Inclusivity Labs: Co-creating a toolkit for the YBI Network

Sarah Owusu
Sarah Owusu Founder InkDot

Over the course of 2020, InkDot has had the pleasure of working with a group of YBI members to co-create an Inclusivity Toolkit for the network – the toolkit has already resulted in these members making impactful changes within their organisations and in their entrepreneurship programs. As we reflect on this process and get ready to pilot the toolkit with another group of members, it is clear that inclusivity can help us address some of the most pressing challenges we face across the world.

Inclusivity is a key ingredient when it comes to thoughtful and empowering entrepreneurship development and support. Each and every YBI member is uniquely positioned to ensure that young people globally, regardless of their background, have the chance to become successful entrepreneurs. Inclusivity Labs is one way that YBI and its member network is making inclusion a priority.

In March 2021, with support from Accenture, YBI launched the Inclusivity Labs, a process to create a toolkit that would support YBI members in becoming more inclusive, no matter where they are beginning from. The toolkit needed to make “inclusion” more than just an abstract term, and to be both practical and relevant for members across the world. This meant that the Inclusivity Labs process itself needed to be inclusive, and needed to engage members from the start, to understand their varying contexts, experiences and priorities.

Using our innovation expertise, we focused on facilitating a participatory design process, where a group of members – representing the diversity of the network – shared insights, co-created elements of the toolkit, and piloted the first version of tools within their own organisations.

Why inclusivity matters

 For us at InkDot, inclusion is a prerequisite for innovation. YBI too has always been committed to empowering underserved young people, and many YBI members are already taking action to ensure their programs, products and services reach those that most need them. As a network, this results in over 90,000 young people getting support to start and grow businesses, each year. This is a big achievement in the face of an even bigger challenge: 64 million unemployed young people globally, and 145 million in low-waged, low-skilled or unsafe jobs. 

The impact of this youth employment crisis is felt most severely among those in our communities who are already most marginalised: in most economies, less than one-third of new company owners are women even thoughthey could boost the global economy by USD $5 trillion with an equal playing field; worldwide, 1 in 6 adults are living with a disability and young people living with disabilities experiencelower labour market participation and work in lower paid occupations; in the UK, Black business owners report lower profits than white business owners and higher rates of failure.

Whilst these issues are structural and beyond the reach of any one person or organisation, there are many ways in which we can all begin to put inclusivity into action. The inclusivity toolkit is designed to spark just that – equipping YBI members with the tools and resources to begin taking steps towards making inclusion real, within their own organisations and through the packages of support they provide to entrepreneurs.

Where to begin

Inclusivity is a journey – one that requires an ongoing commitment to reflection, action and learning. And whether you are just beginning to explore what inclusivity means, or you have already begun and have ongoing initiatives, to make change happen, we need to begin with ourselves. This is why the first part of the Inclusivity Toolkit is called, “Starting with Me”. At this stage, the toolkit provides a number of reflection and thinking tools to help build your own understanding of inclusivity, and determine what role you can play within your own organisation. In this stage you also identify others who will take the journey with you – after all, meaningful change isn’t possible alone.

With that as the foundation, the following three stages are focused at the level of the organisation. Here you begin by reflecting on the current situation and priorities, developing and implementing your unique action plan. A key part of the process is learning from your actions and progress as you go. The toolkit provides a guide, but it doesn’t give you a magic formula – the inclusivity journey is self-guided and self-paced, and the toolkit is designed to adapt to your reality.

We are still learning how to make the toolkit most relevant and useful for members from all contexts, and beginning this month, we are kicking off a second pilot that will help us to refine the tools and resources further.

The members who have taken part so far have managed to start important conversations within the organisations, provide inclusivity training to their teams, transform their leadership and governance models, identify new target audiences and redesign training programs to serve those most in need. These are incredible achievements, and we are excited to see how this progresses across the YBI network.

The journey requires an open mind and a willingness to reflect honestly on inclusion within yourself, and your organisation, and to do things differently than we’ve done them before. Beyond that, you need commitment, but so do all things that matter… and for us, finding tangible ways to make inclusivity happen is certainly something that matters deeply, and it is incredible to see YBI members on their way to transforming the world for the better, one entrepreneur at a time.

Sarah Owusu is co-founder of InkDot, a boutique innovation consultancy committed to building the innovation capability of people, teams and organisations, and to facilitating creative problem solving processes to come up with beautiful solutions to complex challenges.

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