A Global Movement of Nudging for Inclusion

When an intervention designed to create leadership engagement for combating harassment in a global corporation with HQ in Denmark is being redesigned by a young man living as a refugee in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya to engage clan leaders to engage in combating conflict between the clans – and it’s working – then you know you are on to something right, something you need to make available to more people – millions of people worldwide. So, this is exactly what we have done by founding the Inclusion Nudges non-profit global initiative and community.

Nudging for inclusion is about making inclusivity the default and norm, because this is the only way we can innovation for the future and ensure good quality of life for all and make good decisions and perform well by leveraging diversity. Inclusion Nudges are interventions designed based on insights from behavioural and social sciences.

The Inclusion Nudges non-profit initiative and community is thousands of practitioners sharing their examples of Inclusion Nudges to enable and empower each other to make more impact.

Why sharing?

The Inclusion Nudges initiative and community is building on a very simple idea.  When we (people who want to make changes) design interventions that nudge the unconscious mind to be inclusive by default, we write exactly what and how we did it to make it work, and then we share it with others who can then do it in their context.

Sharing practical examples of Inclusion Nudges is how it all started when the Founders Lisa Kepinski and Tinna C. Nielsen, met in 2013.

Lisa shared an example with Tinna of how she got leaders to realise their blind spots in seeing the full talent pool and the impact that this had on having wider diversity in senior roles. By designing a simple but powerful intervention where the leaders had to call out the names on the pictures of the 130 top talent in the organisation, the leaders had an ‘aha’ moment where they realised that they didn’t see or know the women as well as the men in the talent pipeline. This became a turning point for their deeper commitment to change — and resulted in more equitable interactions with all in the talent pool and an increase in greater gender balance in senior roles.

Tinna shared with Lisa the example about how she engaged leaders in combating harassment and unacceptable behaviour in the organisation where shewas working. She collecting 40 examples where people had experienced unacceptable behaviour in the organisation, anonymized them and wrote all their stories in first person quotes, printed them in speech bubbles, and put them up on the wallsof the leadership conference room.She asked the leadersto read and said ‘your colleagues and employees have something to tell you’. We know from research that social exclusion hurts physically, even when we’re not directly experiencing it ourselves. Empathy is also triggered when we are faced with others experiencing this kind of treatment. She made a reverse business case, exposing by what percentage the productivity of a team is reduced when one person is treated in this way, as well as how much the person treated like this loses in decision-making power. This helps trigger the loss-aversion bias. We are twice as miserable when we lose something as we are happy when we gain the exact same thing. We are very motivated to avoid losing something.

This intervention changed the way these issues were discussed, activated local initiatives and changed individual behaviour.This is the example that the young man Danial later redesigned to fit the context and challenge in Kakuma refugee camp.

Sharing examples was a huge help in their work as internal as Global Heads of Inclusion & Diversity in multinational organisations. They decided to start sharing in their networks of other practitioners. The original idea was ‘You share one example, and we will share all the examples we collect back with you’. That how it all started.

Today you don’t have to give an example to get access to all the other examples. A lot of practitioners apply Inclusion Nudge examples from others for a long time before and learn this way how to design their own. And many researchers are designing behavioural interventions but not applying them in daily work as practitioners. So, today the initiative is for everybody – those who want to use the examples being shared, those who design without applying, and those doing both — and for those who are curious and want to learn more.

The reason why people in this global community are dedicated to sharing examples of Inclusion Nudges is because we know and believe that that sustainable inclusivity can only come from within an organisation and community. It has to be internal capabilities. It has to be a basic skill set. We enable each other to build these skills by learning from each other’s examples of Inclusion Nudges.

Why the term Inclusion Nudges?

When we, Lisa and Tinna, met each other for the first time in an online virtual meeting where we got to know each and shared our work challenges, struggles, and successes as changes maker for inclusion, diversity, gender parity, and equality. We talked about specific examples of interventions that each of us had designed by applying insights from behavioural and social sciences, as well as behavioural economics, we started noticing a pattern. We identified three types of interventions that had worked for us over the years.

We started calling these ‘Inclusion Nudges’ as a working term because these were very different from traditional approaches to inclusion & diversity. The three types of Inclusion Nudges target motivation, ability/simplicity, and perception.

This was one of those magic meetings where one spark of inspiration led to something we could never have imagined. It led us to merge our similar approaches to behaviour, culture, and system change. In doing so, we developed a framework for how to communicate to others on how to design and apply Inclusion Nudges.  We are now sharing this worldwide through the initiative and the Inclusion Nudges Guidebook, and writing for the World Economic Forum’s The Agenda, Newsweek, Behavioral Scientist, Manager Magazine, and other outlets.

We did not coin the term Inclusion Nudges to create a new ‘buzzword’. We were motivated by our passion for inclusion, diversity, and gender parity work, our frustration with the typical approaches, and the personal challenges of being a change agent within organisations. Inclusion Nudges spring from a need to find new ways to help people change behaviour without making it hard and without allowing their unconscious mind to work against their professed intentions to be truly inclusive. We wrote the Inclusion Nudges Guidebook due to a request from our peers around the world on how to apply these techniques.  Inclusion Nudges are not the onlysolution to developing truly inclusive and diverse organisations. We use them in our work as a supplement to, not a substitute for, Inclusion & Diversity programmes, initiatives and trainings.

Who are the Founders?

Tinna is from Denmark, an anthropologist who has specialised in cultural and behavioural change, and inclusion and diversity for more than 17 years. As Global Head of Inclusion, Diversity & Collaboration in a multinational corporation and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, she focused on creating a unique, more sustainable path to inclusion by applying neuroscience, anthropology, psychology and nudging techniques. Today she is part of the World Economic Forum

Lisa is from the United States, living in Germany. She has been a senior global leader in Inclusion & Diversity for more than 20 years in multinational organisations (Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, & AXA) and has a background in social psychology and socio-linguistics. Throughout her career, she has used many techniques to promote inclusive behaviour change.

Today both Lisa and Tinna are partnering with organisations, communities, and educational institutions worldwide, as well as the United Nations.

We have been working together on the Inclusion Nudges initiative without salary nor any external funding since 2013. We have kept this growing global initiative going with many hours of time and working virtually — we have only met in person 8 times but have remained closely aligned and focused on our mission of increasing inclusion.

We believe in sharing the techniques and examples of powerful Inclusion Nudges with change agents in organisations worldwide so that we can inspire others and together create a profound shift in how to achieve inclusiveness faster and make it stick.

Why Nudging and Behavioural Economics?

In our own collaboration, we have drawn upon our internal experiences as practitioners and the challenges of creating inclusive and diverse organisations.

We assume that most who are involved with driving culture change have had the experience of moving three steps forward and then one step back, or felt the frustration of seeing the organisation move forward only to find out later that many people have reverted to default behaviour.

We also assume that most practitioners have been concerned about how to get thousands of people to move in the same direction – in our case, towards a more inclusive culture – while at the same time allowing them to get there in as many different ways as there are people in the organisation. Like us, some might have found that the best I&D programs, policies, initiatives, and training sessions didn’t pay off as fast or as much in behavioural and cultural changes as anticipated.

Based on these personal experiences, we’ve experimented over the years with techniques from the science of behavioural economics, applying insights from psychology, neuroscience, and microeconomic theoryto make a crucial difference.

Behavioural economics targets the false assumption that almost all people, nearly all of the time, make choices and act in ways that are in their own best interest or the best interest of the organisations where they work. Approaches based on behavioural economics influence people to act in a predictable way and direction, steer people to make better choices, and “push” the unconscious system of the brain in a non-intrusive way to change behaviour, without taking away their freedom to choose. When it comes to inclusiveness and diversity and gender parity and equality we really need this.

Why Inclusion Nudges?

The global world is changing at a speed never experienced before due to technological development, knowledge production, and changes in the demographic make-up of the workforce. As cognitive, cultural, and demographic diversity continues to grow, individuals and organisations must be able to interact and make decisions in an increasingly complex environment. To remain agile and innovative, we need to leverage the diversity of perspectives and knowledge available to us in our organisations, teams, schools, communities, and societies. Only then can we put into play our full potential and resources. This requires organisations, as well as individuals, to seek out diversity, promote more inclusion, and mitigate all unconscious biases and excluding mechanisms in processes, practices, and cultures. This is not news. Decades of research and case studies have proven the benefits. So whydo we not see more progress and behavioural change?

The underlying issue is that the human brain has not learned to deal with this new environment. Though we like to believe we are rational thinkers, 90-99 % of the time we’re actually relying on the automatic, subconscious system of the brain to make decisions. This automatic system evolved to ensure our survival; however, the world is vastly more complex today. The brain has to manage more than 11 million bits of information at any given moment, and shortcuts have evolved to accomplish this without using a lot of energy. In most cases it works, but in many other cases, errors in judgment are made, which are notregistered in the conscious mind. Unconscious biased thinking is universal; more than 150 common biases have been identified to date. These may be in direct conflict with our intention to give people equal opportunities and make rational decisions.

Rational understanding and awareness is not enough to change this. The purpose of Inclusion Nudges is to help the brain change behaviour by targeting motivation, emotions, behavioural drivers, decision-making, and unconscious perceptions. We have seen first-hand how this can strengthen leadership, collaboration, and performance as a result of more inclusiveness. This Inclusion Nudges initiative and community is making it easy to design for inclusiveness and making it the default and norm.

You can also join this movement of #NudgingForInclusion to make impact

Make sure people in your network know about this initiative and community – make sure they don’t miss out!