How can Inclusive Design Be A Tool For Racial Equity?
Written By: Jessica Borich, Founder and Principal Strategist
Now, more than ever, we need to challenge our assumptions and rethink our approaches to business. Collective action towards systemic change is going to be more than a mindset shift, but truly require organizations to pivot and adapt. However, we must start with ourselves as individuals before turning the mirror to unpack how we show up professionally. To be authentic and transformational leaders, we need to define our own values and purpose before we can influence and lead.
We are entering an era of purpose, where business must play a more generative and purposeful role in building a more sustainable and just future. We know the biggest barrier to diversity, equity and inclusion is racism. Racial bias exists, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not; it is in our assumptions and behaviours. Racism, whether systemic or individual, conscious or implicit has no place in society.
Businesses can be powerful vehicles for change by shifting culture and shaping society towards progress. Prism X has a deep commitment to diversity and believe we have a collective responsibility to push for progress and design new systems for organizations to be a force for good. We exist to support and collaborate with organizations to co-create a more inclusive, equitable, sustainable global economy. We do this by working with responsible business leaders and organizations to define and embed their purpose into all aspects of their work to ensure it is authentic and impactful. We genuinely believe that together, we can unify leadership and model behaviours where governments and institutions fail to provide. As designers, in the past, we may have fallen short in designing for inclusivity but it’s not too late to start but inclusive design is not a one and done practice.
This means that we need to design inclusive business practices because no longer will empty gestures and superficial campaigns work because society demands more accountability and not performative activism. We need to include the people we are designing for in the process and address the exclusions. Who have we not included in the design? Are we intentionally being exclusionary? Why? Whose voices are missing in the design? Have we taken into consideration accessibility requirements or cultural sensitivities? Who we are designing for should not be viewed as users or beneficiaries but co-designers because they have lived experience and we should be building upon the resources that already exist in the community.
Oppression, inequality and equity are ingrained in design but that also means they can be redesigned. This starts with adopting inclusive design practices and methodologies to allow for diverse and equitable solutions. Beyond organizational culture, businesses need to redesign hiring processes, products and services, employee engagement practices, customer/user experiences, website content/layout, etc to amend policies or decision making processes where biases and discrimination may have inadvertently been woven in. It’s not just moral leadership but leaders can future-proof and increase their organization’s competitive advantage by embedding inclusive design practices throughout all levels of the organization.
Not only do we need to understand history, we need to acknowledge the power dynamics that exist in society. As designers, do we understand the power that we have? Creatives design things from nothing. We need to hold ourselves accountable to use power wisely. To be authentic designers for justice, we need to move from concept to action and step back to hold a safe space and center others.
Racial injustice is a human crisis where humanity is at the center of everything. As a society, we must commit to dismantling systemic and institutional systems that were built to oppress whilst creating new paradigms to collectively live into. Businesses have an opportunity to come together to denounce racism in all forms and engage in anti-racisim work. It is not just good ‘corporate citizenship’ but as business owners, we need to stand in solidarity with our employees, stakeholders and the community and design for lasting change.
The injustices run deep. There is no quick fix meaning this is not a sprint, but a marathon. It requires commitment, perseverance and training. There will be frustration, pain, possibly some injuries; even with proper training, we will likely hit a wall and shed tears. But this is the journey of our humanity and the call to action is clear. This moment is a time for organizations and institutions to be accountable, lean into discomfort and commit to demonstrating transformational leadership to build a healthier, more equitable and sustainable world.
I am on a journey and learning whilst I’m designing so I invite you to pause and reflect to understand the power and privilege you have. How can we collaborate together and create a rising tide that lifts all boats? But more importantly, how will we hold each other accountable?