Apr 17, 2023 14 min read

Inclusion Starts Here

Image of Host, Ame Sanders, with quote from transcript.

Episode 44, 19 min listen

Inclusion starts with each of us.

This episode is part of the series: The Practice of Building a More Inclusive Community. In this episode, we explore the practice area we call Self Work. Along the way, Emma Winiski and I will discuss and share ideas for how each of us can progress on our personal journey toward inclusion and equity and why our practice of Self Work is essential to building a more inclusive community.

Image of Co-Host, Emma Winiski, with quote from transcript.


Listen on Apple Podcasts or Listen on Spotify

The Practice of Building a More Inclusive Community: Part 1 (an overview)

The Practice of Building a More Inclusive Community: Part 2 (an overview)


Do the Work! An Anti-Racist Activity Book, by W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz (Links to my Bookshop.org site)

Explore your own biases at Project Implicit.

Belonging: A Weekly Practice This is a weekly practice session over ZOOM that is sponsored by the Othering & Belonging Institute.

Resources for White Allies, from the University of Wisconsin - Madison

Learn more about Life After Hate.

The End of Bias: A Beginning, by Jesica Nordell (Links to my Bookshop.org site)

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald (Links to my Bookshop.org site)

Inclusion Starts With I: Eight Steps to Inclusion: The Personal Journey, by Dr. Mary-Frances Winters (Links to Amazon.com, Please note this is a tiny book. I bought my copy used, given the current pricing.)

The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Application, by Otto Scharmer (Links to my Bookshop.org site)

Inner Development Goals Model, developed in partnership with the UN.


Emma Winiski is a second-year Master in Public Policy candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School. Previously, she worked as a researcher in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where her work focused on substance use disorders. In 2018, Emma started working with Ame at State of Inclusion as she finished her undergraduate degree at Furman University.



Ame Sanders 00:11

Hi, this is Ame Sanders from State of Inclusion. If you've been listening for a while, or maybe even if you just discovered the State of Inclusion Podcast, you may know that for the last several years, we've been on a journey, a journey of research, discovery, and most importantly of conversation. In these conversations, we've heard how individuals all across the country are working to make their communities more equitable, more inclusive, and more just. In this new state of inclusion podcast series, we will use what we've learned from these conversations, along with our research, to suggest an approach, a practice for building a more inclusive world, one community at a time.

Hi, this is Ame Sanders.

Emma Winiski 01:02

And I'm Emma Winiski.

We'd like to thank you for joining us for another episode of the Practice of Building an Inclusive Community. In this episode, Ame and I will dig a little deeper into the practice of Self Work. As always, we've benefited from a lot of work done before us.

Ame Sanders 01:17

We certainly have Emma. I'll mention a few of our inspiration sources and I'll include even more of these in the show notes. But first, we'll draw on concepts that we've already talked about, including the practice of adaptive leadership that we talked about in earlier episodes. We'll also draw from the work of the Presencing Institute and the writings of Otto Scharmer its co-founder, who's a senior lecturer in the MIT Sloan School of Management. We're also going to build on the Inner Development Goals that were developed to support the United Nations Agenda 2030 and their 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In all three of these models of change, these thought leaders all understood that transforming complex outer systems without transforming ourselves is just not possible.

Emma Winiski 02:05

Thanks, Ame.

Alright, let's get started.

-For All of Us

Ame Sanders 02:08

I mentioned this quote in our introduction, but I'd like to share it again. It's from Bill Bradley; he's a former senator and a basketball player. His quote is, "A lot of people want to change the world, but only a few people want to change themselves. When it comes to the issue of race in America, we have to do both."

Emma Winiski 02:29

So who is the "we" here?

Ame Sanders 02:31

I would say that a very important part of this work is recognizing that it's all of us that all of us are on our own personal journey. We've got our own personal work to do to make us better citizens in our community, better allies, better people, but also better suited for this work. And you know, for sure, some of us have a lot further to travel than others and some of us have a lot more learning to do. But, we're all on this journey. This section isn't just for the privileged among us--and I definitely put myself in that category--but it applies to all of us.

Emma Winiski 03:06

In your recent interview with Gery Parades Vásquez, she so clearly described how her team at the Madison YWCA is on an ongoing journey. She told us that she liked to imagine their team as a group of people that were actively learning, actively unlearning, sometimes leading, sometimes collaborating, to deepen their own practice for racial justice and liberation. She also reminded us that in some areas, we will be new learners, and in other areas we will be older learners and practitioners. She talked about how their group were new learners in how to share power with youth.

Ame Sanders 03:41

Yeah. I really love to think about it the way that Gery described it. In some ways, it gives us the grace to accept ourselves wherever we find ourselves on this journey. And also, it just reminds us, as she said, that some of us may be old learners in certain areas, like race, for example, but new learners in areas like, as she talked about, youth empowerment but also maybe gender equity. We also have to realize that we may hold on to certain biases or opinions that aren't serving us or serving our community.

Gery reminded us that our journey involves learning, but it also involves unlearning. We also have an opportunity to examine our beliefs and our actions in what the practice of adaptive leadership calls "naming our part of the mess." We may not have created the conditions within which we find ourselves, but we are all part of the ecosystem, the environment through which disparities and injustices are currently perpetuated. How might our actions perpetuate or allow that system to continue for some in our community? What do we need to learn or unlearn to help ourselves and our community evolve?

Emma Winiski 04:53

This is probably a good time to clarify one point. You're not saying that those people who are experiencing inequities are somehow responsible for those being perpetuated, correct?

Ame Sanders 05:04

No. Of course not. I just want everybody who hears this to know we all have opportunity in this section called Self Work. Changing our community and the systems we rely on and participate in is going to mean that we have to examine and open ourselves. We'll have to learn new behaviors or unlearn old patterns or behavior. It could be working on forgiveness or trust. For others, it might be starting to finally open themselves to seeing what is and has been going on all around them. For some, it can mean stepping outside their own story, their own trauma, to see how to include others that are being excluded as well. So again, as Gery says, sometimes we're old learners in some areas and new learners and others. We can all deepen our practice.

Emma Winiski 05:51

If we want to build a more inclusive community, and we believe that work has to start with us, can we talk about what that might look like?

-Wake Up

Ame Sanders 05:12

Yeah, sure. So, there are five main areas we'd like to consider today. Remember, you could find yourself anywhere along this journey, and in any of these five. So, Emma, why don't you kick us off with the first area?

Emma Winiski 06:13

Sure thing. So, the first area we're going to call Wake Up. And I know that the word "woke," or the idea of being woke is overused and has a negative connotation for so many. But, I think honestly, there is a process of waking up to the world around us, to our own role in the larger world, that is definitely necessary for this area of practice and for this work.

So, when we say waking up, we mean, waking up to what you might not have noticed before, whether that be the struggles that you or your neighbors face, or maybe to the privilege that you benefit from. It also means waking up and acknowledging an honest assessment of history. It also means becoming more aware of yourself and how you exist in this world. How your behavior might contribute to perpetuating unacceptable cycles of exclusion and othering that we see in our communities.

For those who have been harmed, perhaps waking up means identifying and naming areas where pain and trauma are making it hard for you to move forward. But for all of us, it means not depending on others to teach us, but being grateful for and honoring the teachers that do come. Choosing a path forward where our learning and growth doesn't take away from others, cause them to relive trauma, or hurt them in any way is also a part of what we're calling the Wake Up process.

-Listen up

Ame Sanders 07:36

Our second area that we're going to touch on is Listen Up. This means actively listening and learning, not just listening to be downloading information or confirming what you already know. Instead, it means understanding what is going on around you. Being willing to not just listen within your own bubble but be willing to notice and take in facts that are different from what you believe or have believed to be true.

Practicing deep listening and dialogue to build skills and sense-making.

This isn't about telling the story you wish were true but really entering into dialogue and deep listening to understand what may be underneath the surface, even if what you uncover makes you uncomfortable. Importantly, it also means empathic listening, trying to see the world through the eyes of another. This can be especially hard when you feel the other person has disrespected or wronged you in some way.

Ultimately, it means generative listening, holding space for something new to be born that may be different from our existing reality or even what we expect. Letting go of our ideas of what the solution has to look like or trying to control the outcome. In doing this kind of listening, Otto Scharmer suggests that we will need to silence inside ourselves the voices of judgment, cynicism, and of fear. Again, this can be really hard if we've been harmed in the past or have seen previous attempts at community change fail or fade out over time.

Emma Winiski 09:18

I can pipe in here and mention something from my time at Furman where I was involved with a religious organization called Mere Christianity Forum. Before spending time together, we would read these things called Covenants of Presence, to sort of center ourselves and set norms for how we wanted to be in community with one another. The second one was just "Listen generously." I think, you know, this ties in nicely with the area of practice, but to be in community with one another, you have to focus on listening first as a way to invite others into the space and to have others invite you in as well.

-Open Up

So, our third area is called Open Up. This means opening ourselves to the connectedness that we share with those around us and finding a way to care for others in the world--to appreciate them as people and individuals and value who they are. No judgment. There was also a Covenant of Presence called "suspend judgment. So, I think there's a lot of synergy between these two.

It also means engaging in our community with empathy and compassion. It also means holding personal and cultural humility as we move forward into areas where we are new learners, holding intention and making room in our world to purposefully and respectfully be in community with individuals we might not typically interact with. This isn't saying we're supposed to interact with those as saviors or as people who are morally superior, but as peers. Which requires both trusting and being trustworthy. We all have room to grow into what Otto Scharmer says, "a cycle of presencing" that includes curiosity (opening our mind), compassion (opening our heart), and courage (opening our will or intention).

-Speak Up

Ame Sanders 11:02

So, our fourth area is Speak Up. This is a step where we start to own the responsibility for own presence and space in the world, our relationships with other people, and within our community. We know that when we see something that's wrong, and we don't say anything, we are condoning that behavior and we allow it to perpetuate. It's about finding our voice and speaking in a way to embody and bring into existence the community that we want to see.

W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz have some great tips for this in their Do the Work! An Antiracist Activity Book. They give us suggestions on what to do before the conversation, during the conversation, and after the conversation. They even give us tips for how we can use our privilege to make a difference for marginalized folks. in addition to great ways to speak up, importantly, they also talk about how we can apologize and repair harm when we inevitably make mistakes and our actions or words are wrong or hurtful. You know, we can't let fear of mistakes keep us from speaking up or taking the next step to improve ourselves and our community.

-Step Up

So, our fifth area is what I call Step Up. Ultimately, it's about stepping up to embody and co-create the community we want to see. It's about beginning the work together to build what Charles Eisenstein calls--and I love this phrase--"the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible." The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. And Anthony Cabraal says that "community is like a muscle that grows when you practice together."

So as a recap, our five areas for Self Work are Wake Up, Listen Up, Open Up, Speak Up, and Step Up. So, Emma, in our introduction, when we talked about Self Work, you reminded us, or you reminded me, that Self Work isn't something that we do by ourselves. So, I'd like to kind of go back to that notion and revisit that for a moment.

Emma Winiski 13:08

Sure thing. And it's clear in that list that we went through only the first one of those areas could possibly be done by ourselves. Sometimes Waking Up can benefit from help as well, as we discussed. Particularly around waking up from your own blind spots, we need other people to help hold us accountable. So, you mentioned the Antiracist Activity Book. What about resources for those of us interested in continuing our journey?

-Ideas and Suggestions

Ame Sanders 13:35

There are some great ideas and suggestions in the Antiracist Activity Book. In addition to that, there are lots of other resources, lots of steps of practice learning and unlearning. I'll include some links and resources in the show notes. I want to be honest; this isn't easy work, and sometimes it can feel pretty uncomfortable. So, we need to have a few things in mind about this journey. First, it isn't about getting done with this part so we can get on to something else. This aspect of our work doesn't really ever end. It is a practice. It's about circling, about repeating over and over and deepening over time. You know, the student can only learn what we're ready to learn. As we deepen and as we gain experience, we will be able to learn more and more. And we will open more and more. So, we are really truly talking about a practice.

Emma Winiski 14:29

Changes like this are really hard for most of us and oftentimes far from obvious. Honestly, some psychologists and sociologists admit that it's very hard to unlearn past practices of racism, identify and root out implicit bias against certain groups, or disconnect ourselves from stereotypes that are still perpetuated around us all the time.

However, you can at least interrupt your automatic processes over time. You can choose to pause and think differently, to know yourself better, to make different choices, relate to others differently and intentionally. I've heard it described as something like trying to break a bad habit, and we all know how hard that can be and how long it takes if we are ever truly successful. Again, this is a journey and a practice.

-More Help

Ame Sanders 15:19

You know, Emma, we talked with Stephen Piggott, the other week, and he talked about some of the hate groups and white supremacist organizations. He called them anti-democratic groups. You know, maybe you have a family member or a friend or a child who's gotten tangled up in this in some way, and you're looking for resources to help someone who is deeply embedded in that kind of anti-democratic or hate group. There are some organizations out there that can help with that, and I'll include some references for that in our show notes.

One group, Life After Hate, described their work as a two-step process. The first was this idea of disengagement, helping the person exit from the community. Then the second part being de-radicalization, working with their thoughts and beliefs to shift their thinking. So, there's definitely help out there for those who are looking for a way out of that kind of life. Again, I'll include links in the show notes for anyone who would like to learn more about that.

-Impacting Our Community

You know, there's another aspect of this, and Emma, you and I talked about whether to include this or not. It'll be obvious for some but maybe not to others, so I wanted to include it. Some of our listeners might wonder, how does changing ourselves really change our community? I just want to remind everybody that creating a community is not the act of a single person but a generative, collaborative process. It's a co-creation amongst all community members, and how each of us shows up in that process matters. It matters a lot.

So, a few ideas to consider.

John Paul Lederach talks about what he and his daughter term as "social echo." What he describes is that as you deepen your own practice, as you shift how you move in the world, that can be felt by people around you and ripples out in waves to touch other people in ways you may not even understand or know. There's another point to consider, which is pretty well stated by Bill O'Brien, who's the late CEO of Hanover Insurance when he says, "the success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener."

In this practice of Self Work, we are preparing ourselves. Having done that preparation ourselves is key to our being able to work within the community to bring about the kind of change that we hope to see.

Finally, it's about creating, as we said earlier, that more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. The more we're able to have a shared shift in consciousness all across the community, the more likely the world that we desire will emerge. Otto Scharmer tells us that, "quality of results in in each social system is a function of the consciousness from which the people in that system operate." He suggests with his work, that "form follows consciousness." As always, thanks, Emma for being part of these discussions around the Practice of Building a More Inclusive Community.


Emma Winiski 18:23

Of course. And if anyone is out there thinking to themselves, "what if I'm not sure that I'm ready?" Alicia Garza, cofounder of the Black Lives Matter movement offered an introduction to the Antiracist Activity Book. She gave us all some good advice. She writes, "You don't have to know everything before you can make a change. You don't have to do things perfectly to make a change. You just have to be willing to learn and to try." So, we may individually realize that we are on a big journey. It's good to know that in our own work and in our community, we're not alone.

Ame Sanders 19:06

Thanks for listening. This has been the State of Inclusion Podcast.

Join us again next time. And if you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share these ideas with others. Leave us a review. We'd love your comments.

Thanks so much for listening.


Guest: Emma Winiski

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
Table of Contents
Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to The Inclusive Community.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.