Michael Woods from Swimming Australia talks about SAL's strategic approach to inclusion and diversity.
Alright, it’s getting towards the end of the day so I think I can actually shave a few minutes off what I had planned to talk about because a lot of today’s presentations have covered some ground that I was going to preface my talk with today so I wanted to just drag a few pointers that I’ve gathered across the afternoon.
Merilee, I absolute love ‘Ban the Average’ - I think that’s something that we can trademark and put across banners in sport everywhere. I think it’s very applicable. I’m really interested in Ramon and Ruth’s research and I think I’ve been following the talks today and there’s been a consistency and theme about this idea of how do we actually connect policy and strategy at the National level to coalface delivery and planning of sport activities for people and hopefully I can present a bit of a case for the Seven Pillars to be a solution or part of a solution to that and also this idea of putting people in boxes and this targeted sport delivery approach is something that I’ve heard questioned and brought up a couple of times today and hopefully I can speak to that a little bit too.
So the other piece that I’ve heard particularly Peter mention during that question time was this idea of inclusion and diversity - well success is really driven by cultural change and what does that look like and how do we do it so hopefully I can address some of those points through talking about the Seven Pillars and also how swimming has applied that in its National Inclusion framework.
I’m not actually the last speaker but the one in the middle reminds me of myself. Can anyone see themselves up there?
So luckily I don’t need to necessarily talk too much about the ‘Where we’re at right now’ because we’ve heard a lot of statistics and a lot of information about the fact that yes, people face disadvantage in sport in Australia. We know that. Yes, there are particular subgroups that have particular nuances or requirements that we need to cater for. Yes, we know that so the question for me really becomes well, if we know these challenges exist what do we actually do about it? What is inclusion? What is inclusion and diversity? How do we talk about it and for me the most important thing is what does it actually look like in practice? What do we do day to day in our clubs, in our communities, in our associations that actually make inclusion happen? We can’t necessarily do that with just a policy in a document that we have in a NSO or Government level. We need to think about what it means right at the coalface and that’s something that’s come up a little bit today.
I’m just going to pop these up here. I had a whole bunch of notes here that I’m actually going to bypass through a lot of because I just want to get straight to the detail of what the Seven Pillars is all about. This idea that we deliver sport programs in this targeted population group approach and the term I use is that it’s actually a model of difference and what we actually do is we find the things that are different about the people that we’re having trouble getting involved in sport and then we try and come up with a solution that alleviates the barriers that they face and we do those things in isolation typically and that’s been the norm of sport practice over the last 20 odd years-ish and a lot of us including myself have worked in programs and delivered activities that fit that model. In swimming we’ve had an Indigenous Coordinator that runs our Indigenous Program.
I started in swimming as the Inclusion Coordinator but I was actually the Disability Coordinator. We have got Paralympic Programs that sit within mainstream sport that aren’t necessarily connected to their mainstream high performance programs etc so the question is how do we shift that dynamic? How do we go from only focusing on difference to thinking about well what are the solutions that we can share across our experiences? What are the shared practices that actually make a difference when it comes to inclusion and this is the context that Peter Downs started a project for ‘Play by the Rules’ in 2013 to try and look at that question to say, “What are the common things across sport or across our communities that actually make inclusion happen?” and not within particular silo groups so what Pete settled on was that there were actually these commonalities - these similarities that people who were delivering really good things and achieving inclusion were all doing the same or were addressing in a similar way and this was where the ‘Seven pillars of inclusion’ was born.
So these Seven Pillars up here represent through research, through consulting with practitioners through primarily interviews and surveys and things, these are the common themes and common words that were coming up and these formed the Seven Pillars.
So the first one is access and this is about really how you’re getting to your place and then how you’re getting in there but it’s more than physical. It’s also about the feel, the environment, the culture that’s in the place that you’re in. You can have a ramp up into the foyer of your aquatic facility but if the receptionist at the counter doesn’t think that you’re welcome in the club or that you feel like you’re not welcome there then the ramp is useless. You’re still not going to participate so it’s important to explore what access really means.
The second one is attitude. How willing are you actually to make it happen and I guess throughout pulling the Seven Pillars together it was identified that there was this gap between actually wanting to be inclusive which everyone in sport would agree that being inclusive and addressing diversity is good and we want to do it but there was a gap between that and actually doing something about it so your attitude isn’t about just being positive, it’s about actually having a willingness to take action so addressing attitude is important.
Choice - this is about what you can do. We’ve talked a little bit about universal design and other methods of looking at alternative ways of delivering a sport product. Choice is the friend of inclusion. If I have a lot of options to take advantage of then I’m more likely to get more people involved in my sport activities.
Partnerships - who you work with. If there is someone in the room today who has heard from a community organisation or another sport that they’re not connected with yet and they like what they spoke about or like what they’ve heard today a partnership could be as easy as introduction, conversation and a handshake. It can be really informal. You’ve just got to connect people. It could be more formal with agreements and MOUs and contracts but partnerships are what bind us together and join our communities so having partnerships is really important when it comes to inclusion and that was consistent.
Communication - who will you tell and for me also how are you telling them? Is it suiting their needs of communication and this is about language. This is about signage. This is about a whole host of things but are you considering who you’re telling and how you’re telling them?
Policy - this is all about responsibility. We’ve heard a little lit about policy and strategy and things today but policy is about being responsible and holding yourself to account and your stakeholders - holding them to account for inclusion. It’s about saying “Inclusion is important” but more than that it’s about saying, “This is how we’re going to address it and this is what it means for us” and then having mechanisms to actually hold yourself accountable to those statements.
Opportunities is Pillar no. 7 and this is similar to choice but it’s not the same. Opportunities is about what do you want to do so this explores I guess the habits that dictate the opportunities that are actually available in the place that you want to deliver your sport and it’s a little bit different to choice because choice is about well what do you want to do? I have a whole range of things that I might want to do but can I actually take advantage of that choice so I may want to and I’ll use swimming as an example, referring to the ramp scenario. I may have the choice to join a swimming club in my local town because there’s a pool there. There’s a Coach there with a really great program who’s really willing and welcoming but I get to the facility and there is no ramp. I use a wheelchair. I want to go into that really great program. They want me to come in there but I have a real access issue so the actual opportunity doesn’t exist for me. The choice is there but the opportunity is different.
So these are the Seven Pillars and when I mentioned opportunities I talked about this idea of habits. What Pete found was that and I think he mentioned during part of the question time earlier today was that within each of these Pillars there’s actually things that we do on a day to day basis either as individuals or as organisations and communities that either lead to inclusion or it doesn’t and you can map those under these Pillars.
For me those habits are what take us from simple policy and willingness to actually making something happen. We actually change the way we do things.
Now I’m going to turn to swimming so around about the same time Swimming Australia was looking at its inclusion position we had been in this segmented targeted population difference-based delivery model. We had a Disability Action Plan in place and we had a Paralympic Program doing really good things. We had an Indigenous - we didn’t have a strategy as such but we had an Indigenous Program and an Indigenous Plan and we were delivering things in that space. At a State level State Associations were doing various things with various population groups but all in this difference, separate, silo’d, boxed, targeted group approach. Don’t get me wrong - all good stuff. It’s created a high quality acceptance of inclusion as something that’s important and valued - absolutely and the same can be said for sport in Australia generally but I think it’s been limiting because we’ve been focusing on the things that have set our groups apart and what that means is you actually find it really difficult to draw learnings across and connect the dots between success and failure and find ways to actually get consistent strategy in place, consistent understanding of what inclusion and diversity actually means and consistent examples of well what is good practice and what does it look like and that’s where we were at swimming.
So we developed this partnership with ‘Play by the Rules’ and we actually said, “Well what does inclusion mean to us?” and this is what we landed on.
Inclusion isn’t equality. It’s not everyone gets the same. It’s not where you have disability. It’s not everyone can come. Inclusion is about making sure that swimming and aquatics reflects the diversity of the Australian community and if you go down the levels within our sport you change Australian community to our community so it’s about understanding where you are, the context you’re in and putting things in place that are actually catering to their needs and wants and you can do that by changing your habits.
So this became the backbone of our framework. That understanding of what inclusion and diversity actually meant, the ‘Seven Pillars of inclusion’ and we devised this framework. The ‘Seven Pillars of inclusion’ defined those commonalities. It’s our backbone. We aim to achieve that cultural change through the change in habits, the change in what we actually do day to day.
As an NSO our goal is to then provide support to the networks throughout the levels of our sport to help them actually put those changes into action and they’re supported by some tools and resources on the side.
Of course with any framework you need to measure yourself. We do that through a couple of mechanisms including obviously membership and participation numbers and things like that but one of the core things was we wanted to drive this down the full breadth of our sport and across our stakeholders. This isn’t a policy we wanted on the shelf and it wasn’t a whip that we wanted to try and get people to follow along with the philosophy. We actually want clubs, Coaches and volunteers to put things into action so we thought how do we do that so we designed a web resource for relatively little cost. We developed an online self-assessment tool so any club, any swim school, any aquatic facility, any individual can go there for free, assess themselves and their practice under the Seven Pillars, get a set of habits checklist to say, “Am I doing this or should I be doing that?” They can access a toolkit of resources with case studies, resources for access checklists and posters and research and examples of good practice from around the world is being stored in a little library and anyone can access that.
They get a result of their self-assessment which gives them a mark of where they sit within the Seven Pillars and then they use that as the start point for their planning. They say, “We’re doing good here but we can do more. We’re not great here. We need to do more” and they get access to all the tools and resources straight up.
So for me the Seven Pillars can actually provide a Nationally consistent approach and for me it’s about going from simply valuing and understanding inclusion as something important to real cultural change that can be actually put into practice with a little bit of support and effort around it.
For me, where to from here? We’ve got a lot of work to do in swimming with this framework, absolutely. I stand here hand on my heart and say that we are in a holding pattern with this. We currently don’t have a Diversity Inclusion Manager or leadership role driving this down through the levels of the sport at the moment although it is part of our planning to resolve that. Having said that this is live and it is accessible for people to sign up and use and we’ll be pushing that message forward with some increase in support at the National level very very soon so the other question that I have and I’m going to eat into the next bell I think is about this coalface delivery of sport and I’m going to indulge myself for a moment and just plug something that I have launched this week which is called ‘Inclusive Sport Design’.
There are some flyers up the back and around the room as well but what I’m aiming to do with that is to actually address that question of what happens at the coalface? What are the tools? What are the ways and what are the methods that I as a practitioner in sport either at the administrative level, grassroots level or at a community level - what are some of the ways I can actually make a difference? So I’m inviting you to join me for the ride. It’s very new, very early days. There’s an eBook and a tip stream available through the website at inclusivesportdesign.com but what I will be doing in the very near future is connecting with everybody that’s interested by asking them what they think they need so if you’re interested in helping this grow I encourage you to visit the website, sign up to the mailing list and I’ll be in touch with the next steps and some of the pipeline ideas that we have there.
So that’s my plug! Thank you very much but anyone want more information about Seven Pillars, ‘Play by the Rules’, 7pillarsofinclusion.com, swimming.org has our framework and the plug at the bottom there as well so that’s it from me! Thank you.