Building Inclusion through Collaboration

by Orlaine I. Gabert, Door County Civility Project

The Door County Civility Project, PFLAG and Just Door County are working together to increase inclusion in our county in the belief that  fostering a culture of openness and inclusion is in the best interest of everyone. 

The Door County Civility Project teaches that “Be inclusive” is one of the tools of civility. PFLAG envisions a world in which diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued and affirmed, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. Just Door County states that “Everyone belongs in Door County.” This year these three nonprofits have collaborated in three ways to increase inclusion. 

First, on April 30, 30 participants attended a bystander/upstander training at the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor and spent a day learning that people do experience exclusion in our county, and that we “bystand,” or let it happen. We learned ways in which we can “upstand,” or try to alter the situation to one of more inclusion, and we were put in a number of situations through which we could practice what we’d learned. It was all very insightful, but the key point was the importance of understanding that people all see situations differently.

The second project is We Welcome All, an effort to enlist county businesses to put the “We Welcome All” sticker in their windows. But it’s more just than a sticker: The group provides businesses with ways to be more inviting to anyone who enters the business. This welcoming signal clearly tells everyone who’s thinking of entering that business that they will be treated with dignity and respect. So far, more than 75 businesses and eight community sponsors are participating.

Third, these organizations are focusing on ensuring that not only is their particular group practicing inclusion, but they are also encouraging others to do so. A definition of inclusion for them is “Creating an environment where each individual who lives in, works in or visits Door County is a respected and valued member of the community.”

They see that inclusion is a conscious choice. It’s a progression, not just a program. It acknowledges, respects and values differences. It promotes equality and fairness. It invites communication, collaboration and community.

The Door County Civility Project, PFLAG and Just Door County offer the following suggestions for evaluating and practicing intentional inclusion to help other organizations join them in their efforts:

• Evaluate your organization’s strengths and weaknesses with inclusion.

• Identify specific inclusion goals and a timetable for their implementation.

• Designate an inclusion point person.

• Collaborate with others about ideas, programs and mentorship.

It’s important to recognize that each of us truly does live in our own little world. We need to get out of that world and work hard to understand others.

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