Hundreds of Lab staff took part in a first-of-its-kind community experience on Wed., July 17, when they submitted their responses to the question “What does inclusion mean to you?” and saw their answers displayed alongside those of their Lab colleagues.
The unique crowdsourcing project was nucleated at the Lab cafeteria, where visitors passing through the lobby couldn’t miss the three 80-inch monitors and large, sticky-note-covered easels filled with responses.
Employees also participated from their own desktops and from some of the Lab’s off-campus sites thanks to volunteers. Responses were aggregated for display by crowdsourcing software Poll Anywhere. You can see all the responses here.
The event – part of the Lab’s IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and accountability) campaign — was sponsored by the Lab’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) office. It was the brainchild of Strategic Communications’ Dianne Wentworth, who worked with Lab Chief Diversity Officer Lady Idos, the DEI team, and volunteers to make it happen.
A similar event is happening this week a Lab staff are asked to answer the question: “What does diversity mean to you?”
The four cafeteria volunteers, Janie Pinterits and Kelly Perce of the DEI Office, Betsy MacGowan of Computing Sciences, and Dianne recently shared their thoughts about the event with Elements.
Elements: Set the scene for us. What was going on in the cafeteria lobby?
Betsy MacGowan: A lot of people were milling about waiting to get in at 11:30 and, you know, they’re kind of focused on getting lunch. I started approaching people waiting in line for their lunch and told them what we were doing, and they were a lot more receptive. I wrote down what people were saying on stickies. Then some people stopped on the way out to see their responses.
Kelly Perce: Janie took a flip chart board to the tables in the cafeteria and went from table to table and left stickies and markers and got people to write down their thoughts.
Janie Pinterits: Some of them would go back to eating, but some folks were sitting alone or thinking about what they wanted to write.
Dianne Wentworth: In the lobby, what was interesting was people’s faces when they first saw the words on the three big screens, and they’d just kind of stop and ask what the heck is going on here? There was a lot of curiosity. For me when I saw those faces, that was an opportunity to go up and talk to them and explain what was going on and hand them a stickie. Everybody was very receptive.
Elements: What were people’s reactions? Was there a reluctance to participate?
Dianne: At first people were afraid we were trying to sell them something. But then once people started seeing other people stopping at the tables, there was a lot of chatter. I saw people really thinking about it before they wrote down a response on stickie. They were totally engaged with that piece of paper.
Betsy: Once the word cloud started to get populated, people were really interested in the board and they were reading what people were saying. There were a couple of groups of two or three people talking about it, but mostly they were just looking at it individually.
Janie: It was quite a range of responses. Some folks were like I’m eating, but others reached out asking for the stickie pad. And they’d start writing. Before too long, there were 10 responses on this pad and other people wanted to say something. So, it snowballed in a way that was really exciting.
Elements: What was the biggest surprise for you?
Betsy: A lot of people didn’t want to respond or couldn’t think of anything, which I could totally understand, but I was shocked at how many people in the line would come out with these very thoughtful and very detailed ideas. It’s like they’ve thought about diversity and they think it’s important.
Janie: I think the most surprising one was one young man. What does inclusion mean for you? And he’s like, “Hmm, I don’t know. Oh, I know. Chopsticks.” That’s his connection to the food and the culture. That was a unique way for me to think about what inclusion at the cafeteria might look like.
Betsy: I had a couple of people say something like “old guys like me.” You can tell they’re used to hearing about inclusion for demographically diverse people. My sense was they didn’t have a problem with that, but their idea was “I should be included too.” It was nice that people felt they could say all these things.
Kelly: What strikes me is that people have a real sense of what it means to be included. And I imagine that they have a real sense of what it means to be excluded. There’s definitely a sense of it being a universal experience. It didn’t seem to be a hard question for people.
Elements: Is there one thing that you learned about the Lab from this experience?
Dianne: I was reflecting on some of the people’s faces when they were writing, and I had the sense that there are some past wrongs that have happened to people in their lives. Going forward, I hope we can kind of help heal some of that from the past.
Janie: In my meetings I tend to see some of the same people every day, but at the cafeteria there’s just such a wide diversity. I don’t know where they work and what they do, but seeing the breadth of their replies was heartwarming. I look forward to doing this again.
What does diversity mean to you? Add your voice to the conversation. The poll is open this week from Wednesday through Friday.
- Share your comments via the web.
- Text LABIDEA once to 22333, then text your thoughts.
- In person
- Hill, Cafeteria
- Building 971 Lobby
- Building 59, 4th Floor South
Other offsite locations will be collecting your thoughts as well in the next few weeks.