By: Trent Norman & JEDI Team
When we set about creating the JEDI Journey card deck, our aim was to produce something that could be used at any time to help people stay engaged in equity work. We wanted to create something that would allow people to stretch their understanding and knowledge, but also encourage users to engage the subject matter at deeper levels (beyond an interesting cognitive exercise). Another goal was to encourage people to start a practice of discussion and engagement with other humans. We also realized that there is a wealth of information available, but one may not know where or how to begin. It was also important that people could engage with the cards in an accessible way – that is, something that didn’t require a lot of set up but could be engaged with in a spare moment.
What we arrived at was a concept for a desk-top companion that would allow people to find something to encourage their own experience(s) around Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) as well as a tool that could be applied to staff meetings, family gatherings, silent reflection, gifts, ice-breaker activities, and any other uses we’ve not yet conceived. The card deck itself lives in an easily accessible bag and each card contains prompts of subjects to investigate, questions to answer, and a quote to insight deeper exploration. Instead of seeking to proscribe “the” definition of sexism, we chose to provide an example, encourage exploration of other definitions, and then invite the user to make meaning of the definition(s) that resonate with them. Instead of providing a formula of “do this, when that happens” we sought to encourage users to explore a variety of skills and actions that could be useful in many different situations.
The JEDI Journey card deck mirrors our own philosophy about doing diversity, inclusion, justice, and equity work: Growth and change are made when people engage the topics with themselves and others with curiosity and a human-first spirit. We believe that the way forward is a path of healing and reconciliation (which includes accountability, access, representation, and grace) that happens through the actions of committed individuals. At Integrated Work, we call this JEDI Alchemy. The JEDI Journey cards represent an opportunity as well as a direction on how to engage equity in a meaningful and powerful manner.
The cards are not difficult to use: Pick out an identity card, a definition card and/or a discussion card and apply any of the concepts across the cards. Here is one way to use the cards.
Randomly I chose the “AGE” card, the “ACCESS” card and the “IMAGINING INCLUSIVE SPACE” card.
From the age card I choose the prompt: “Describe how you think about your age/generation.”
From the access card I choose the prompt: “When you look at your organization, who appears to have more or less access to leadership.”
From the imagining inclusive space card, I choose the prompt: “Describe what an inclusive workspace looks like.”
Since “age” is the general theme based on the first card I’ve chosen I’m going to consider “ageism” as I answer each of these questions. Ageism is generally discrimination based on age/years of experience (in a job, on the planet, etc.). There are many ways to “define” ageism, and that can be a part of the exercise. For this purpose, I will think about the loose definition I just named.
Card 1, Question 1: Unlike other parts of my identity, my age/generation shifts on a yearly basis. As I’ve grown older, I mark the shifts by a single year rather than in larger chunks, not unlike when I was very young. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, those felt like “decades” – large chunks of time. Time seemed like a commodity with large resources. As I’ve aged that has felt less true. No real surprise as mortality has an ever-approaching due date, my orientation to my own age has altered my vision in a way. Now each year feels more like a miles-marker with a scenic overview and less like a blip in the longer journey of life.
Card 2, Question 2: I’m going to choose my part time gig as a ski instructor to answer this question. I work for one of the big ski resort industries as a ski instructor. My role is specialized (teach you how to make the ski go right and left down the hill in control). My exposure to other parts of the organization is fairly limited to interpersonal interactions with other employees (food services when I grab lunch, lift ops, getting up (and sometimes down) the mountain or transportation when I’m on the bus or some other transportation issue – there are others but that is the bulk of it). The ski industry thrives on new blood but is founded on tradition. Relationships are important, and the business model of the large organization that owns several mountain areas (including the one where I work) tends to have a cloistered set of executives, often one executive moving from one location to the next. From my position, it appears that the people in those top positions range in the 40 to 60 years of life on the planet realm – consistently. Getting to that level requires that individuals spend time at the many resorts learning the management end of the business until they are ready to break into the executive realm. It would appear that few people from different age-ranges are represented in top leadership. Despite being a sport that is “run” by younger people on the surface, the power and decision making resides with an older set of people.
Card 3: This card is prompting me to imagine what an inclusive workspace would look like adding age as a “filter.” Going back to the example of the mountain resort; a place that is inclusive of age can have a lot of different meanings. At the executive level, a space that is inclusive of age could look very interesting indeed. The organization has a typical business structure (President, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer, etc.). Since this is a large, multi-facility organization, being inclusive of age at that level might be very challenging indeed. I will not begrudge the organizations tactic of nurturing their top executives with a variety of experiences; indeed, I believe it helps keep their product somewhat consistent. That may also be the challenge: that the product stays consistent (you can be guaranteed that nothing too radical will impact the organization as the people who run the organization have vast and extensive knowledge of the way the organization runs). The enthusiasm, new views, and vigor of youth may not have the same influence that it might at an organization that has a more age-porous orientation (like a technology start up for example). One method to shift this culture would be to include an apprentice program for the newer employees. For example, six months to a year serving in a specially designed executive (in training) position might allow someone to really gain a different insight into the operation of the organization, allow them to have more significant influence sooner, and increase the pathway for long-term employment (In addition to the youth movement at the lower levels, there’s also a bit of exodus at those same levels).
Age presents an interesting challenge in examining an organization. Perhaps, like when I worked at a Research 1, land grand university, the age barrier was much more pronounced and much less porous, this conversation would look very different than it does with a large, multinational organization. How many University Chancellors and Presidents does anyone know who are in their late 20’s? How many technology start up’s have a CTO that is ready to retire? The story my brain tells me is that it is not many in either case (probably zero in the former) and yet the cards prompted me to think about age.
The other interesting piece of examining this is that I recognize the implications of making wholesale changes to how organizations are structured. The example of how to impact the age balance in the executive level at the large mountain resorts company comes with its own set of issues to contend with. People “earn” the right to be in those executive positions and that has meaning. Likewise, the freshness of youth in an industry that relies on the youth to keep the operations going also has meaning. Chloe Kim and Mikaela Shiffrin might be better known household names than Ingemar Stenmark, Ron LeMaster or even Hank Kashawa these days – yet all of them have had a huge impact on the industry. I think the challenge is in finding balance. For the ski industry, one could not exist without the other.
We designed the JEDI Journey cards to push people to engage deeper the complexities of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. We know these things take time and the solutions are not readily easy (if they were, would we still be talking about this?). The other part of the cards that I particularly appreciate is that there is a practice that is involved in using them. Taking a topic, thinking at deeper and deeper levels is built into their design. Also included in there is a concept central to how we operate at Integrated Work keeping a “human first” mindset. The last bit I’d like to offer is that the name of the cards, JEDI Journey, implies an ongoing process. To borrow from the Bard and nudge the saying a bit – “The journey is the thing!”