Diversity and Inclusion can mean different things for different people and coming to a joint definition is part of the process the Europeana Foundation is still working on - and towards. We are progressing with the broad understanding that Diversity is about embracing a multitude of backgrounds and identities, and Inclusion is about providing a safe environment, respect, equal opportunities and rights for everyone irrespective of their background, while actively searching for gaps in our own knowledge. Embedding these principles in the Europeana Foundation means, ‘to be transparent and accountable for our own actions’ (Harry Verwayen, General Director, 17/12/2020), working towards acknowledging our blind spots and being proactive in ensuring that marginalised voices are being heard. This was one of the biggest lessons for us in 2020.
2020 - A year of challenges and learnings
COVID-19 changed the world on many fronts, and like organisations globally, Europeana Foundation faced challenges and opportunities. In June 2020 we launched a series of workshops that called upon our community to identify new paths through - and beyond - the COVID-19 crisis for digital cultural heritage. These workshops with 64 practitioners and experts from the cultural heritage sector helped us to further our understanding of the challenges and opportunities the sector faces, including around Diversity and Inclusion. Over the past nine months we have been exploring this area and have looked at how we can embed it in the way we work, organise and host events, and collaborate and interact with people.
In 2020 we organised 33 online events, hosted more than 50 individual sessions at Europeana 2020 and facilitated over 20 others, attended by more than 2,800 people. We were also hard at work in improving our website accessibility both on Europeana and on Pro, and diversifying our editorials.
One of the main opportunities of switching to online interaction was the ability to lower the barriers to participation. At the same time, the online format presents challenges. While it offers even more people the opportunity to attend an event, the online environment tends to change how people act, and can result in inconsiderate types of behaviors. It made us think of how we can improve our processes and investigate how we can create a safe space for everyone.
After our annual conference in November, the question of safe space became a prominent one, especially after a keynote that included blind spots and ignored its privileges, hurting people through its visual presentation and choice of words. It became clear that we needed to step up to face the challenge of how to create safe spaces, and we have a lot to learn. Since then we have experienced other challenging events that made us realise the urgency of having expert help and guidance, in order to create not just safe, but brave spaces in our community, where people feel they can share their experiences and be vulnerable.
2021 - A year of change: prioritising the internal Diversity and Inclusion Cross team
In January 2021 we formalised an internal Diversity and Inclusion Cross team. The first steps we wanted to take as a team were to listen and learn from each other. Europeana Foundation’s Impact Advisor Nicole McNeilly developed two strategy workshops, aimed at helping the cross-team further shape an internal roadmap for Diversity and Inclusion. During these workshops, we discussed what Diversity and Inclusion means for each individual and mapped the values that should guide our work at Europeana Foundation.
We noticed that while we shared similar values, we had different perspectives on what Diversity and Inclusion means, and this made it difficult to come up with a term we all agreed on for the cross-team. We split ourselves into smaller groups to share our thoughts and reflect on our different perspectives. We realised that working towards defining and embedding Diversity and Inclusion in our organisation requires a lot of work, which is why we deemed it important to consult experts to guide us through our learning and build confidence in our abilities to tackle future mistakes.