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#YLAI4All Playbook: A Guide to Inclusive Business, Partnerships, & Community

Young people across the Americas are brimming with creativity, diversity, and potential. As we move toward a more inclusive hemisphere that embraces the value of marginalized communities, we must also be honest about the history that has prevented marginalized groups from enjoying the full benefits of growing, dynamic economies.

Nurturing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in our communities fosters belonging, improves livelihoods, and creates the conditions for prosperity and opportunity for all. If you are ready to explore what it takes to realize the vision of building a more inclusive environment,  the #YLAI4All Playbook is for you.  

The Foundation: Understanding Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Belonging

Let’s cover the basics of the diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging (DEIAB) framework, including defining key terms and providing conversation prompts to help you better understand how to make inclusive decisions in your business. 

While this framework may have many advantages in the workplace and community, unless there is a sense of belonging, these efforts will fall short. When people feel they truly belong at work, in community, and in partnerships, they are more connected and engaged. 


Defining Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility and Belonging

Let’s take time to define more key terms so you can better understand DEIAB for yourself, your community and your business.  

Diversity is the understanding and representation of varied identities, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, language, gender and gender identity, education, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, culture, national origin, religious beliefs, age and (dis)ability status, collectively and as individuals. Diversity as a concept should encompass acceptance of various backgrounds and perspectives. Equity is fair treatment, equality of opportunity and fairness in access to information, resources and materials for all. While equality aims to treat everyone equally, equity allows the space for individual- or group-specific needs, experiences and opportunities. Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access and opportunity in the design of our systems and processes. Inclusion involves a culture of belonging, by active invitation, participation and contribution of all people, recognizing and embracing their differences. Inclusion is the practice of authentically bringing marginalized groups or individuals into processes, activities and decision-making in a way that shares power and ensures equal access to opportunities and resources.

Accessibility refers to equal access, opportunities and accommodations for individuals with disabilities to have the same interactions, services and environments as those without disabilities. Accessibility refers to how organizations make space for the characteristics that every person can bring to an organization. Belonging is the emotional goal of inclusion, where everyone feels welcome and comfortable in an inclusive space, not only free to exist without discomfort, discrimination and an absence of accommodation, but also able to feel comfortable addressing any of those barriers without reprisal.

History and Implicit Bias Taking a historical perspective of DEIAB means understanding the social, cultural, economic, intellectual and emotional settings that shaped people’s lives and actions in the past. A key component of undoing oppression and oppressive systems is considering the role of history and how it has affected marginalized communities. When referencing history it is critical to be mindful of your implicit bias and the potential bias of those who are recounting the history. There are often multiple perspectives on each historical event — and each of these perspectives is influenced by the individual's bias. Each individual sees and understands historical events differently depending on their age, gender expression, social position, race, beliefs and values. Take the dialogue offline with these conversation prompts: What does belonging mean to you? What does it look like at home, in your community, in your workplace? What does an inclusive business include? What values should this business have? What are your pronouns? What historical context exists that influences the biases toward your community? What misinformation or disinformation and stereotypes have been attributed to your community? How do they make you feel? Have you or your community encountered bias in history?

Intersectionality Defined

“Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” — Kimberlé Crenshaw

Learn more: Kimberlé Crenshaw — TED Talks: The urgency of intersectionality

A person is not only their gender expression, race, skin color, ethnicity, class, disability or sexuality; people are a combination of these and many other identities. Intersecting identities influence how each of us experiences our world and how we contribute diverse perspectives to our community and workplaces.

Intersectionality is the framework for understanding the interconnected nature of social organizations, overlapping identities and experiences in order to better understand the disadvantages and systems of discrimination individuals face due to the many complex interconnections. Intersectionality is critical when considering and implementing equity.

Taking an intersectional approach to your DEIAB efforts by understanding these identities and building a business or partnership that reflects the diversity of your community or team takes thoughtful planning, inclusive human-centered design and thorough implementation over time.  

Take the dialogue offline with these conversation prompts: Can you classify a few aspects of your identity? (For example, your age, race, physical ability, education, religious beliefs, geographic location?) Which identities have the strongest effect on how you perceive yourself? Which identities have the greatest effect on how others perceive you?

Some of these identities may be more or less felt in different social contexts, but many of them will consciously or unconsciously have an influence on how you navigate the world and perceive others. Understanding these identities will help you to reflect on your societal privileges and on relationships between groups — in and out of the workplace — and give you better context on how to show up as an ally for marginalized groups. 

What Are Marginalized Groups?


A marginalized group is a group or community discriminated against and excluded from mainstream social, economic, educational, political and/or cultural life. 

Examples of marginalized populations include, but are not limited to, groups excluded due to race, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, class, access to education, physical ability or mental abilities. Marginalization occurs due to unequal power relationships among social groups. 

Individuals who identify as a part of marginalized groups often have more barriers to overcome when accessing resources and opportunities than those from more privileged groups. This is to say, every person and every case is different, and the intersection of these identities is also a key factor in access to opportunities. A society or organization that focuses on equity helps to bring people on the margins to an equal playing field. 

Take the dialogue offline with these conversation prompts: 

Would you consider yourself a member of a marginalized community, or do you know someone who would consider themselves a part of a marginalized community?
In what ways does your/their identity affect your/their standing in society? 
What are microaggressions?

In the workplace, marginalized groups often face subtle forms of discrimination via microaggressions. Microaggressions are small everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages directed at marginalized groups, sometimes disguised as a compliment, and sometimes unintentional, but reflective of deep-rooted bias. Even though each individual experience of a microaggression may be small, their cumulative impact is harmful.

To create inclusive, welcoming and healthy workplaces, we must actively recognize these biases and combat microaggressions. Educate yourself on your bias and expose yourself to diverse perspectives to productively manage your own actions in the workplace and raise awareness, step up for and advocate for individuals who have microaggressions directed toward them.

Understanding and Confronting Bias

Everyone has biases, and these biases can affect many of the decisions we make. Our implicit biases build barriers and create inequities. By understanding and disrupting those biases and preventing the creation of new biases, we can make our communities and workplaces a space where all people can be served and feel welcome.  

What Is Bias? 

Bias is a strong inclination for or against one thing, person or group, compared with another. Biases typically are prejudicial and unfair. There are two types of bias: conscious bias (explicit) and unconscious bias (implicit). 

Unconscious biases are typically social stereotypes that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness, and they can come in many forms. A cycle of prejudice and discrimination can result from acting on stereotypes and biases.

Some common forms of bias include similarity bias, affinity bias and conformity bias, but other forms of prejudice based on bias can include age bias, gender bias, ethnicity bias, racial bias and name bias. Biases can affect every aspect of a person’s life, including education and career trajectory. These are particularly evident in hiring practices.

Take the dialogue offline with these conversation prompts: 

Have you ever faced a situation where someone was biased toward you? How do you wish they had acted differently? 
Can you imagine an example of when your implicit biases influenced a decision you have made? How do you think you could have made that decision without bias?

Bias can show up in your business, partnerships and community in many forms. Being aware of your own biases, and educating your network on theirs, will help you to create a more inclusive environment. To better understand the forms of bias and study a case of unconscious bias, complete the #YLAI4All Workbook. We can all work to prevent the creation of new biases, challenge previously held biases, and limit the overall impact of biases. 

TEXT: Part II of the YLAI4All Playbook: Establishing Core Values & Developing a Strategic Action Plan