Questioning our ideas about inclusion – and asking for your input

July 13th, 2021 by Alan Cherwinski

At AlphaPlus, we’re currently looking for perspectives that may have been missing in our inclusion efforts.

I’m the Executive Director of AlphaPlus, but I wear more than one hat in the adult literacy education field: I’m also on the board of a literacy program here in Picton, which allows me to engage in adult literacy work in an entirely different way.

Recently, during a board discussion about 2S-LGBTQ+ issues within the local program, I was struck by perspectives I had previously been missing. As we discussed disruptions to family life and school that can lead to a need for a literacy program down the road, I realized that, though gay myself, I had, as a white, cisgender male living with several privileges, been unaware of many LGBTQ issues affecting learning.

Since coming to that realization, and knowing that at AlphaPlus we tend to talk about equitable delivery but less about being intentionally inclusive by design, I have entered AlphaPlus into a partnership with Ontario Digital Literacy and Access Network (ODLAN), an organization that facilitates digital literacy and advocates for the removal of barriers to accessing online spaces for 2S-LGBTQ+ communities. ODLAN offers resources to help organizations build the infrastructure and capacity to concretely address these issues. This partnership allows us the opportunity to learn about aspects of digital equity from an organization outside the field of adult literacy. Through the ODLAN network, organizations can collaborate further on using an intersectional lens in developing digital strategies that will minimize the barriers 2S-LGBTQ+ communities are experiencing.

This initiative leads us to the following questions:

  • Who else can we learn from and partner with?
  • What other organizations and projects outside of the adult literacy space are leading the way in digital inclusion?

Creating sector-wide system change

One of AlphaPlus’ strategic priorities is building a more equitable and inclusive literacy and basic skills (LBS) system. We have identified eight strategies to address long-standing challenges and gaps – from affordable access, to infrastructure investments, to choosing performance measures that work for learners. We’ll be sharing our recommendations for sector-wide system change over the next few months.

The strategies were built upon an AlphaPlus vision of the digital learning opportunities an adult learning system must provide. The wording of the vision is a work in progress (you can read it here), and we believe our framing of digital opportunities can, with your help, be strengthened by a more careful examination of, and explicit commitment to, inclusion.

Seeking your input

As we work toward creating sector-wide change, we’d like to learn from you, our peers in the adult literacy sector. Can you help us to be more consciously inclusive and think about approaches to inclusion that we haven’t previously considered? Please share your insights, recommendations, examples, partner ideas. We would also welcome any answers you might have to the following questions:

  • Who are the members of our communities that we’re not reaching?
  • Are there other tangential inclusion perspectives that we’re still missing?
  • Are you further ahead in this work than we are at AlphaPlus? What can we learn from your experiences with more inclusive program delivery, design and administration?

We recognize that we have more questions than answers, which is why I’m sharing them with you. I welcome your input and would like to hear from you directly, so please email me at acherwinski@alphaplus.ca to share your thoughts.

Thank you in advance for helping us to learn together.

Alan