2 minutes to read Posted on Monday July 19, 2021

Updated on Monday July 19, 2021

portrait of Marijke Everts

Marijke Everts

Campaign Coordination and Administrative Assistant , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Rania Mouzakiti

Rania Mouzakiti

Marketing Specialist , Europeana Foundation

Diversity and Inclusion: working towards an equitable future

Towards the end of 2020, the Europeana Foundation made its commitment to Diversity and Inclusion clear: ‘cultural heritage empowers us to embrace our diversity and flourish’. Later, the commitment to Diversity and Inclusion was cemented as one of the priorities of the Foundation’s Business Plan for 2021. But what do Diversity and Inclusion actually mean in the context of Europeana? And how is the Diversity and Inclusion Cross-team developing its work to reinforce Europeana’s commitment to them?

Abstract oil painting of the sea and the sun.
Title: Tenger
Creator: Szekeres Emil
Date: 1974
Institution: Rippl-Rónai Megyei Hatókörű Városi Múzeum - Kaposvár
Country: Hungary
CC BY

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.  

Values - active, intersectional, responsive, welcoming, to be trusted, treat people with respect, superdiverse, diversity across the org, inspirational, kind, recognised our differences, encourage others to grow, diverse (for real), listening and helping, sympathy, consistency, honest and transparent, collaborative, open minded, committed, inclusive, comprehensive, dependable and stable, dualism, resilient, progressive, trailblazing, dignity, balanced, learning organisation, honest, trust, interested, curious, proud, aware, open, thinking out of the box, culture and diversity, equality, involved, reflective/critic, constructive criticism, flexible and horizontal (as much as possible) in its structure capacity to implement bottom/up approach
Title: Miro board developed during Europeana Foundation cross-team workshop, highlighting important values for Europeana's approach
Date: March 2021
Institution: Europeana Foundation
Country: Netherlands
CC BY-SA
Values - active, intersectional, responsive, welcoming, to be trusted, treat people with respect, superdiverse, diversity across the org, inspirational, kind, recognised our differences, encourage others to grow, diverse (for real), listening and helping, sympathy, consistency, honest and transparent, collaborative, open minded, committed, inclusive, comprehensive, dependable and stable, dualism, resilient, progressive, trailblazing, dignity, balanced, learning organisation, honest, trust, interested, curious, proud, aware, open, thinking out of the box, culture and diversity, equality, involved, reflective/critic, constructive criticism, flexible and horizontal (as much as possible) in its structure capacity to implement bottom/up approach

Since the workshops, we have been consulting external moderators and experts. We are thrilled to be  working with Jass Thethi (Intersectional GLAM) and Lauren Vargas, who are currently supporting the Europeana Initiative to build a foundation on which we can design and implement our plan for a more diverse and inclusive organisation. Jass has joined meetings with the Members Council of the Europeana Network Association to support discussions around Diversity and Inclusion. Lauren hosted a series of training sessions with all three bodies of the Europeana Initiative to help us design a Community Pact, a set of principles aimed at creating an inclusive, respectful, equitable, safe and brave community within Europeana. On top of our work with these experts, we are diversifying our editorials on Europeana.eu, working with external authors that represent marginalised groups to incorporate more diverse narratives and perspectives. Read a recent blog written by guest author Iuia Hau on the history of Roma slavery in Romania

Designing a Community Pact, the impact work and the roadmap are some initial steps that we are taking in the Foundation to shape a more concrete understanding of what Diversity and Inclusion mean in the context of Europeana. This way we can confidently create and implement an action plan, with tangible goals that help us ensure safer spaces for conversations, acknowledge our blind spots, and become transparent and accountable for our actions. Our commitment and consistency to the cross-team goals will be, in turn, crucial in order to elicit change in the Europeana Initiative and the wider GLAM sector. 

Is your institution working on initiatives related to Diversity and Inclusion? Get in touch to share your ideas, experiences, feedback or suggestions by emailing marijke.everts@europeana.eu and rania.mouzakiti@europeana.eu

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