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Diversity and Inclusion

The Neutral Middle Is Hindering Change

An Exclusive Interview with Marissa Ellis, Founder of Diversily and creator of the Change Canvas.

Most of us belong to the neutral middle — but being neutral is no longer enough. Frankly, it isn’t actually neutral, either. It’s a tacit agreement that things are okay as they are when they patently aren’t.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • The formula for change
  • Why neutrality isn’t neutral
  • The Change Canvas (P.S. it’s free)
  • Barriers to cultural change & how to overcome them

Listen in above (cc available), or read below the transcript of our interview with Marissa Ellis. You can also listen on SpotifyiTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

FIONA: Welcome back to Inclusion Works. I’m your host Fiona Young and I run the diversity, inclusion and belonging practice at Hive Learning. The collaborative learning app for enterprises. Our guest today is Marissa Ellis founder and CEO of Diversily, a consultancy that’s driving a collective force for good to increase diversity and inclusion in the tech sector. As well as being hell-bent on transforming the state of D&I in tech, she’s actively a product strategist and an organizational designer with deep knowledge of the FinTech industry and what it takes to innovate. Welcome Marissa.

MARISSA: Thank you, Fiona. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.

FIONA: Thank you. So, Marissa, can you start by giving us a quick overview of the work you’re currently doing and what you’re trying to achieve?

MARISSA: Yes. Of course. So my mission at Diversily is all about empowering people to drive positive change. I’m doing this using the change canvas which is a simple visual discovery tool that I created when I first started Diversily. It can be used to manage any kind of change. I’ve also created the Diversily inclusion toolkit and I’ve been doing my bit to try and change hearts and minds through workshops, through consultancy and events.

The change canvas is now being used all around the world and it’s been an absolute joy to watch different organizations use it and see the positive impact that it’s having. The work that I do is really about changing mindsets and building inclusive thinking into workplaces.

I also do lots of work around digital innovation and broader organizational change. I’m particularly interested in leadership development and inclusive innovation. Inclusive thinking is a critical skill that simply isn’t being taught or developed in people. I felt it was the missing chapter in my professional upbringing and my mission is really about changing this.

So since starting Diversily, my mindset has been completely transformed. The name Diversily represents a different way of thinking that has diversity built in and the way that I think now, the way that I consider things is completely different to how it was before. So I’m so much more self-aware. I’ve got a greater sense of empathy and understanding for other people’s lived experiences and the challenges that they might have faced.

And I’m also so much more aware that the systems are broken, and they need fixing. We don’t live in a fair world I know. The workplace is sadly not a meritocracy as many of us were led to believe and we’re riddled with blind spots due to our lack of diversity. So I don’t want to accept this and my mission is all about trying to change this.

FIONA: Brilliant. I mean there’s so much for us to talk about today and I’m really excited to dig into a lot of that, I mean particular that change canvas which I’m a huge fan of but first up I want to ask you something that we asked all our guests on Inclusion Works. Can you tell us what personal experiences made you aware of inclusion and diversity issues and led you to set up Diversily?

MARISSA: Yes, of course. I mean I think everyone has a diversity story in a way. I grew up in apartheid South Africa, so this is a world where the color of your skin alone dictated what schools you could go to. What hospitals you could go to. What jobs you could get even what benches you could sit in in the park. So inclusion was blocked by law. Crazy crazy times.

I’m also Jewish. So even as a child I was very aware that on one hand I was hugely privileged because I’m white but on the other hand a few decades ago children just like me were being killed simply because they were Jewish. So I’ve always been very conscious of the fact that when you’re born, there are so many factors that will determine your life path before you’ve even taken your first breath.

So in the UK your postcode influences your life expectancy. I mean this is you know it’s craziness really. But I hadn’t really deeply connected this societal injustice if you like to my professional world until a few years ago. So I’ve had a really happy and successful career as a female in the tech industry which as we know is dominated by white men but for most of my career the lack of diversity hasn’t been challenged, it hasn’t even really been noticed and I’d go so far as to say we didn’t know we had a problem.

However, my perspective changed a lot when I was made redundant when I was pregnant with my first child. My whole world changed and for any other parents out there you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve started to see trends with my peers. I started to see the gendered expectations, the different expectations that work were placed on fathers and mothers. The lack of confidence in my female friends and the very real gender pay gap that essentially kicks in at the point of the first child. So this was the reality that I was living.

A couple of years ago, I went for well actually I was headhunted and for a senior role. So it was second-in-command … it was about 50 million pound business unit and I ended up going through this really intense recruitment process to end up being successfully offered the job but then due to restructuring both the job offer and my invite to the Christmas party were withdrawn.

So this experience this kind of soul-searching experience that I’d gone on to go through this process made me do a lot of reflecting. It made me reflect about the common recruitment practices. It made me realize that if you’re different in any way, you’re rowing against the stream before you even started and you’re having to justify everything. And it also made me reflect on what I wanted to do with my life and what impact I wanted to have, and I had this I had this realization that strangely hadn’t really occurred to me before. It was that it wasn’t just about me progressing in my career but there actually as a minority female in tech, I had a responsibility to raise my head above the parapet and be a role model to inspire other women to join the industry.

So too many women were looking in the window, not seeing anyone that looked like them and then stepping away even those that join the tech industry are more likely to leave. So the latest figures that I’ve seen showed that women are more than twice as likely to quit the tech industry than men. So in my world there was a lot of things happening if you like and it was the coming together of all of these factors that form the seed for Diversily and essentially I had two lightbulb moments.

The first was realizing that we have a problem and the second was realizing that I was personally going to do something about it.

FIONA: And I think it’s interesting you know to hear your story and you know the fact that even though you were used to being in the minority as a woman in tech that you didn’t really become a catalyst for change until that experience of being made redundant when you were pregnant and I think this is such a common experience I’ve heard from others working in this space and it’s like they’re saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. You know it’s really tough to completely understand bias or exclusion until you’ve experienced it personally.

So my question for you is what tips would you give for organizations and leaders in this space to galvanize majority groups, so people I would call you know the sort of well-intentioned but clueless you know who do mean well but probably don’t know of what they need to do to build diversity and inclusion. So what advice would you give to the kind of galvanize those groups to join the D&I effort.

MARISSA: That’s a great question and the truth is that I didn’t become the huge advocate that I am today until several years after I was made redundant when I was pregnant. It wasn’t until I’d emerged from the crazy sleep-deprived times and the juggle of babies and work that I even had the headspace to look out to the industry and realize that these struggles were happening everywhere. You know I could look outside of my bubble and I think this is a really key point is that we can’t expect the disadvantaged or the minority groups or the diversity and inclusion experts alone to drive this change.

So your question is a great one as this is essentially the essence of what’s needed. We need everyone to be a part of the conversation and transformational change will only really come when the majority get involved. So I think there’s quite a simple message and that is that being neutral is no longer enough. In fact, being neutral is having a negative effect. It’s essentially you’re saying it’s okay as it is and quite frankly it isn’t.

So the movable middle as I call them have a choice. You can either be a part of the solution or you can be a part of the problem. So for the well-intended masses who choose to be a part of the solution, the question isn’t whether to get involved but how they can make a difference and what they can do. So I think it’s important to recognize that we’re all on a journey and we need to support people along that journey from awareness and education to allyship to advocacy.

This equation was actually the foundation for the change canvas and if you want to be part of the solution you need to build your awareness, you need to understand the problems and the issues. You then need to commit to do something to drive change and only with this awareness and intent will change ever happen.

So I think when it comes to business it’s about building it into the everyday. By this I mean understanding the benefits, building it into targets, embedding D&I considerations into daily work. This is the way to get the majority involved and this is how we can transform it from a sideline activity or some kind of network for minority groups.

For me it’s about developing inclusive thinking skills, so historically organizations have engaged in bias training but in some cases this has backfired as sometimes the white male majority felt that they were being positioned as evil in some way, whereas I think we need to shift minds to think in different ways.

So in terms of changing kind of hearts and minds, a politician once told me and I’ll always remember this, you can move people through action, through hope or through fear. So we’ve kind of got two stories here. So the hope story is ultimately about creating more opportunities for everyone. It’s great for individuals, for organizations, for society. It’s all about learning to think inclusively, it’s a critical skill that will not only help you develop your own skills and relationships, you’ll be a greater asset as an employee.

So diversity and inclusion brings huge benefits to businesses in terms of performance, competitive advantage, ability to innovate and increasingly being an employee of choice.

The fear story, on the other hand, is about not wanting to get left behind or being the next failure due to the lack of diversity. So they’ve been some really interesting articles that relate the lack of diversity as being a factor both in the 2008 financial crisis or the 9/11 events.

So there are lots of examples of tech gone wrong such as there’s the example of the racist soap dispenser that only worked for white hands. The automated mechanism didn’t kick in unless the hand underneath it was white or face recognition software that equated African Americans with gorillas.

So as technology becomes more sophisticated, we’re essentially encoding our biases into the AI that controls the systems that influence pretty much every aspect of our life. So each and every one of us could be subject to discrimination unwittingly. So really we need to build systems that counter this.

So diversity of experience and opinion is crucial in building this future. I also think that as the focus increases everyone needs an inclusion story. They’re becoming more and more common interview questions, things like what have you done to foster an inclusive culture or how have you built diverse teams and fostered inclusion. So organizations are looking to grow inclusively and they need people from all backgrounds who will support them on this journey.

So I think by helping these well intention but clueless people as you call them to think inclusively we can transform them into the change makers into agents of change.

FIONA: I mean there’s so much you said there that I feel like we could talk more about and you know I mean the first one being that I just when you talk about how you know you’re either part of this movement or you’re not, it really reminded me of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s writing in ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ and you know she makes the same point that it’s like if you’re not an advocate, if you’re not a change maker, if you’re not an ally you know working to really build positive momentum and change in this area then you are holding us back you know you are a detractor and there’s no middle ground.

I think that’s such a powerful concept and if we can convey that in a way that you know doesn’t kind of get people’s backs up then I think that would be a huge catalyst for change too in organizations.

MARISSA: Yes, absolutely and as you say it’s about having the conversations in the right way, so it’s people being really inspired. Yes, you’re right. I want to be part of this. I want to do the right thing. I didn’t realize I was being a blocker you know as opposed to you know you’re evil and you know you need to do the right thing. So I think it’s all about the way the conversations happen.

FIONA: Yes and I think you know you mentioned as well traditional bias training you know not working and that’s definitely part of it you know that from the research I’ve seen from Frank Dobbin and colleagues at Harvard you know it’s like if you make it really negative then people just turn off and think you know I don’t want to be a part of this or if you let people off the hook by thinking well everyone has bias and it’s all you know very soft and fluffy and fuzzy and warm, then you have a real risk of people just kind of thinking well that’s all right, my bias is okay and you know the moral licensing kind of cropping up there.

So I think the way that sort of tone of the conversation is so crucial and your point too about hope or fear is brilliant because I think that links in so nicely as well with these sorts of conversations we need to be having about the hope you know about the positive side and the sort of potential for each of us to be change-makers and so I’d like to dig in a little bit more to the change canvas. So you mentioned you know its awareness plus intent equals change was really the beginning the sort of seed of the change canvas. So could you talk to us a bit more about the change canvas? So what it is and practically how to use it?

MARISSA: Yes, of course. So in simple terms the change canvas is a great way to structure thoughts and unite people around to share to change mission. So it’s a visual framework that can be used to drive forward any kind of change. The visual frameworks and podcasts are not great combination, but it is pretty simple. So I will describe for your listeners but if anyone listening would like a visual aid at this point you can head on over to diversily.com, click on the change canvas link and you can find out more. So you can actually see in front of you but essentially it consists of three boards on a page. So I said it was simple.

The reflection board is for looking back, opening conversations and building understanding. The vision board is for looking forward and setting goals and the progress board which is divided into three parts is for coming up with ideas, committing to take action and celebrating results.

So the change canvas came about because as a product person I’m very solution orientated and I wanted to create something to help us address the global challenge that we face in creating more inclusive workplaces and after several iterations the end result, the change canvas turned out to be actually quite a generic framework that can be applied to any kind of change mission.

So for personal development, for business transformation, for continuous improvement initiatives. It can be useful of these things. So the actual change canvas itself comes from nearly two decades of experience in helping organizations and individuals make change happen from large-scale complex business transformation projects, the culture change to personal development. I realized that there was some fundamental building blocks that are needed to drive forward successful change.

I also wanted to take my experience of the agile transformation the tech industry has embraced and bring this to the mass. So the idea is there’s that you don’t have to have everything mapped out in intimate detail before you can begin because the chances are something’s going to change and you’re going to have to redo your ground plans anyway.

So when I was developing the change canvas I looked at some common reasons that change fails. So things like lack of commitment buy-in or vision, poor communication, lack of understanding or alignment, constantly changing priorities or poor planning or following up or lack of following up of actions or limited engagement bringing the wrong voices into the room or leaving people out and not listening resulting in ultimately solutions that just don’t work for everyone.

So I thought what if people could unite around a single page that summarizes the key elements of the change and evolves constantly as progress is made and so the change canvas was born. So putting the change canvas at the heart of your change initiatives gives you a focal point that drives out the right conversations with the right people, ultimately increasing collaboration and helping you to avoid some of these common pitfalls.

It helps to bring clarity, boost effectiveness, builds understanding, sparks ideas and ultimately it helps recognize success which then drives more success. If for example let’s just take one of the boards. I mean you could have this conversation for all of them but if you just take the vision board. If your vision board is constantly empty or it’s filled with these changing priorities, it’s obvious it becomes very transparent that you’ve got some work to do to clarify exactly what your goals are.

So I guess the change canvas can be used in so many different ways but let me give you a few examples. So it can be used to create a summary on a page, so it forces you to align and summarize your change initiative with clarity on a single page. It could be used as a workshop facilitation tool. So it enables you to add some structure and take your participants on an interactive change journey reflecting on where you are, what your goals are, coming up with ideas and celebrating success along the way.

It’s great as an event scribing tool, so you can create a visually engaging long-lasting record of your event and again your listeners can have a look at the change canvas Hall of Fame which is you can link through to it on from our website on Diversily.com and see some events that have been scribed using the change canvas on this on the topic of diversity inclusion.

And it can also be used as a project management or change management tool enabling you to identify problems you’re trying to address, set your goals and iteratively and continuously take action to achieve results. It’s also great as a mentoring tool, so it enables you to structure a conversation around personal development, again guiding your mentee if you like through the boards of the canvas.

So anyway, you get the idea. It’s very flexible. It’s very simple and it can be used in lots of different ways. We started testing the concept last year when I first created it and it really has been amazing to watch its use grow but more importantly the collective impact that it’s having in all of the different change missions that it’s driving.

So really every organization should be asking themselves, where they are? Where they want to be? And what they’re going to do about it without exception and the change canvas is put simply it’s a tool to help facilitate this discussion.

FIONA: And I should point out to listeners as well that it’s totally free to use and I love it because it’s just so brilliantly simple and I work agile and so this idea of let’s put some stuff down, let’s revisit this in a month you know let’s make this a living breathing document and that’s what’s so powerful about it I think. And actually I didn’t realize that you could use it as a mentoring tool as something when you said that it just sparked an idea in me which I really hadn’t thought about that before and this is great to learn even more about it.

So you mentioned the Hall of Fame and I know that you’ve worked with some pretty inspiring organizations using the change canvas. Can you give us an example of an organisation that’s used it to achieve something great. You don’t need to say their name if you want to keep it anonymous [laughs].

MARISSA: Yes. Sure, I mean on our website there’s a bunch of different organisations that we worked with who’ve provided us quotes and logo. So you can kind of get a sense of some of the range of organisations that we’ve worked with and I love getting the feedback. I love seeing the change the canvas is inspiring but one of my favorite examples was a global organization that used the change canvas to run an event called the Inclusion Hackathon. So the diversity inclusion hackathon is an off-the-shelf ready to go workshop that takes participants on a journey through the change canvas.

So it’s not about coding, it’s the concept of the hackathon is all about bringing people together to have courageous conversations and co-create solutions to increase workplace inclusion, so this is we were talking a little bit earlier about them bias training and the idea is instead of teaching people that they’re their bias the idea is you inspire people to come up with solutions together.

And the hackathon essentially explores four areas that I call the Diversily onion. So it starts at the heart of the organization with culture and leadership. It extends to the employee experience. It then extends to how you get people into the organization with recruitment and finally the wider ecosystem.

So I ran one of the inclusion hackathon events in London and then trained up facilitators all around the world to run event in their countries for this organization. So we have management commitment to take the best ideas forward and the feedback was just simply incredible. So we really opened up conversations in a very unique way, letting people explore their own authenticity and their vulnerabilities together in a safe space and after celebrating successes already achieved we then invited the audiences to work together to come up with solutions and come up with ideas.

So after the events, they were summarized in the change canvas. So those who didn’t attend could still get the benefit of the insights and the conversations have been continuing ever since. So the idea of bringing people together to talk openly and work together to create solutions is really empowering. So the impact of each event is the mindset change that it starts to create which drives small changes across the business plus then the commitment to actually follow up on the winning ideas in each of these locations around the world. So you know seeing that in play you know it was a wonderful experience. And the hackathon itself is as I mentioned is a packaged event, so it’s available for other organizations to run.

FIONA: I love that idea of training people globally to empowering people around an organization to lead these because, of course, I think one of the challenges with any global organization is how could you possibly build a D&I strategy and how could you possibly drive change across geographies where you know the situation on the ground is quite different from you know various other regions of the world.

So this idea of having a kind of right this is our global vision, but let’s actually apply this in a very local way and make it highly contextualized to those geographies I think is really brilliant as well.

MARISSA: Yes, absolutely and note there is lots of similarities but as you say within each region, within each even within different business units there are differences and it’s about accepting, appreciating and embracing all of those.

FIONA: So I’m curious to know you’ve been working in culture change organizational change for some time. What are some of the blockers or barriers to culture change that you’ve seen again and again and what tips would you give to listeners to overcome these in their own organizations?

MARISSA: This is another huge conversation in itself. We could probably talk about this for the rest of the day and cultural change is hard, you know so the first bit of advice that I’d give to smaller organisations and start-ups is to build the right culture from the start. It’s so difficult to change culture but intentionally cultivating your culture from the beginning will pay dividends.

So people should be thinking about diversity by design and inclusion with intent. Tone is set on the top. Leaders absolutely need to lead by example. So if action doesn’t match words and behavior doesn’t match intent, change simply will not happen. So a key blocker that I’ve seen time and time again is that fear blocks progress. So people were afraid of saying the wrong thing, so they don’t say anything and it’s really interesting to look at the neuroscience of change. So we’re essentially hardwired to resist change, so the brain has evolved to create these automatic habit pathways.

So when we’re faced with something new our brains can be resistant to change as it takes more energy to do something new than something we’re used to. And not only is change difficult due to these pathways in the brain but it’s also because the brain often interprets change as a threat, and this can activate fear and anxiety or the fight-or-flight response. So this means that we either flee from the threat or fight against it and in the case of change this means we’re resisting it. We have these negative emotions that our brain triggers that potentially limits our openness to new ideas and hinders our decision-making skills. So these responses are often unconscious. They’re beyond our awareness. So we may resist change without even realizing why.

Another great example of human nature is about it comes from the set of the filming of the Planet of the Apes back in 1967. I’m not sure if you’ve heard this story but when the actors were on the set, the different actors all formed groups and sat down together at lunch based on their role in the film which was you know so the monkeys all sat together, the gorillas all sat together.

So under these costumes, there were people of different genders, different races, different religions but on the set they bonded with the people the costumes, if you like that looked like them. So it seemed to demonstrate this sort of instinctive segregation. So this affinity bias or this power of magnetism is strong. And in fact, I recently read that 70% of mentor-mentee relationships are the same sex and the same ethnicity. So we just have this sort of natural affinity to people that are like us and fostering diversity and inclusion requires us to go against their own nature, so you know these are just I guess some background in terms of you know why we haven’t wrapped this up by now and tick that box and got it all sorted is because it’s hard.

So something that everyone can do is actively build your network with people that are not like you but coming back to a question about top tips. So let’s have a think, so given what we know about neuroscience, it’s important for leaders to present a potential change without urgency or threat in order to give people time to be able to accept it. You also need to take people on that journey with you so that they’re wanting to be part of the change rather than resisting it or blocking it. To do this you need to think about everyone. Often the focus is on the minorities but what about those in the majority? What does it mean for them?

So the white, the middle class, the straight, the fully-abled men, well they also need to talk about the issues that they face in a safe space too. We can’t move some people without moving other people. It just simply doesn’t work like that. Something else we need to do is get comfortable with the uncomfortable. So we need to embrace and not back away from difficult conversations. Often the issues are buried and not confronted. So people suffer in silence and eventually they just leave.

I think leaders need to be really clear about what they expect from people and demonstrate role model behavior. So this means standing up for and challenging bad behavior. If microaggressions are just accepted they’re never going to change. It’s also really important to find ways to open the doors for feedback, so you’re creating a constant feedback loop of and you’re encouraging sharing of ideas and listening to what people really think and feel.

I think curiosity and empathy are also great traits to foster in your team to build great culture. I think the final point I’d share is that it’s really about making everyone responsible and making everyone feel like they are part of the change. I think that’s how you can drive successful change.

FIONA: Those are all brilliant tips. I feel like yeah there’s so much we could dig into here but I want to move on a little bit because I really want to ask you about a new free online course I know you’ve created on inclusive experience design. So what do you mean by inclusive experience design and practically how do you do it?

MARISSA: Yes, sure I mean there’s so, we have so many things to talk about but let’s move on. So inclusive experience design is essentially I say about designing inclusive experiences. So what does this mean? So organisations create experiences all the time. This is about the experience that people who interact with those organizations have. So an experience could be your recruitment process. It could be what it feels like to be on your board. It could be the experience of using your product. It could be the experience of working in a particular team in your organization.

The point about inclusive experience design is about consciously and systematically designing these experiences to be more inclusive. So you’re actually thinking about well how can you make this experience more inclusive and you’re doing things to make that so. So the free course and that I’ve created teaches you how to follow the process, the inclusive experience design process and how to use the toolkit.

So the process takes you on a journey through the change canvas and there are various other templates there to support you on your way. So there’s the people map which helps you map out the people involved in your experience. There’s the viewpoints canvas which helps you understand the differing needs of people with different characteristics helping you to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see different perspectives and there’s the inclusive lenses which so you see the world with an inclusive mind asking what you might do differently if inclusion was our goal.

So for example, if you were putting on an event you could go through the process and this could help you come up with ideas how to make your event more inclusive. So you might come up with say 30 ideas of things that you could do and so just to give a few examples you might go through the discovery process and you might realize that you should track the diversity of your event and you should actively reach out to specific communities to encourage diverse participation both of attendees but also of speakers and you should create a quiet space and you shouldn’t assume that everyone wants to drink alcohol and so you know and so the list goes on. You would then decide okay which of these things are we going to put into place.

So to give a couple of examples L&D, for example, use the process to look at how to leverage cultural diversity and create more inclusive innovation practices and SeedTribe used the process to look at how they can make their investment journey more inclusive. So listeners can sign up to the free course on diversily.com which will guide you through the process. You can facilitate yourself or you can reach out to me if you need extra support.

FIONA: It’s such a great course. Actually I went through it myself and I think it would be so valuable for listeners and so we’ll definitely also link it in the show notes as well since they’re totally open source and free to use and noticed a bit of theme with these products, right? So like the change canvas and the inclusive experience design course, so they’re free. What inspired you to make them free and what opportunities or connections do you think have kind of opened up as a result of that?

MARISSA: For me it’s all about impact. I don’t want there to be any barriers to adoption. The change canvas and the inclusion toolkit, they’re great tools and the more people that use them the more impact we will collectively have. So the best practice around the use of the tools will evolve which is obviously great for the tools but it’s a really collaborative space and it’s really rewarding to be part of that collaboration and to make a difference. It has been great for my personal brand as people come to me now knowing that I can help them. I’ve got a brilliant network. There are lots of really interesting speaking or consulting opportunities that have arisen for me, but the change canvas will always be free.

It’s transformed the way that I think and the way that I manage projects and change. So I’d really encourage everyone to have a think about what change you’re looking to make happen and then use the change canvas to map this out and see how it can help you to accelerate progress.

FIONA: So just to finish off, what is one thing that anyone could do this week to build inclusion in their workplace?

MARISSA: That is a great question, Fiona. The reason it’s a great question is because the answer is actually that there’s so many things that anyone could do this week right now to make a difference and the point is that if we all did something and inspire those around us to do something who in turn inspire those around them to do something. This is how together we’d really make a transformational change. So my message to your listeners is to do something. I think what that thing is depends on where you are on your journey and also the level of influence that you have.

So if you’re starting to get your head around what inclusion is all about and why it’s so important you might what you might do might be different from someone who’s further down the line with a lot of influence in their company. So perhaps if this is very new to you your first step if you remember my equation, awareness plus intent equals change is to build your awareness. So it’s such an interesting topic. Go and read some research. Talk to people who are not like you. Go to an event where you’re the odd one out. Build your understanding.

If you’re a little further down the line in your journey, you may be ready to take on some actions such as opening up conversations inside your organization, challenging microaggressions or lack of diversity or making suggestions for how things could be improved or if you’re even further along on your journey and you’re ready to inspire and help others you might be ready to use your influence to be an ally to someone else or set targets or invest in initiatives that put a focus on inclusion.

So coming back to your original question, if I had to boil it down to one thing I would say start a conversation about inclusion. You could do this in a very casual way by just asking your colleagues how they are, how they feel, whether they feel included or you could do it in a more structured and systematic way using the change canvas and the Diversily toolkit.

So for example you could take the change canvas into your next team meeting and use it to structure a conversation around how you can make your team more inclusive. So if you visit the free change canvas course, one of the example templates there gives you these exact questions. So the headline question is, what can we do to make our team more inclusive and then in each of the boards of the change canvas there’s a sub-question that enables you to facilitate that dialogue drawing out inspiration from your team and capturing feedback as you go. So if you wanted to dive deeper you could use the inclusive experience design process and ask yourself what could we do to make this experience more inclusive?

So coming back to it to your original question in my single answer is start a conversation. Exactly what that conversation looks like and how much impact it will have is entirely up to you. The one thing that I’m certain of is that we can’t leave the minorities and the diverse and inclusion experts to fix alone. It is the masses in the moveable middle that will ultimately make a difference. So if everyone does something to raise an awareness and commits to take action together we really can achieve great things.

FIONA: I totally agree and it’s about that as you said just do something you know if we all did something and just inspired others to do something as well you know there’s those tiny ripples or what ultimately make big change happen. So thank you so much, Marissa. Thank you for sharing all those insights with us and I’m sure that there’s a lot for listeners to take away from this session. So if anyone listening wants to stay connected with you what is the best way for them to do that?

MARISSA: Sure, you can catch me on LinkedIn, so Marissa Ellis on LinkedIn. You can follow Diversily on Twitter, so Diversily is diversity but with an L instead of a T or you can go to our website which is diversity.com, feel free to get in touch. Follow our journey and start using our tools and share your feedback. And thank you, Fiona, it’s been an absolute pleasure to join you today and thank you for inviting me.

FIONA:  Likewise. Thank you, Marissa.

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An Exclusive Interview with Marissa Ellis, Founder of Diversily and creator of the Change Canvas.

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Fiona Young (she/her)

Having previously led Learning and Development for 3,000 people at Europe’s leading venture builder, Blenheim Chalcot, Fiona knows a thing or two about how to build high performance culture. As Content Director at Hive Learning, Fiona pioneered the organisation's leading guided content programmes which are designed to turn learning into action. Most recently, Fiona led the inception, development and delivery of Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the world’s first diversity and inclusion programme focused on turning unconscious bias into conscious action - created from over 1,000 leading sources.