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Tuesday, 21st November 2017
 

Creative Inclusion

HOW TO OPEN HEARTS AND MINDS

Atul k. shah

Chetna Mistry from the local Hindu community, painting the Rangoli at the RSPCA HQ in Horsham, West Sussex. All photos, Joe Murphy, RSPCA

 

One of Britain’s oldest and most distinguished charities, the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), which specialises in the promotion of animal welfare, have commissioned Diverse Ethics to help them engage with various faith communities. Mr. Gavin Grant, the Chief Executive, understands very well the huge importance of faith communities in Britain and is keen to work with them to promote care and compassion. In choosing the engagement approach, Diverse Ethics placed creativity at the very heart of the formula.

We launched this initiative in September 2012 at the outstanding Jain temple in London during their Paryushan festival of Jiv Daya (compassion for all life), a short report and film of which you can view here. At this event, leaders from the RSPCA were very open to learning and engagement, and built a unique relationship with the community through humility and respect.

For the next phase of the project, RSPCA leaders attended the Hindu Navratri dance festival at the Crawley GHU Hindu Temple and then celebrated the Diwali festival at their headquarters in Crawley. Mr. Ashwin Soni, a trustee from the Temple cooperated fully in this project, helping with the RSPCA engagement with significant warmth, professionalism and hospitality. A stunning ‘Rangoli floor painting’ was commissioned depicting the Elephant God Ganesha, and two talented artists from the local community, Binita and Chetana, created the artwork. I explained that even though the Rangoli will be swept away after a few days, Hindus see their whole life as an offering where the joy comes from giving and sharing and beautifying the planet, with a minimum of harm and a maximum of good. Detachment from the fruits of the actions is the hallmark of a true Hindu – and there is joy in living compassionately and charitably. The wonderful animal welfare work of the RSPCA is to be applauded for its selflessness and respect for those who are voiceless and harmless and who show unconditional love and compassion. A special reception was held with Council members and local dignitaries to mark the occasion.

After the event, this is the feedback we got from the Chief Executive of the  RSPCA, Mr. Gavin Grant:“Thank you for sharing with us the gift of your magnificent art and delicious food and for providing insights into your Faith. Above all thank-you for the blessings of Lord Ganesh in protecting the RSPCA: our Inspectors, staff & volunteers, and the animals we seek to prevent from suffering at man's hands.”

The impact of the Rangoli on the staff was truly mesmerising, and it made them reflect on the joy of diversity, and the advantage of learning from different cultures and faiths. Staff at RSPCA HQ in Horsham observing the Rangoli in action.

As a case study of embracing cultural diversity, the RSPCA approach is a role model which could be emulated by many large organisations all over the world. Here is what RSPCA trustee and author of 'The Compassionate Animal', Barbara Gardner, said:

'The value of the RSPCA's engagement with the Hindu and Jain communities, to harness our shared belief in non-violence and compassion for all living things, is immeasurable. Together we are a powerful voice for the animals.'

For a small investment, the entire organisation was able to build profound links with a large community and at the same time inspire and educate their members, staff and trustees. Diversity is a vast creative opportunity, waiting to be tapped – and NOT a threat or a nuisance, as many leaders sadly see it today, consciously or unconsciously. Practising diversity and inclusion creates multi-dimensional WIN-WIN opportunities for any organisation, where growth and progress results and everyone becomes a winner.

Mr. Ashwin Soni (Crawley Hindu Temple), artist Binita Kateria, Mr. Gavin Grant (RSPCA CEO), artist Chetna Mistry and Atul Shah (Diverse Ethics) next to Ganesha, the Lord of protection.

Here are some comments from staff members at the RSPCA:

“Beautiful, skilled work”

“Thank you for bringing colour to our day and a chance for reflection”

“Thanks for coming to do the rangoli for us. It was a nice change to our working day to see this colourful art unfolding in front of our eyes.  I could have stayed to watch for much longer. I wonder how the ladies manage to get such neat edges to their work - if I tried it, the picture would have fuzzy outlines!  It wasn't until the following day that I noticed there are also some sparkly bits in the colours. “

“I found the whole event totally enlightening. It was lovely to be invited to be part of such a wonderful celebration and to gain an insight in to the Hindu faith and community. The Rangoli is an inspirational "art festival" and I loved that each day during Diwali they remove the previously created Rangoli to make space for a new artist - what a lovely way of thinking.”

Sadly far too many organisations today approach Equality in the wrong way, and focus on legal compliance by using a minimalist approach, rather than invest in it as a growth and creative opportunity. Their approach is transactional rather than transformational. As a result, they pay a heavy price for this in terms of training and legal costs, including reputational damage through industrial tribunals. One of the key reasons for this is that the leaders often fail to see or understand the vast bottom-line benefits that ensue from true equality and inclusion. And the price of this, is borne by both organisations and society at large through inequalities and exclusive behaviours.

The opportunity of diversity lies in opening hearts and minds, in harnessing innovation, in mitigating risk and removing complacency and group-think. It helps to lift morale, encourage ethical behaviour, promote organisational loyalty and build sustainability into the fabric of the workplace. For truly diverse and inclusive organisations, creativity and ethics become instinctive actions. And given the increasing globalisation of the world, employers can least afford to be complacent about the bounty of diversity.

Here are some basic tips from this case study:

  • Leaders should directly engage with the diversity agenda and not delegate it downwards.
  • A holistic approach is far more effective than a partial or siloed approach. It also saves a lot of money.
  • Creativity is the key to diversity - rather than lectures, creative methods like culture visits or art are much more powerful
  • Make diversity fun and interesting rather than dull and legalistic
  • Benefits of effective engagement are multi-dimensional
  • Approach diversity with humility, fearlessness and enthusiasm

Atul K. Shah is founder and CEO of Diverse Ethics (www.diverseethics.com).You can contact him by email

Article added on 12th November 2012 at 10:38am

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