has a 25 year history as an educational charity, so our reputation is established, right? Well not really, not to everyone that we’d like to reach and this takes time. So how do we challenge and change this?  Building trust is key, taking the time to build positive relationships with organisations and gatekeepers that already have the trust of communities has really helped, forming and maintaining good partnerships are invaluable.

Drawing in.  

Designing, developing and delivering and testing introduction to film primary school workshops along with one of community partners at Broadway. We continue to host groups of Yr 6 pupils from Nottingham City schools, with the possibility of repeating this workshop off site.

Sustaining links with young people engaged through this collaborative approach is crucial, and through our partnership’s we’ve provided fully subsidised places on our Filmmaking Summer School to some of their regular Year 10 students who have shown a creative talent and passion or film.

We are now exploring how we can expand this offer to more young people, to challenge and remove barriers to access.

It’s been a great experience being part of the ADA. Having the support of my mentor and encouragement and permission to explore and discover a fresh approaches has been liberating, however this hasn’t been without challenges.

Keeping an agile approach.

I like to keep hold of my ideas until I feel their fully formed and ready to share, which can be a killer of creativity and is the antithesis of all things agile. It might not be your best contribution or it might be the best brainwave you ever had, how are you going to know if you don’t put it out there and share it with others?

Be willing and open to input and collaboration, otherwise nothing will flourish. I’ll admit at times it’s been difficult getting knocked off course.

Of course, working in an agile way means that this will inevitably happen; you’ll come up against the unexpected and have to shift direction.  Being open and adaptable to rapid change isn’t always easy, try to embrace it and be willing to reassess, and if necessary rip it up and start all over, this is the nature of experimentation.

Seeking permission.

We all need organisational buy in. However sometimes not receiving the desired level of input can be a convenient excuse for not pursuing what may be a daunting challenge.  Organisational strategy, hierarchical structures and workplace politics can make moving forward quite difficult at times. However part of this process is to test ideas, nothing is fixed or formed.  So if I have been put forward for the ADA by my organisation, then there needs to be some acceptance that this is all about quick paced experiments, and I’ll need to move forward with them! Thanks to Monica Montgomery my wonderful mentor for giving me a gentle nudge in this direction 😉

Finding strategies for negotiation always helps and I found the Managing Up online workshop with Auriel Majumdar was really useful! Presenting your experiment in the same terms as the organisations strategy, using the same language/approach to articulate what you are doing, to show that this aligns.

Being bold, being brave, embracing change and the challenges that come with this, is not easy, however small shifts and changes are not to be underestimated, they all add up.

Celebrating Age: with age, comes wisdom #ADA

Rebecca Farkas from Meadow Arts, a Fellow on Audience Diversity Academy 2.0, is remaining strong and creative whilst cracking onto the next plan to identify and engage a different target audience in open conversations.


Gather feedback from older people about their attitudes to and opinions of contemporary art.


Older people might not be as open to contemporary art as other audiences?

What I learned:

Yes they are!

After discussions with Rachel Grossman, my mentor and superhero, the next experiment was planned. We have had a few setbacks in our programme which had a knock-on effect on the Audience Diversity Academy experiments and it has been hard to stay positive at times, so it was great to have something solid in the diary: a stall at an open event for older people.

With the help of our new Youth Trustee, Katie, we had already polled various small groups of older people on what they think when we say ‘contemporary art’, and we had some very useful feedback. It was time to expand our operation!

I had contacted the Senior Citizens’ Forum in Telford during the summer and asked them if they could help me access a group of older people that I could talk to about art (Telford is near the exhibition we had during the summer, about an hour and three quarters from where I live). I was invited to a new event they were organising, called ‘Celebrating Age’ in October.

Rachel helpfully suggested that I incorporate some kind of creative activity into the day, so that I could engage people in conversation as they had a go at doing something. An excellent idea, Rachel! This ties into some of the creative evaluation I have organised for our projects over the past year or so. I had a bit of a think and I decided on a ‘big draw’ idea that I have seen done before: I sketched out some words on big sheets of paper, to spell out ‘contemporary art’, so that people could colour them in, add their own drawings or write something down. If you try this yourself be wary of using a twelve-letter word as part of your scheme (don’t try this at home, kids…)! Luckily, I did spell it correctly.

I was a bit worried that this wouldn’t work with the age group that I was going to be talking to: I really didn’t want to seem condescending, but I need not have worried. People do like drawing and adding something, but even those who didn’t want to draw or write came over to have a look. A few people started off by saying to me, “I can’t draw…” and this was a good opportunity for me to ask them if they liked seeing art. Interestingly, one lady told me that she wasn’t good at reading or writing, so I asked her if she would like me to write her comment down for her, which we did.

I assumed that older people would be less open to the kind of art that we exhibit, but I would say that there was the usual mix of people who are very excited about new ideas and those who are a bit wary of it all, on a comparable level to other age groups in our audience. Even the man who came over eyeing one of the blown-up photos I had brought along, saying, “I saw that. I didn’t like it. The painting underneath is good, so why spoil it?” turned out, after a few minutes of conversation, to have enjoyed some of the outdoor artworks in the same exhibition.


The set-up of an activity and some visual aids really helped to create an open dialogue with people: I introduced myself, explained briefly what Meadow Arts does and told people I was there to talk to people about art. Visitors mainly offered up their own information then: quickly aligning themselves with some aspect of art and creativity, or telling me that they weren’t ‘arty’ or ‘couldn’t draw’. The relaxed atmosphere and drop-in nature of the day allowed for different kinds of conversations to happen. This is different to the structured evaluation (surveys) that we do, but is more than anecdotal, because it is a day that focuses specifically on a particular part of your audience. Understanding your audience is a major part of marketing, so it is great to put aside some time to talk to people and get to know them a bit better.

Some practical things came up too, that I was aware of to some extent, but really hit home:

Visual impairments

  • Lots of people need glasses to read and see small details when they get older. We need to have some magnifying glasses available to help exhibition visitors see the art more clearly.
  • A lady walked right up to the photos on our banner, almost with her nose touching it. She told me that she used to love art, but she can’t see much any more. I would like to find a way of providing something valuable for her and others like her: we have experimented with having a recording of our curatorial information available, but maybe we could go further and have an audio description of artworks.
  • We need to make sure that there is always a large print version of our materials available in our exhibitions (this must be requested at present, but it should be right there for people, so they don’t necessarily have to ask).


  • This is something we consider at our exhibitions and something that the venues we work with try to accommodate. Sometimes it is very challenging in historic properties.
  • A care home worker at the event told me that it is a real challenge to get her elderly residents to leave their homes to go and do things, even if they are physically able to. There are mental barriers to mobility, as well as physical ones.
  • I would like to investigate whether we can take art to people in our education and engagement programme. I would love to see an artist commissioned to create a work with a community, with an artwork that is then mobile enough to be taken to more communities for their projects to be based around.


  • Most people are participating in the arts at home, through hobbies and crafts. This is important too!


What I have also learned:

There is no single solution to many of the challenges that our audiences face. We need to think about solutions in terms of layering. We shouldn’t just have a large print version of our interpretation materials available, we should have that AND an audio version AND a magnifying glass. This way, we can be helpful to more people and ensure that what we do is accessible to everyone.


“The older you get, the less you care about what other people think of you,” wisdom from one of the visitors at ‘Celebrating Age’.

Small Agile Steps Lead to Long-term Leaps #ADA

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella returns December 2017 with a UK tour throughout 2018 (Photo: Simon Annand)

Louise Allen (General Manager, Re:Bourne) and Nick Kyprianou (Audience Engagement Coordinator) are Fellows of the Audience Diversity Academy.  This blog reflects on how continually developing their strategy as an organisation will lead to more people from diverse audiences being aware of their work.

We are nearing the end of our Audience Diversity Academy course and with any training or professional development programme you can get hung up on how big your achievements are. At New Adventures I very much still see us at the beginning of our plans to develop and diversify our live audiences, but since June I feel that we’ve achieved a lot.

Before June the possibilities as to how we could engage with and develop different types of audiences hadn’t been explored. We hadn’t reached out to our venue partners to see what they were already doing in terms of audience engagement and development. I had no idea of the potential of what could be achieved through just simply persevering and embedding the topic of audience engagement into our day to day conversations.

As an organisation, audience engagement is now talked about across the business and in particular how we can reach different audiences. With an average of 41% of our audience members at each presenting venue, in 2016/17, being a first time attender watching dance, we can see that our work is attractive, and therefore accessible, to those who have never been to the theatre and/or seen dance before. This is a figure to be celebrated but also discussed to see how we can reach even more people, and in particular those from lesser engaged parts of the community. Through our work over the last few months we can piece together how this may be possible as we work with different venues to bring together our expertise and reach out to local communities, with the overall goal of meeting more people from BAME communities.

Three things that I have learnt since June that I believe are paramount when hoping to achieve these kinds of targets are:

  1. Don’t Assume – when reaching out to different cultures and backgrounds do your research and become culturally aware. Talk to the people you want to reach out to. Don’t assume why they don’t want to engage with you.
  2. Ask Questions – this is self-explanatory, if you’re unsure of something ask. If you want something to happen ask. You’ll never know until you ask!
  3. Remain Open – progress may be slow and results may come in unexpected waves, you need to remain open to this. Working with people isn’t like working with machines, you can’t get what you want instantaneously. Patience, openness and understand is key.

As our time as fellows of the Audience Diversity Academy 2.0 draws to a close we may not have produced quantifiable results just yet but we are proud of having the support and therefore courage to start this process and believe that in a year’s time there may be some more concrete results. Whether they’re good or bad we’ll have to see, however we know that whatever the outcomes we’ll be able to learn from them and understand that steps, no matter how small they may be, are good steps as long as they’re in the right direction.

Othello and contemporary East London audiences #ADA

Amy Wilkes is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Wilton’s Music Hall and a Fellow on Audience Diversity Academy.  In this blog she shares how her learning from a touring production of Othello would feed into future agile experiments as part of her Fellowship on ADA 2.0.


“To fall in love with what she feared to look on!” 

Wilton’s has only been functioning as a full-time theatre since its renovation was completed under two years ago; since then we’ve been developing a high-quality diverse programme.

In May we hosted a production of Othello – it had previously been at Bristol Tobacco Factory Theatres and received outstanding reviews, so we had high hopes of bringing new audiences into Wilton’s. The production uses the original Shakespearian text and puts a focus on Othello as a Muslim through its use of costume and staging.

As outlined in my previous blog, Tower Hamlets’ demographic is almost one third Bangladeshi – by far the highest in the country, so we hoped to see a higher proportion of people from this community.

What was done

It’s important to mention that Wilton’s is a hiring house and therefore the responsibility for marketing falls to the production companies themselves, with some support from us, this limited how much input I could have. Both sides saw the mutual benefits of having this production at Wilton’s – we were both keen to engage with the local population.

The artwork for the show was a striking image of a black man in Islamic prayer:

As well as engaging local and diverse audiences through listings, digital marketing and schools, part of the initiative to get more local people into the building and to engage with the show was The Othello Project. This free day festival exploring themes in the show had a really diverse and exciting programme including a photography exhibition showing Islamic culture in East London, a live oud performance, and a hip-hop set from a Muslim woman of colour.  It was programmed with Amal, an organisation which champions Islamic arts.

Our content editor wrote a great blog post with an interview with the cast members playing Othello and Desdemona, in which Abraham Popoola (Othello) admits ‘the paranoia Othello feels, fuelled by the racism he encounters every day, that’s something I have felt.’ And highlighting the importance of this theme to the area: ‘he is a Muslim in hiding, he’s adopted Christianity in order to survive but his true faith is Islam… It’s so significant to be doing this play here in Tower Hamlets where there is such a large Muslim population.’

Set-backs and missed opportunities

Whilst The Othello Project did bring in a diverse crowd to the building on that day, the programme unfortunately came together very late and there wasn’t much opportunity for marketing, and not many of the plans we had discussed were able to be carried out. As this festival was a straight hire, which we had no financial or programming influence over, I was also unable to do any audience research at the festival, so have no way of knowing if the diverse audience which we got in the building was local.

The end of the run fell into Ramadan this year, a time during which Muslims are less likely to attend arts events and more likely to spend evenings with family, friends and community. Though suggestions were made to engage with local Islamic organisations and offer dates at the interval and after the play, these suggestions weren’t acted on, and we didn’t address this in any other way.

A suggestion was made to translate flyers into Bengali for local distribution, and target Bengali speakers on Facebook, but there wasn’t room in their budget for this.


From a survey sent to bookers I know that we succeeded in getting a local audience in, with 29% of responders being from East London, and E1 being the most common postcode area.

However, 73.5% were White British, only 11% of responders people of colour, only 1 Bangladeshi / Bangladeshi British responder, and just 3 Muslims.

Feedback on the show was overwhelmingly positive, with people really enjoying the modern interpretation. Perhaps we can see this as just the first stepping stone in reaching local and diverse audiences, and something to learn from.


ADA 2.0 Fellow, Liz Hebden is the Front of House Manager at Bristol Old Vic Theatre (BOV) and here blogs about planning her first customer-facing agile experiment.

Whilst getting myself involved in being part of the Audience Diversity Academy Fellowship I have been pondering how people currently get involved with Bristol Old Vic.

So, with some wise words from my trusty mentor I have started to ask my colleagues their opinions on how people can and can’t connect with BOV.

To be exact, I have been asking colleagues in person ‘How do people get in/out of Bristol Old Vic?’ and have purposely kept the question vague. This particular question stemmed from me declaring to my mentor that people cannot ‘get into’ BOV – in the broadest sense. This statement seemed to articulate the barrier that I feel exists around our venue currently and so it seems like a good starting point for an experiment.

As well as asking the above question, I have also played around with some seriously unscripted additional questions in a few trial interviews with my peers and my team. I became hooked on asking people how ‘they’ started their journey at BOV. Asking a more personal question was more interesting to me and really showed the different pathways people have taken to end up working in Theatre.

These people are the face of our organisation but their faces are only half of the picture. The audience are the other half. I want to explore how an organisation can reflect its audience and its city.

Why don’t a wider variety of people come to our Theatre? Is it partly because of who our team represent at the moment when compared to the people of Bristol? How do I share with the public who we really are and who Bristol Old Vic is for?

In case you were wondering, WE ARE HERE FOR EVERYONE.  But, why doesn’t everyone know this already?

Time to find out.

Diversifying audiences – it’s time to raise our aspirations #ADA

ADA Mentor Mel Larsen with ADA 1.0 Fellow James Thomas and ADA 2.0 Fellow Candace

Mentor and Consultant, Mel Larsen shares why she is never stuck in the middle when it comes to challenging the organisations, ADA Fellows and international clients to question, question, question and never tire of doing this.

What would it be like if we expected more in the field of diversifying audiences for the arts instead of less? So many times at seminars, conferences and marketing meetings I’ve heard people say diversifying audiences is hard.  While I understand the background to this perception I also can’t help wondering what would it be like if we stopped saying it’s hard and said something else instead?

What would it take to not just meet but exceed our targets?

What really inspires us about doing this?

What if we decided to take the lead in this area and really go for it?

Questions like these tend to lead to better results and a more enjoyable process. 

As a coach I know if we say something is going to be hard then like a self-fulfilling prophecy, it will surely be. So I encouraged my fellows on this round of Audience Diversity Academy to believe in change, believe in themselves and to think big.  Inside that context, they took on a series of small ‘experiments’ that would lead to new ideas, results and strategies and of course new audiences.

It was a pleasure to support their journey of discovery. Very often they surprised themselves with what they could achieve by taking this approach. Many surpassed their targets: from quadrupling the normal number of audiences with disability for a show, to doubling audiences for an annual community event, to creating a family afternoon for over fifty local refugees on a first-time visit, to attracting five times the number of ‘disability access buddies’ initially hoped for – it was clear they really went for it.

Their success left me wondering what would it be like if everybody decided to just go for it and do what it takes to open up our cultural spaces for all to enjoy? It all starts with choosing to win. If as a cultural sector we decide we will stop at nothing until we find out what it will take to truly diversify our audiences, then change will not be not as hard as we think.

Make the same old new: Redefine the mindset. #ADA

Carrie Blake is a Fellow on the Audience Diversity academy (ADA 2.0) and Broadway’s Marketing and Outreach Assistant.  Here she shares her thoughts on building and re-building inclusive audiences.

Dear Diary:  Failure is an option it leads to learning: This has been tough to swallow. But the clue is in the word Experiment. Dust yourself off, learn from this and move on, preferably in an agile fashion. And… People are individuals – Remember that!  What you think will work, might not. Reach out Learn, some organisations and individuals won’t respond in a favourable way, and that’s fine, ask yourself why, you’ll learn from it. UnderstandGrow … Start again!

Like many cultural organisations we often have to achieve a lot with little. So approaches to reach wider audiences through underfunded ‘outreach’ can feel like climbing a mountain.

We know that a box ticking reactive approach makes no lasting difference, so how can we make sure that we move away from approaching engagement in this way?

Diversity is too important to the creative process and the cultural sector to ignore; we know this, we have been having the same conversations for years. So let’s make diversity integral, if this is at the heart of your work and embedded in your organisations approach, then it becomes truthful.

Put the work in to building a lasting offer, opportunities to collaborate and building relationships that go beyond the life of one off projects, and this will become genuine exchange and interaction, redefining the approach to engagement so that this is the thread running throughout everything you do. Well this is work in progress, and experiments are just that, the starting point on a journey. I’ll keep you posted…

Get your head in the game #ADA

ADA 2.0 Fellow Rebecca Farkas from Meadow Arts is playing her Agile experiment out with her audiences.  With this they are warming up slowly to the idea of how the use of language can entice them in or turn them off visiting heritage spaces and art exhibitions.

After a rather slow start due to an intensely high workload, we have really got moving now. The idea is to create some ‘relaxed curator’s tours’ at our exhibitions that would appeal to older people or people who are isolated in the rural areas where we work. We have seen the great work that lots of theatres and performances are doing with relaxed performances and wanted to know if we can translate that into the visual arts. 

Meadow Arts has just gained a brand new ‘Youth Trustee’ on our board, recent graduate Katie Hodson, who we have roped in to help out on the ADA project. An advantage for me is that Katie lives quite close to our venue, whereas I am a two-hour drive, along country roads, from the recent exhibition, Synthetic Landscapes! 

Working in a rural area is tricky as everything is so far apart and public transport is often not good. I had a mentor session with Rachel Grossman and we discussed why I had asked other people to do a series of quick interviews and not done them myself. Rachel was surprised at how far away from the venue I am based: this is the reality for Meadow Arts as we don’t have our own venue, so our exhibitions take place across the West Midlands and sometimes even further afield. Other arts organisations in rural settings have similar issues with distances and transport: a simple meeting can take up a whole day because of travel times. This is one of the reasons that I knew I could apply for ADA: the training and meetings are all online, so I knew that it would be much easier to fit in than a course I would have to attend physically. 

 The experiment we tried this time for ADA was to gather opinions from the audience we are targeting. We decided to go back to basics with our older potential audience members. We know that older audiences attend our exhibitions, which are often at historic venues like stately homes, but we have not asked this section of audience what their specific needs or requirements are, beyond assessing the physical accessibility of the venues we work with. 

The aim was to target four groups of older people and ask them a couple of quick questions, to gather opinions on Contemporary Art, which we know is a challenging art form for many people. We approached groups who provide services to older people in our area, but did not get a successful response, so Katie and I had to rethink our approach (we knew we needed to get things moving somehow), so I asked a family member to approach a Women’s Institute group that she has ties with and Katie approached elderly family members.  

Although this was a small initial group, the responses were encouraging and flagged up some initial concerns that the people we asked had. We asked them firstly, “When I say Contemporary Art, what do you think?” Responses were divided and included, Art we don’t usually understand,” and, “Could be exciting.” 

The second question was, If there was a stately home with a friendly art tour, would you go?” Half of our respondents said “yes” and half “no”. 

 Katie’s respondents also said that ‘curator’ is quite a specialist term, so they wouldn’t feel it was aimed at them. They suggested using something less formal such as, ‘public tour’ or ‘exhibition introduction’ would be more appealing. 

The next steps are to get feedback from a lot more people, to give us really useable data. We also intend to target people who are not that keen and get them to visit an exhibition with us, so that we can understand what their concerns are and ask them directly, “What would make you feel more comfortable with this?” We will probably use a bit of bribery as encouragement: tea and cake, anybody? 

There is also an idea of playing with tour formats, suggested by mentor Rachel, including doing things we wouldn’t normally do. A bit of brainstorming could bring up some slightly off centre ideas, to add to the normal routes: different text guides, audio guides, post it notes on things, a tour where visitors give scores and the tour leader loses points when they use jargon and even the ‘Stupid Questions Tour’ – a kind of ‘Exhibitions for Dummies’ idea!  

Lots of ideas to play with before next time and the Holy Grail of ‘The Most Comfortable Exhibition Tour Ever!’ 

You don’t know what you don’t know. #ADA

Bulwell Arts Festival 2017

Carrie Blake, is Broadway’s Marketing and Outreach Assistant.  She’s currently developing engagement activities for and with Children, Young people and Families in North Nottingham and Nottingham City, aiming to increase socio-economic diversity of participants engaging with Broadway’s creative learning programme.

Reach outLearn ExperimentSucceed or FailUnderstandGrowEstablish This is pinned to my wall and serves as a reminder whenever I forget to challenge my own assumptions- Reach outLearn! Or when I find myself bogged down in a ‘business as usual’ mindset.  Experiment!  Or sometimes if my confidence has taken a nosedive Succeed or Fail – Understand – Grow!  Or when there has been a positive turning point and visible difference, Establish… and then, a firm nudge not to get complacent… Start again!

Reaching Out. We were fortunate to have seed funding to continue our community cinema project.  Building on the legacy of the initial project has allowed us to further grow relationships with community volunteers in North Nottingham making a cinema experience more accessible in areas of economic deprivation, supporting volunteers to host screenings at venues familiar to the community.

Taking ourselves off to a community arts festival in Bulwell, provided some useful informal insights, we were able to talk with people about the range of activities we had to offer and see first-hand what people were drawn to.

More organisational conversations around data collection would have been beneficial, as the restrictions around how we could conduct this meant that we couldn’t glean data via our original paper questionnaire; and lack of WiFi at the venue stopped us from gathering information online. We did miss an opportunity to gain some information for analysis.

However this has allowed time for more reflection and a revised approach, and the experience was really worthwhile, we found that there is a great existing network of artists and strong community led creative activity.  I’ll continue to Reach outLearn and remember not to make assumptions, after all no one wants others parachuting into their community thinking they know what’s wanted and needed.  A useful and enjoyable day connecting with communities in Bulwell and proof to us that we need to do more of the same.

To me it’s important that we refine, grow and develop what we have started throughout this process.  In order to achieve this, it’s crucial that this is closely aligned with Broadway’s organisational ethos, to, embed a Lifelong love of Film and Inspire creativity.  The approach has been to reach out to a wider range of people in their own community on their terms, getting to know each other, before we expect them to come and see us on our patch.

Don’t Worry, Start Growing #ADA

Photo by Ryan Maxwell.

An interactive storytelling performance during a dog & pony dc devising weekend with hearing and Deaf artists. Photo by Ryan Maxwell.

Rachel Grossman is an ADA 2.0 mentor, artist and engagement strategist and wants us to grow comfortably outwards from our points of privilege when it comes to being inclusive in the arts.

When I started working closely with artists and audiences who were Deaf, I was confronted head-on with my identity as Hearing. I also was confronted with a world that is auditory-centered.  I then realised I carried a boat-load of prejudices, misunderstandings, or simply lies about people who audiologically speaking do not hear.

Like anyone who comes face-to-face with a privilege they have, but were previously unaware of possessing, I could:

A. Retreat back slowly into the comfort of not-knowing.

B. Stammer around awkwardly—knowing but doing nothing.

C. Move forward graciously knowing I needed to do some significant growing

I chose “C.”

Three years later, I stammer awkwardly with great frequency and on a few extreme occasions I’ve longed to retreat into my hearing privilege. And yet: choosing “C” early and often is what’s helped identify me as a hearing person who acts with good intentions and acknowledges impact.

So how does this story support the work of the ADA Fellows and anyone else interested diversifying their audiences?

What I heard from ADA 1.0 and 2.0 Fellows was worry, doubt, and outright fear that when they first interacted with members of their identified “diverse” audience group—whether youth, the elderly, a specific racial or ethnic group, or people with disabilities—they would Do Something Wrong.

Super valid. Doing Something Wrong can be a paralyzing feeling. It is the feeling of discomfort, sometimes to an extreme degree. It is a feeling that’s so powerful it prevents people from even truly attempting to diversify. Because “comfort” is the place where we know and recognize everything, and “discomfort” is the place where learning occurs. Discomfort is where we change and grow.

Anyone in a position of privilege is used to feeling comfortable. Like me, being Hearing in a world that’s auditory-centered. I am super-duper comfortable in this world because it is tailor made for people who have the sense of hearing.

Get me around a person who is Deaf, and I’m out of my element. They are not of my world. I don’t know what it’s like to be like that. What will they want? How can I possibly relate to them? And now, I’m not comfortable. And now, a host of unhelpful feelings and thoughts bubble up that compels me to choose “B” or “A” as a course of direction.

I don’t know what it’s like to live in an auditory-centered world as a person who is Deaf, but you know who does? People who are Deaf! They’re experts. And they know what I don’t know already, even before I’ve realized it myself. Which means they’re aware of the high likelihood of me Doing Something Wrong. Which means I don’t need to worry about it happening, it’s going to happen. So what can we learn from those experiences that assist us in expanding our worldview and making our audience and organization a slightly more diverse and inclusive place.

In the United States and Britain, this feeling of comfort is true for a number of social identities (for instance people who are White, Male, cisgender, non-disabled, heterosexual, to name a few). That’s why it’s important to remember we all inhabit the same world. Instead of entering diversity and inclusion work with a worry about Doing Something Wrong, let’s enter with a interest in Doing Some Growing.

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