The initiative “Encontrarse en la Diversidad” (English “meeting in diversity”) has made the topic of inclusion cool among young Argentinians. Its efforts were recognised by the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group with the Intercultural Innovation Award. Co-Founder Liora Gomel reveals the key to her their success.
Ms Gomel, you launched “Encontrarse en la Diversidad” more than ten years ago in Argentina to raise young people’s awareness of diversity in society and help them fight everyday discrimination.
Before that, hardly anyone was talking about inclusion in Argentina. Young people, especially, tended to be unaware of the importance to society of diversity and treating all people fairly. And yet it is crucially important that young people, more than anyone else, develop an awareness of discrimination. But, because this wasn’t considered “fun”, there wasn’t really an awful lot of interest.
What you offer is different. You already had 200 young people sign up for your very first inclusion conference. Last year, you held your ninth conference – with no fewer than 2,000 delegates. What can similar initiatives around the world learn from you?
Prejudices are not something we are born with; we learn them. And if we can learn them; we can unlearn them, right? One way we do this is by using YouTube videos. This gives us realistic examples of how young people can be pushed into different stereotypes. We turn situations around and ask: What would this scenario look like if the male and female roles were reversed? We also use methods similar to improvisational theatre: We act out this role reversal. Physically embodying these roles helps people feel the prejudices, recognise them and overcome them. Young people learn to define themselves not by their differences to others, but by developing their own self-assured role models.
Your youth-friendly and entertaining initiative for confronting the topic of inclusion has won numerous awards, including the Intercultural Innovation Award. The award is presented once a year by the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group. More than 1,300 initiatives from 130 countries competed last time round.
The Intercultural Innovation Award was a really important award for us. Not just because of the funding we received for our work, but especially for the tremendous visibility it gave us. It provides us with access to a global network of initiatives, committed individuals and decision-makers. Many inclusion projects around the world have been inspired by our approaches and experience – and we, of course, learn from other projects and are able to try out new methods. We even have a binational project planned for 2019 together with Paraguay.
What can companies like the BMW Group do to support inclusion?
The BMW Group and other companies already play a major role in promoting inclusion. It is important for us to have them by our side. It benefits everyone. Because this naturally also improves inclusion in these companies’ own working environments: This is the foundation for more ideas and better cooperation. Leveraging this even more intensively and applying it more widely would be a decisive step in the right direction.