I’ve been doing a bit of Googling recently on the subject of community inclusion, motivated initially by what I heard people saying about causes of the riots that shook the UK this summer.
I was away from the UK when the riots took place but certainly felt the nation’s confusion upon my return. Politicians, journalists, academics and community leaders alike struggled to articulate and agree on the causes and solutions.
The confusion, of course, isn’t surprising, since there is never just one cause of civil unrest easily pinpointed and eradicated. But what has surprised me is some of the labelling that’s been used, one phrase in particular really making me sit-up with shock.
People participating in the riots have been referred to as a ‘feral underclass’. A label so stigmatizing, it seems to me, that anybody existing within this ‘group’ is undermined of any opportunity to escape their circumstances and get back into the mainstream of society. For that surely is what we all want to happen – and for a common ground of expectation, ethics and behaviour to prevail.
Why do some of us feel a welcome part of the community we live in, when others do not? How can community inclusion be defined?
As I looked into the subject I came across hundreds of different organisations representing the interests of particular groups, defined primarily by race, age, sexuality and abilities. The majority of these organisations talked of the desire to be accepted into communities as the people they are. But one mission statement I came across stood out because it could be applied to all people and communities everywhere. It read:
- We will support people to lead ordinary lives in the community
- We will develop individuals to access the same choices as everyone else
- We will develop your chosen activities, interests or skills
- We will enhance opportunities for you.
For me, these statements of intent, very simply sum up what community inclusion means – they incorporate both the practical and emotional aspects of inclusion. Plus with each new point there is a growing sense of doors being opened. And what is more welcoming than that? An open door when for all your life you’ve suffered the feeling of doors being closed.
In organisation, let’s keep our doors open – physically and virtually. Our communities will be more united that way.