Glossary Series Part I: Diversity vs Inclusion


Vicki Amedume standing smiling in front of a red brick wall

The arts world is ever changing, and the language we use along with it. In our Glossary Series, we interrogate the words we use, digging a little deeper into how we use them, their differing interpretations and how they might have changed.

In the first in our series, Artistic Director of Upswing Vicki Amedume writes about the words Diversity and Inclusion.


'Diversity and Inclusion are words that are used interchangeably but we need to learn to be more specific about language and recognise that they mean two different things.

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Vernā Myers

Diversity is the presence of the widest variety of people in our creative communities and our audiences, their presence alone does not change very much. Inclusion means that those diverse groups of people are included in determining how our sectors, our systems of creation and dissemination function.

For me, as a movement artist, inclusion feels like an improvisation, it suggests interdependence, where the leadership shifts for one partner to another – a two-way relationship; a mutual exchange.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” [“The more things change, the more they stay the same”] – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1849

Many good diversity programmes are structured in a way that helps individuals develop confidence and strengthen their networks. I have been part of a couple and they have been useful in my development. I have, however, found some initiatives to be less about inclusion and more about integration. These are programmes where the only metric of success is how well an individual learns how to navigate and conform to the existing culture, while that culture is left largely unchanged.

There are numerous organisations where their diversity initiatives focus only on participatory programmes, emerging artists, training, apprenticeships or entry level roles. Often these programmes are based on uneven power dynamics where there is no space for mutual influence, for people entering new roles or projects to change that project, organisation or system.

I’ve felt and witnessed the impact that results from attempting to ‘develop’ people without developing in parallel the culture of the space they are entering. It does not offer space to understand and properly address the underlying issues that cause exclusion in the first place. It wastes the opportunity of having diversity within your organisation. The situation can be frustrating at best, and ultimately leads to a loss of trust, a loss to the individual of a real growth opportunity, and the loss of talent and fresh leadership to our creative communities.

It has been proven time and time again that inclusivity and innovation are connected. A more inclusive group or organisation leads to better ideas as more minds have been invited to attend to a task. We know this very well at Upswing. Alongside the creation of our performance work we invest in the people we work with. We work with our artists over extended periods of time, sometimes years. We get to know them as human beings and they understand our commitment goes beyond the immediate project or job. We look for space for their development as we benefit from their creative energies in our productions. We also learn from the networks and experiences they bring to us from the wider sector. And when they inevitably move on from us, they know that we will continue to be their cheerleaders and supporters.'


Taken from an extract from Vicki's keynote speech at Circostrada Lab #5 in a discussion on developing diverse and inclusive leadership practice. For the full speech please click here.

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