Diversity, inclusion & equity: Inclusive design

Timeframe: 2020 - present
Role: Founder, organizer & facilitator

Type: DEI; DesignOps; Culture
Status: Ongoing


⏱ Initiative overview

Ibram X. Kendi said: "The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it." 

As we start to understand the world around us, we must constantly be reflecting and learning about systemic racism, majoritarian privilege, our own biases as individuals, micro-aggressions, and intersectionality with other topics (disabilities, discrimination in other dimensions), and how we unknowingly perpetuate them.

This is especially true for craftspeople delivering experiences and products for users beyond ourselves, as we must challenge preconceived notions in our craft and deliverables to create just and impactful experiences for everyone.

At Publicis Sapient, one of our core values is 'Inclusive Collaboration', and it must go beyond just talking about it, and indeed we must start to actively support and define ways to fight against oppression.

Change starts with awareness, but being inclusive isn't just about absorbing, learning about it, and sitting on that information; it's also about taking action.

💫 Impact


action items to scale up

8 examinations

of products & experiences

11+ groups

of underserved people identified

"The safe space really makes it easier to share and learn."

— Workshop participant, a designer

💡 key learnings

1: Context is still the most important facet of any meaningful discussion

I was spurred into action as the whole world witnessed the Black Lives Matters movement at the height of the pandemic, and wanted to examine how racism exists in our (Southeast Asian) countries too, especially as a Chinese person living in a society like Singapore.

I felt that it was very important to get the cultural context, even if we don't live in the direct USA society. 

As my research lead and I shaped the agenda for these sessions, we realized that it was going to be more fruitful for the team if we focused more broadly on inclusion, with racism being a facet of it.

I was initially uncomfortable about not focusing specifically on antiracism, but introspection and reflection allowed me to understand that it was a good idea to anchor it towards inclusive design, and how we can take direct action to incite change.

There is also the context of the medium - we had to organize the workshops and activities over Zoom rather than having a face-to-face conversation about heavy conversations like this, and it was still something we grappled with just a few months into working from home.

I quickly realized that it was important to check in even more often than you would in person, and make sure that everybody on the team is following the conversation and having their voices heard.

2. Inclusivity extends to being mindful of everyone's starting points

It was heartening to see everyone with an appetite to learn and a willingness to unlearn what we already knew. Still, there was a lot of deliberation on my part as a facilitator, as I also learned through the process that it couldn't be a 'one size fits all' approach.

Some people knew most of the context of why inclusive design was integral; others were just at the beginning of their journeys.

There was also a disparity in the comfort level of speaking up — this is especially interesting, considering the subject of inclusivity, and how that should extend to introverts and extroverts in a setting like this. 

3. The value of diverse perspectives cannot be understated

My biggest pride was seeing the team bring more audiences and problem statements than I could think of myself. In fact, they went above and beyond to understand the problem statements, and did so by conducting guerilla and informal interviews with people to connect with them.

There were a myriad of topics explored, such as racism in the ways we design and ship products, ageism in our government services, and audiobooks for the hearing impaired, amongst others.

The best learnings always come from unexpected moments, and I am appreciative of my team who pushed themselves to learn and share.

Through the collective of each of our diverse backgrounds, we managed to learn more than if we had stayed in our siloes.

We also came up with action ideas and plans to scale this beyond our region, to further dive deeper into specific areas like accessibility in this series of learning, and to provide the constant accountability for each of us to always be mindful of inclusion as we deliver our work.