ROLE MODELS

BACKGROUND

Imagine yourself as a child. What were your dreams and aspirations? Who did you look up to? Were these two things connected? We’ve already talked about role models in the paragraph about norm critical pedagogy. Now we’ll also look at it through an organisational lense. For many of us, people we looked up to defined our dreams and aspirations. However, finding role models to identify with is more difficult for some. When was the last time you saw a rockstar in a wheelchair?

It is therefore important to present broad and diverse role models in many different aspects within a project. Both within the staff, guest artists/speakers and workshop facilitators, but also in all the examples you use, the people you refer to and the promotional material. Diversity in role models means having a variety of genders, abilities, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, personalities, educational levels. Remember that if you're starting out with a majority white, upper middle-class staff, hiring one person with a different background does not ensure diversity in role models. Diversity means a range of backgrounds are represented.

WHY?

Including a varied and diverse pool of role models into your project can help make it more relevant to a wider audience. Having different people involved can also enable a better dialogue, because people are able to talk to someone they feel understands their specific situation. Different role models will also illustrate what is possible – both for the participants and the community around them. This will in turn generate an even broader group of participants.

HOW?

Network in new places to achieve actual diversity in all levels of your organisation.

It might take a bit more work than working with your “usual suspects”, but make the extra effort and your network will grow. The next time it will be easier.

Do public calls for vacant positions.

When you need a new staff member it is often easy to go with someone you know. Public calls are slow and time consuming, but they allow people completely outside your existing network to find you, and bring with them new ideas and networks.

Create an inclusive job description.

Make sure you’re not including requirements that only serve to exclude, and are not really relevant. Use a clear and inclusive language, and avoid gendered language (chairperson rather than chairman). Be aware of where you distribute the call to reach new communities (you might be able to find media or social media specifically targeting minority job seekers), and include a section encouraging minority candidates to apply. Depending on the position and regulations in your country, you might also be able to add criterions such as “a diverse network”.

Integrate diverse role models in all communication material.

Use the variety you already have in your organisation, but try to stay clear of tokenism when doing this. Don’t download a photo of a minority person to create communication material that does not represent the reality candidates will meet in your organisation. Try to use material that represents your projects/organisation and intentions in a truthful way.

Let previous participants take on roles in projects.
Through volunteer work and trainee positions you can engage and benefit previous participants in your projects. This is a great opportunity for you and the participants to grow and learn.