förening för alla

Inclusive organising

av | mar 22, 2016

Inclusive organisations are not only more diverse but also stronger in terms of membership and legitimacy. This blog post, aimed at an international audience, introduces the norm-critical approach as a powerful tool for building inclusive and vital organisations.

There are many good reasons to work towards more inclusive civil society organisations. To begin with, it is obvious that an organisation that doesn’t discriminate against minorities or certain genders can attract many more members. Nobody wants to get involved in an organisation were they don’t feel welcome. Many organisations even build up structures that make it more or less impossible for certain people to participate.

For organisations with a closed recruitment base, for instance trade unions, student unions or patients organisations, having a diverse membership is vital. Within the framework of representative democracy, these organisations are claiming to represent not only their members but the entire recruitment base. So if the organisation is less diverse then the group it claims to represent, this is a serious harm to its legitimacy.

The issue might appear to be less urgent for organisations with an open recruitment base like sports or hobby organisations. On the other hand, these organisations have the potential to be a meeting place for people from different backgrounds, thus contributing to a vivid democracy regardless of their formal objectives. In that sense, diverse associations can make an impact far beyond the organisation itself.

The first step towards a more inclusive civil society organisation is to see membership and commitment as strategic issues that will have to inform all operations of the organisation. Without a well-reasoned strategy, the members will most likely recruit new members that are similar to themselves. In the long run, this will lead to a homogeneous organisation and the more homogeneous the organisation is, the more difficult it will be to reach out to other groups. A viscous circle. One powerful tool that will help you break this pattern and to create a strategy is The Membership Model.

For the next step, let me introduce what has become known as a norm-critical (not to be confused with non-critical!) approach in Sweden. That means to challenge what is regarded as “normal” in society. Societal norms are indivisible until someone breaks them. Then the blame is often put on the person breaking the norm, rather than challenging the norm itself.

At this point, one might argue that many norms are vital for society to work, like for instance not to kill, not to steal or even unwritten rules about how to behave on public transport. And sure, societal norms not are not negative per se. But again, just to make these norms visible is beneficial as it helps people to navigate them. That is certainly the case for an organisation’s internal set of norms which can be rather different for new members to grasp.

Let’s take a closer look on two norms and how they can affect your organisation. There are many more, but those two might serve as examples here. One example of a negative norm norm is the hetero norm: people are assumed to be straight unless they say otherwise. Another one is the functionality norm, assuming that people generally don’t have any disabilities. These norms can cause organisations to exclude unconsciously. The hetero norm might cause an organisation to only displays pictures of straight couples and nuclear families on leaflets, the web page etc. Being unaware of the functionality norm might lead to meetings being hold in inaccessable locations or that all available food is uneatable for people with allergies.

There are many more norms, based on for instance ethnicity, gender, age or class. Organisations and movements can even have their own internal sets of norms that can vary widely from the surrounding society. These internal norms can be as excluding as the general societal norms.

Having a hetero-normative mindset is not identical to being a homophobe. The functionality norm is not identical to ableism. Yet, the results are pretty much the same. Unintended discrimination is still discrimination. Norms build exclusive structures. Being regarded as “normal” is a privilege on the expense of those who are not conforming to the norm. Being regarded as a norm-breaker/abnormal is closely connected to be subjected to othering, a form of marginalisation.

A traditional approach to deal with discrimination is the concept of tolerance – to tolerate people who can’t conform to a norm. However, tolerance is highly problematic as it only addresses those who benefit from the norm system and appeals to them not to discriminate, based on kindness. Tolerance does not question the unjust power structures who label certain people as normal and others as abnormal. To meet people who are regarded as abnormal with tolerance is to exercise power as this tolerance could be withdrawn at any point.

Furthermore, campaigns aiming to increase tolerance are to their nature only targeting those who are privileged enough to be regarded as normal. So they are actually reinforcing the notion that only “normal” people have agency.

The norm-critical approach is all about raising awareness, making norms visible and questioning those norms who subject people to othering and limit the development of their personality. As these norms are deeply rooted, there is no quick fix. However, there are plenty of methods help you get started!

So what are you waiting for?

Niklas Hill

Niklas Hill forskar om demokrati i ideella organisationer vid Stockholms universitet. Han är även grundare till bokförlaget Trinambai.

om

Föreningar är en mötesplats för människor med olika bakgrund. De skapar tillit mellan människor och bygger socialt kapital. Med Förening för alla vill vi skapa en plattform för erfarenhetsutbyte och idédebatt inom den ideella sektorn.

Vissa av inläggen presenterar de senaste rön från civilsamhällsforskningen. Andra behandlar väldigt praktiska frågor från föreningars vardag. Det händer att vi tar in inlägg som inte har med föreningar att göra utan som behandlar andra former av engagemang.

Förening för alla drivs av Trinambai som ett pro bono-projekt. Vi tjänar inga pengar på bloggen och alla skribenter bidrar ideellt.

Vill du skriva på Förening för alla? Läs vår skribenthandledning och hör av dig!

[caldera_form id="CF5e9dc4cfe36e4"]

Sex tips för medlemsrekrytering i coronatider

När varje fysiskt möte innebär en smittorisk kan medlemsrekrytering vara en utmaning. Hur kan vi rekrytera när vi inte har möjlighet att träffas? Här kommer sex tips för att lyckas med att attrahera, rekrytera och välkomna medlemmar i coronatider. 1. Tänk på att många...

Omvärldsbevakning

En styrelse som saknar information och analys gällande omvärldshändelserna kan sakna styrning och innehåll. Omvärldsbevakning bör vara en av styrelsens kontinuerliga uppgifter. Bevakning och analys av relevanta händelser är nödvändiga för en välfungerande styrelse....

Stötta föreningslivet – minska ungdomsarbetslösheten!

Förra året lyssnade jag på ett föredrag av forskaren Peter Håkansson under mångfaldsveckan HELA Landskrona. Han har forskat på ungdomsarbetslöshet. Den vanligaste metoden för ungdomar att hitta ett arbete är genom släkt och vänner. Den metoden är framför allt viktig...

Relevanta om tio år?

Det är inte ovanligt att organisationer som har funnits länge undrar om de kommer att förbli relevanta om några decennier framöver. Frågan om relevans handlar i grund och botten om föreningens ändamål men även om medlemsnyttan, engagemang och inkludering. Föreningen...

Vänstra handen vice

När jag nyligen blev tvungen att avlägsna mig från styrelsen på grund av sjukdom klev vice ordföranden fram och ledde styrelsens arbete. Vice ordföranden tog med andra ord över ordförandeposten när jag som ordförande blev förhindrad. Det handlar om en viktig...