In the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, hears a voice whispering, “If you build it, they will come.” That sentiment is true when we think about municipalities that have invested in creating and fostering a truly welcoming and affirming culture.
More than ever before, our cities, townships, villages and neighborhoods must have a strong focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, ensuring there is a place for everyone. That means that there is a strong commitment to investing in a robust inclusive culture, which ensures that all residents can thrive, prosper and succeed free of discrimination, hate and violence.
Leadership at all levels of government must understand and meet the needs of everyone in their communities by recognizing their values and contributions equally from the wealthiest to the most vulnerable. Saying you celebrate diversity does not mean you are inclusive; this requires a true commitment, not just lip service. Diversity, equity and inclusion must be a stated top priority and fully supported by those who serve us, from the mayor to the municipal manager and council members.
Studies have proven that municipalities that truly celebrate and foster inclusion see greater opportunities for their residents and take advantage of widespread economic benefits for everyone. Government leaders must ensure they are using effective best practices when creating their strategies around diversity, equity and inclusion.
One best practice used in cities around the globe is creating the “intercultural city,” which encourages inclusion by investing in people of different backgrounds, including ethnicities, nationalities, origins, languages, and religions and/or beliefs. Strong policies and strategies focused on inclusion lead to positive intercultural experiences, allowing for collective input from all residents and guaranteeing everyone feels included.
It only takes one voice to change the landscape of what our cities, townships, villages and neighborhoods look like. That one voice can become the catalyst for positive and lasting change. As the world evolves and we see more and more diversity represented where we live, work, play and pray, let’s create a solid blueprint for full inclusion — building a truly welcoming and affirming culture, where every voice is heard and everyone is welcomed at the table.