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How to create inclusive development programmes

Article by Charlotte Burton-Barker

Diversity, equality and inclusion should be considered and incorporated into all of our learning experiences, content and initiatives. When talking about inclusive development programmes we are talking about creating learning opportunities that empowers participation from all, reflects diverse groups, reduces blockers to learning and considers differing learning needs and styles. 

Why is it so important?
The people we are delivering our programmes to are the most important aspect of the experience. However, we can often get caught up focusing on the content, the look of our training and how we will deliver it that we don’t truly think about how it will land with the audience. 

Development programmes that we create as members of the L&D industry are going to be experienced by people from a diverse range of people who experience the world in different ways, whether that be through ethnicity, socio-economic status, learning ability, age or gender (just to name a few). For our programmes to be successful, meaningful and to deeply embed learning we must consider diversity, equality and inclusion in our design and delivery. 

How can you do it?
We need to create environments and experiences in which people feel involved, connected, respected and comfortable to be real and bring their authentic selves. To do so we must consider various factors when designing and delivering development programmes. Here are four things to focus on when designing development programmes to help make sure they are inclusive: 

  1. Consider your biases: Before beginning your design consider your own biases or the biases of the team that you are working within. This is no small feat as there are over 180 cognitive biases out there! Think about how these may influence the programme that you set out to develop and mitigate these ahead of time. Without self-awareness we cannot improve. 
  2. Do research with diverse groups : Kickstart your discovery process by understanding how different audiences perceive and relate to the subject. This deeper layer of insight will enable you to better relate to a diverse group of people and means your participants are more likely to embed the messages you deliver. 
  3. Vary your approach: Plan your workshops and resources so that they include different methods of sharing information and different types of exercises. By making sure to use a variety of formats you can make sure that individuals with different learning styles and needs get the best from your programme. For example, having written handouts as well as explaining your exercise can help you to navigate language barriers, hearing disabilities and ensure those who learn better through listening are included with the exercise. 
  4. Think about your imagery – it’s important to show representation in the slides, imagery and facilitators. For example, if we are repeatedly shown images of white men whilst talking about leaders this can be disengaging for other groups.

So, when designing your next development programme make sure it’s inclusive by asking yourself: 

  • ​​What biases am I coming into this design process with?
  • Will my audience feel represented in the learning content I deliver to them? 
  • How can I deliver learning in a range of formats? How can I share information about the same topic/task in different ways to suit different needs?
  • How diverse and representative are my materials?

    Charlotte is the Programmes Manager at Wiser, where she builds and develops Early Talent Development Programmes to ensure organisation's get the best from their Graduates, Apprentices and Early Talent cohorts. Her background is in Organisational Psychology and she uses her knowledge in this area to inform the design and delivery of her work.

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