If all goes well, we all will be able to visit events again soon. But is it really 'all of us'? According to the Knowledge Centre for Cultural and Media Participation, event visitors are predominantly white middle class people. The question is therefore: how do we make events more inclusive? The issue is complex and requires attention and action from various angles. Researchers Eva Vermeire and Zaia El Morabit of the centre of expertise Public Impact advise the event sector to start working on an inclusive personnel policy.
We observe social inequality in various domains in our society, and also with regard to participation in cultural events. Research conducted by the Cultural and Media Participation Knowledge Centre shows that those who visit cultural activities and events are predominantly white and disadvantaged. People with a migrant background, low-skilled people and people living in poverty, for example, are less likely to attend events.
Is a non-diverse audience problematic?
Research learns that participating in events boosts the health, well-being and personal development of visitors. Events also have a stimulating effect on our social fabric. For example, they increase social cohesion between people and contribute to a local community feeling. Events lack connectivity if they do not reach a large, growing part of the population. Investing in inclusiveness is the message because it pays off, both socially and economically.
If your offer does not meet the needs and desires of youngsters with a migrant background, for example, they will simply organise their own circuit of events. This is already happening today in Brussels and Antwerp with their own venues, their own communication channels and their own event scene. This means that as a ‘regular event organiser’ you will lose this group of potential visitors.
Provide a range of inclusive events
Who organises an event that is open to everyone? How can we reach and appeal to everyone? These are complex issues that require efforts in many areas: communication, public relations, logistics, but certainly also personnel. In other words, there is a need for an integrated approach. However, the event sector can take a number of steps. An important step is to deploy diversified teams within the organisation.
A diversely composed team increases creativity and innovation. Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace and team that reflects the (diverse and inclusive) society, is the first important step. They can help shape and develop events, provide an innovative angle and bring in a whole new network.
But how can the event and cultural sector achieve a more diverse workforce? That process starts already before you start looking for a new employee. It is very important to reflect on the existing recruitment procedures: how accessible is the communication to diverse groups? Is the organisation aware of possible thresholds in the recruitment and selection procedures? Are the channels used varied enough? Are all potential candidates being reached?
The language and writing style in the vacancies also play a role: are no socially normative words used, such as the word 'good'? And what about the application procedure? Does each suitable candidate really has an equal chance and is the selection committee diverse?
Not only the selection procedure but also the culture of the organisation itself must be inclusive. Otherwise, there is a chance that those who enter the organisation will soon leave again. By engaging in dialogue with everyone in the organisation, you create an inclusive culture and climate.
Benefits of a diverse workforce
Thanks to diversity-sensitive recruitment and selection, organisations can call upon more candidates, which is not a superfluous luxury these days. Not only the 'hire' will run more smoothly, but also the 'wire' will be stronger as well. Working inclusively ensures commitment to the organisation and better relationships between employees.
In addition, international research shows that people who work in an inclusive organisation are happier. Mainly because they feel recognised and valued in their individuality. And more satisfied employees often turn out to be more productive employees. So everyone wins in this story!