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Inclusive workshops matter

Inclusive workshop in action

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Ineshka de Silva, senior design consultant at Capco, and a member of SheCanCode’s blog squad, shares her advice on how to run an inclusive workshop.

As a Product Designer, I am fuelled by ensuring I design experiences that truly empathise with the user regardless of their background, experience, or ability. Running inclusive workshops is not just a design philosophy, it’s a core pillar in my design process. I believe inclusivity is about making a real commitment to creating a safe environment for individuals of all backgrounds, no matter their differences. Being more inclusive in our design workshops not only means equity and respect towards others, but it also means our workshop outcomes will be so much more meaningful and impactful.

In this article, I have highlighted key considerations, each with suggested actions, to help you ensure you’re running an inclusive workshop.

1) CREATE A SAFE SPACE

Before you dive into the workshop activities, it’s essential to establish some ground rules that will promote a safe, respectful, and positive workshop environment.

Actions

  • Create a clear set of ground rules and highlight them at the start of the workshop
  • Encourage participants to respect others’ ideas and opinions.
  • Promote active listening amongst the group.
  • Highlight the importance of adopting an open mindset; ready to embrace diverse ideas and perspectives.
  • Encourage honesty and constructive criticism in a respectful, empathetic manner.
  • Don’t simply hold your participants accountable for these ground rules, ensure you also hold yourself accountable.

2) INTENTIONALLY RECRUIT A DIVERSE PARTICIPANT GROUP

Collaboration in design is everything. Great designers don’t gatekeep, they know how to pull in the opinions, knowledge and help of others to create useful, meaningful impact. This sentiment is particularly relevant to design workshops. Your design workshop is an opportunity to bring together a diverse group with unique perspectives and experiences to help inspire new ideas.

Actions

  • Recruit a diverse range of participants
  • When selecting your participant group, consider how you might bring together different skill sets, knowledge, insight and opinions from different individuals with different backgrounds.

3) USE INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE THROUGHOUT

Using inclusive language is more than just avoiding offensive or dehumanising terms or phrases. Inclusive language is about using thoughtful and respectful ways of communicating with others to avoid bias, jargon, and stigmas.

Actions

  • Know your audience: Think carefully about your participants and avoid using jargon or technical terms that they may not be familiar with.
  • Ensure you use gender-neutral language. For example, instead of referring to the group as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘boys and girls’, consider using language like ‘everyone’ or ‘folks’ instead.
  • Ask all participants ahead of the workshop what their preferred pronouns are.

4) CATER TO DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES

Everyone has a unique or preferred way of processing, understanding, or retaining information. Some participants may prefer listening, others may prefer seeing or doing. It’s important that you have a mixed approach to your workshop activities or how you run those activities. By catering to different learning styles you can create a more inclusive and engaging environment to enable everyone to participate actively in the workshop.

Actions

  • Use more than one type of activity or exercise to accommodate different learning styles.
  • Consider the use of different methods such as visual aids (e.g. illustrations, diagrams, videos), practical activities that allow the participants to engage with the product or service, group discussions or peer-to-peer feedback and review.
  • Provide opportunities for everyone to be able to share and build upon their ideas and perspectives.

5) THINK ABOUT YOUR WORKSHOP ENVIRONMENT

Depending on whether your workshop is in person or online, there are some steps you can take to ensure that your workshop is accessible for everyone. You can consider making an in-person and online workshop session available to your participants dependent on their preferences.

Some participants may prefer the anonymity that an online workshop can offer, whereas some participants could prefer the interactive, face-to-face experience of an in-person workshop. By providing an opportunity for your participants to select, you’ll be able to ensure they are comfortable and in their preferred environment, ultimately helping to create a more impactful workshop output.

Actions

Online workshops

  • Consider the tools you are using to facilitate the workshop activities online
  • Are your participants tech-confident with those tools?
  • What support can you provide prior to the workshop to ensure everyone is able to participate effectively?
  • Consider the devices available to your participants

In-person workshops

  • Choose a location that is easily accessible to all participants
  • Is the location you have chosen wheelchair accessible?
  • Consider the different types of accommodations you should make, particularly for longer workshop days (e.g. a quiet space for participants who may need it, different seating options, dietary preferences etc.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

As product designers, we are not here to simply design products and services. We are here to serve the people we are designing for by creating an environment where everyone’s ideas, perspectives and experiences are heard, valued, and respected.

By fostering some of these key considerations and actions into your design workshops we can create an inclusive environment, promote meaningful collaboration and create more impactful outcomes that can truly meet the needs of everyone.

Ineshka is a Senior Design Consultant at Capco

About Ineshka

Ineshka is a Senior Design Consultant at Capco working as a Product Designer in the finance industry with over 6 years experience. Ineshka has an interest in digital transformation, design innovation and research and strives to deliver high impact, meaningful business and consumer outcomes.

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