What is an Inclusion Power-Up?

Finger discharging static

And where did they come from?

I’m one of those people who sees new ways of doing things at every turn. I find that every time I speak with someone or read something my brain makes connections. That’s why I’m so popular at project initiation time, or when people get stuck or are looking for new solutions. And it’s why I’ve labelled myself an inclusion ideator.

My drive to continually improve, makes things bigger and better is responsible for my need to tweak and adjust things, from a keynote presentation I have given 10 times to a slide deck for a workshop. I know I could be more efficient, that the last workshop got great feedback, but my desire to always make things fit better to my audience is unstoppable.

I have become increasingly frustrated over recent times when unconscious bias training is still bandied about as the answer. Yes, it’s a tool, but it was clear ten years ago that there were so many possible actions to build inclusive spaces and places.

And so it was, over the last 5 years, I started collecting together all the different things that could be done to build an inclusive learning or working space, ideas to catalyse new conversations, to help shift thinking and thread or infuse inclusion into everything we do. At first it was structured around the Designing inclusive engineering education report, and then the inclusion health check tool. But my inclusion ideation didn’t stop there.

At the core of changing the conversation on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) has been my philosophy that inclusion is so fundamental to engineering that it’s just too important to be left to chance. And I mean this both in terms of how we interact with each other, as a teacher/tutor or teammate, as much as adding an extra box into the critical thinking and design process frameworks we use in engineering. Both to challenge our thinking and personal frame of reference on the world, but also to challenge our thinking about users, those impacted by extraction of materials, manufacturing, and end of life of products.

And there we have it. I started writing my book of 100 things you can do to be inclusive (it’s almost finished). While describing the contents to someone I suddenly had the image of Princess Peach from the Nintendo Super Mario games. Driving over a star or mushroom and getting power boost.

Power-ups are unique items that give special abilities to characters that use them.
At the heart of the Katalytik Method, our RISE approach, is internalizing inclusion: understanding what you can do, in your own way, to connect with, to overcome casual bias, and start doing things differently, one thing at a time. That there are many different ways and tools you can use to help shape the culture that you are in and for academics and tutors, to introduce into their planning, materials and interactions with students (and colleagues, teammates, managers etc).

So, what constitutes a power up? it might:

  • provide more thinking time to allow some of your students to respond to a question or problem in their own speed
  • give insights to practice ways to have conversations informed by identity
  • help you practice different ways of asking questions that might otherwise come across as confrontational or judgmental.

In looking for ways to help engineers grapple with inclusion, learn strategies for conversation and stimulate new conversations I’ve structured them into the Engineering Inclusion Forum and my forthcoming book.

My passion is to build an ecosystem in engineering where everyone is appreciated and valued and allowed to be their best. So collectively we can design and build solutions to fix our ever more challenging global problems in the best way. Of course, with the best people.

And to get this right, we need to start with our budding professional engineers whether at college or university.