In 2005, DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) work seemed like the natural progression of my career. After working for a number of years in a corporate setting and feeling undervalued and unseen as an African-American Gay male, I began my work as a DEIB consultant. My goal was to fix what I believed were the systemic inequities that plagued workplace institutions across the world. Although my work would expand to organizational strategy and management consulting, DEIB would remain a fundamental pillar of my pedagogy. DEIB was not a superficial consideration; it was central to the idea of creating equitable workplaces, and I was always astonished when I met organizational development practitioners from across the world who treated the field of DEIB as inconsequential or secondary to their work in organizational psychology or leadership. DEIB facilitates greater social awareness and highlights structural inequalities that impact day-to-day interactions in the workplace.
Yet for all of its insight, the focus of DEIB work seemed limited to North America. It didn’t have the global focus or even the inclusive terminology to make it relevant for global audiences. As a result, after many years of working in the DEIB field, I immersed myself in interculturalism in hope of bridging the gap between DEIB and the global sphere.
Unbeknownst to me, Bert Vercamer was on a complimentary journey. Having grown up in a small town in Belgium in a mono-identity environment, Bert had become immersed in the intercultural field, having completed a Bachelors and Master’s program in intercultural relations and a Master’s degree in economics. Yet, ten years into the intercultural world, something started gnawing at him: Bert met hundreds of interculturalists who wanted to get involved in social causes (such as the refugee crisis in Europe or the sustainability movement in Latin America) but who lacked a clear-eyed view of how our imperfect world came to be. In Bert’s estimation, intercultural skills and competencies - while foundational - didn't prepare interculturalists to adequately address issues of power and privilege or marginalization and hegemony. Later on, after the brutal murder of George Floyd, the intercultural framework again didn't provide instructive answers. In many ways, it didn’t even ask the right questions. Bert saw fellow interculturalists start using DEIB vocabulary without making any changes to their models, work, and most importantly, their thinking.
Bert’s perspective was one that I had heard from my colleague Amer Ahmed, an equity practitioner and thought leader who was raised in the Midwest by Indian-Muslim immigrants. Amer noted local economic and racial inequities in his community in Ohio while also encountering extreme poverty during family visits to India. In seeking to better understand cultures, history and inequity in our world, Amer studied cultural anthropology and Black World Studies in college and studied abroad in South Africa and Nepal. Frustrated by the ongoing implications of colonialism in our world, Amer attended intercultural conferences hoping to find allyship in addressing the inequities he witnessed throughout the world.
However, as Amer and I found ourselves alone in a bar lounge at the SIETAR USA Conference in San Diego in 2017, we entertained an important question: “Is the way we are collectively doing this work working?” It was a conversation that was gaining more traction in our respective networks, and both of us agreed that something was missing. DEIB focused mightily on consciousness raising, but it often failed in teaching practical skills in order to manage cultural identity, differences, and similarities. Interculturalism had a strong bench of intercultural competencies and skill-sets but the intercultural practice often ignored questions related to equity and power, as well as the legacy of enslavement, colonialism, and imperialism. DEIB and Interculturalism operate largely within organizational and/or business circles, but they sometimes fail to inspire and support movements that germinate in the social and communal context. Movements such as “BlackLivesMatter” and #NiUnaMenos have implications far beyond corporate confines.
As Amer and I discussed the missing elements in DEIB, Interculturalism (IC), and Social Justice, Amer would soon have an identical conversation with Bert. And as Bert and I became acquainted personally and professionally, we too discussed the implications and shortcomings of adopting the single-minded approach that adherents in each of the three aforementioned fields can suffer from.
In truth, our questions were not unique. We discovered that many of our friends and colleagues had similar concerns and as social unrest mounted in the U.S. in 2018, many of our colleagues recognized how their IC approach was incompatible with the American social landscape, much like our DEIB colleagues who recognized the problematic approach of applying DEIB to global affairs where DEIB was seen as an “American” invention. Further, we saw a growing need to align our work with the human rights activists who were doing comparable work to resolve similar issues “in the streets” without the gravitas extended to their DEIB or IC counterparts.
As a result, we created a 7-point pedagogical and practitioner model – the Global Inclusion Praxis Model - that incorporates DEIB, Interculturalism, Social Justice, and Empowered Leadership. Additionally, we launched a certification program in January 2022 to teach practitioners from a variety of disciplines and from anywhere in the world how to do equity work in a systemic, equitable, and globally-minded way. Our training program, which is offered four times a year and contains 18-hours of coursework (in-class and asynchronous), has been endorsed by Purdue University and SIETAR USA.
Our work is premised on the notion that each field – DEIB, Interculturalism, and Social Justice - brings something great to the table that when blended with and amplified by each other, creates an innovative, creative, and progressive model that will help move the planet forward. As one of our graduates reiterated, the work of the Global Inclusion Certification Program makes it possible for aspiring practitioners to do global equity work in a holistic and effective way. Under the banner of Global Inclusion, we invite you to learn from us as we learn from you in order to collectively foster equity, justice, and intercultural understanding. Visit us at www.global-inclusion.com.
Dr. Joel A. Davis Brown
Dr. Amer F. Ahmed