I just spent a few days in Key West, Florida on vacation. I can't say enough good things about Key West; it's a fabulous place to vacation. But you know me, even on vacation I end up thinking about organizational issues! And the issue that showed up loud and clear on this vacation was inclusion.
The slogan for the city of Key West is "One Human Family." They proclaimed that to be the official philosophy of the city back in 2000, but you see evidence of it everywhere. Sometimes you see it tangibly in the form of bumper stickers and wristbands, and sometimes it is intangible in the way so many different types of people seem to be hanging out together in a very relaxed way.
For example, the LGBT community is very visible on the island. I stayed at a hotel called the La Te Da. One of my new friends described the hotel as "gay owned, but straight friendly." And I could feel that when I was there. I really felt welcomed and included, even though I am not part of the LGBT community. It's such a great feeling. There's nothing quite like showing up in a community that is somewhat foreign to you, where you may not know all the rules or expectations, and to just be welcomed and embraced. I felt that way all over the island.
So here's the lesson: inclusion doesn't just happen. It's not an attitude, or even a proclamation. It's a verb: to include. It's a transitive verb, no less: to include something or someone. I include you. Or I don't, but inclusion happens when people actively include others. It's behavior. Eye contact. Conversations. Questions. It's even authenticity. The more comfortable people are being themselves, the easier it is to include others who are not like that.
We must consciously choose to include. I need to see an other who is "outside" of my community in some way, and I have to engage in behavior that lets that person into my circle. This applies to large social and cultural groups who have been historically excluded and oppressed, but it also applies to people in that other department, or people from the west coast office, or the people who telecommute from home. To some extent, they will be "outside," and it is up to us to find ways to include them.