3 Tips to Integrate Inclusion Before Your Experience Begins


Inclusion is finally being widely recognized as a prerequisite for belonging within companies, teams and groups.

As facilitators, we talk a lot about creating “safe spaces” for learning to unfold, but how do we ensure a real sense of inclusion and belonging throughout the design and the delivery of our learning experiences? 

In an events and programs context, inclusion is when participants feel seen, acknowledged, and safe to be themselves. It’s about intentionally removing barriers so that everyone, particularly those with less access, have the opportunity to actively participate and share their diverse contributions.

There are MANY different ways to integrate inclusion in our events. For now, here are three key questions  to consider in the planning process, before the session begins:

🎯 1) Ask yourself: Who’s in the room?

How much time do you take before participants join your workshop to think about what their needs might be, and to ask for their input? We don’t just mean surveys to assess their learning, but posing the right questions to ensure that no one will be excluded from engaging and interacting throughout your session.

The simple act of asking participants in advance if they need specific accommodations can go a long way to help them feel considered, including:

    • Subtitles / closed captioning online
    • Activities catered to mobility difficulties 
    • Any other accommodations

In our recent WorldBridgers Mastermind program, we had a participant with visual impairments, so it was important to have closed captioning during the live virtual sessions, and to give her access to the slide deck to review on her own. In a recent Scaling Intimacy in-person training, we had a participant with chemical sensitivities who would get migraines if exposed, so we had to ask everyone to refrain from wearing scented products so she could participate. Subtitles / closed captioning online

These are things we wouldn’t have known had we not sent out an intake survey with the questions: “Is there anything else you would like us to know so that we can best serve you during our time together? Do you have any accessibility needs that we should be aware of to ensure the environment supports you?”  While it takes some extra work on the front end, your participants will feel so valued and respected when you take the time to optimize the experience for them. It’s a powerful way we can recognize individuals within the group format.

Once we have integrated each participant’s input in our design, we can also consider questions like:

    • 🧐 Does our experience design include lots of technology or bandwidth-heavy platforms that might exclude people from more rural areas around the globe? 
    • 🧐 Are we providing mechanisms for individuals who speak English as a second language to best absorb the material? 
    • 🧐Are our methods and activities accessible for people with all kinds of abilities? Have we created alternative options so that those with less mobility can still participate fully?
    • 🧐 Are our examples inclusive of diverse life experiences and conscious of privilege and biases?

🎯 2) Ask yourself: Who’s not in the room?

    • In the same way that we can draw our attention to who’s joining the learning space, we can also ask ourselves: Who is missing? Are we stretching ourselves to invite participants from outside our networks, where people often tend to be more homogenous?  Are we effectively removing barriers so marginalized individuals, some with fewer financial opportunities, can equitably participate in workshops?
    • Being pro-active about inviting diverse participants from a wide range of different life experiences, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, abilities (and more!) creates more meaningful and effective experiences.
    • If we hear more diverse perspectives in our learning events, the research shows that everyone benefits from increased critical thinking, problem solving, cognitive skills, motivation, and intellectual self-confidence!
    • At Scaling Intimacy, we launched our Experience Design Diversity Initiative in June 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, in an effort to make experience design more accessible to people of color for whom finances are an obstacle to attending. Through this initiative, we offer 50% off scholarships, and have had amazing people attend our programs who have brought invaluable perspectives to the table that enriched the experience for everyone.

🎯 3) How are you continuing to learn and grow?

Acknowledging our shortcomings when it comes to inclusion takes a lot of self-reflection and inner awareness. We may not always get it right, but every missed opportunity is an invitation for learning and growth. 🌱 The best way to resource yourself is by going on your own learning journey with mentors who can help illuminate the path forward.  What is the right next step for you? 

You’re invited to deep dive with us on the topic of inclusion. 

⭐ Join our special upcoming Virtual Connection Lab, on July 20th at 11am PST, where Jenny Sauer-Klein (Scaling Intimacy Founder) and Wendy Horng Brawer (Head of Innovation & Learning at Intune Collective) team up to take you straight to the heart of inclusion.  Come experience how inclusion and belonging are related, and how you can be the catalyst for inclusion in any group, whether you are leading or participating.


 ⭐ We are also curious to know what you have seen, experienced, and/or experimented with to foster more inclusion in YOUR workshops? Let us know in the comments below! 💬