The Applied Improvisation Network
Inclusion & Diversity

Working Documents
July 2019


Brief Background:

Following the Oxford conference in 2016, members of the Board established the AIN Inclusion & Diversity Committee to help foster a diverse, inclusive, welcoming, and supportive international community. Over the last few years, several AIN members have engaged in reflection and discussion around the diversity of the broader organization. Grounded in the belief that the unique perspectives, experiences, practices, and points of view add both possibility and complexity to our work, the committee was charged with helping AIN articulate its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of the organization.

This document includes:  terms and definitions, a values statement, strategic goals, and supporting practices.  It is offered as a working document, created in 2018. It is anticipated that these terms, statements, values, and practices contained therein will continue to evolve as we work in helping to re-center diversity and inclusion within the broader organization.

Terms and Definitions:

  •  Diversity reflects all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or social group different from another. Diversity often references our differences along race, ethnicity, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, age, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, and education. It can also reflect a vast array of individual differences (e.g. personality, language, learning styles, and life experiences).
  •  Inclusion is the active, intentional and ongoing creation of environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.

For an international organization like AIN, these terms may be relative. For example, some of our members may find AIN to be one of the most diverse organizations they’ve ever been part of. Simultaneously, others may find AIN to be among the least diverse organization they’ve been part of. In either case, we should be wary of confusing proximity (diversity) with engagement,  (inclusion)—a diverse group isn’t inherently inclusive on its own.

Beyond geographic and numerical representation, the committee suggests AIN strive to cultivate authentic and empowered participation and a sense of belonging for all our members. 

Addressing the issue of diversity (e.g. outreach, recruitment, scholarships) doesn’t guarantee an inclusive culture. Inclusion is about cultivating an environment of affirmation, engagement and belonging. It includes critical reflection on the values, practices, and processes that contribute to creating an equitable, just, and inclusive organization. For example, play and humor may manifest differently across groups and cultures—thus it’s worth reflecting how we navigate shared spaces of play and the personal, social, current events, and historical forces involved. We need to embed these regular practices in our work together.

Why Should Diversity and Inclusion Matter to AIN?

We envision a world where every person utilizes their unique genius to spark new insights, co-create lasting change, and cultivate a thriving global community.

Every global member of AIN offers unique insights shaped by race, culture, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and more. We not only recognize and respect those differences, we believe they’re essential to our ability to enact our vision. By actively cultivating a diverse community of applied improvisation scholars, teachers, trainers, and practitioners, we benefit from a richer mix of ideas, perspectives and life experiences that expand our thinking and possibilities.

AIN’s Core Beliefs (posted on the AIN website) reinforce our shared values for collaboration, generosity, cooperation, trust, and our collective aim to improve the quality of human lives, relationships, and communities. We believe there is inherent and endless possibility in diversity, an invaluable opportunity to stretch and grow across our differences, and a call to generate a collective sense of belonging for all who share in AIN’s vision.

Suggested Strategic Goals for AIN (August 2018)

  1.   Communicate a mission and purpose that clearly infuses principles of inclusion and diversity.
  2.   Consistently demonstrate our commitment to quality inclusion efforts. 
  3.   Provide opportunities and resources that encourage members’ development as inclusive AI scholars, teachers, trainers, practitioners.
  4.   The AIN community should understand what is expected as it relates to helping co-create an inclusive atmosphere.
  5.   The AIN community should feel empowered to show up authentically and make meaningful contributions to the organization, including difficult conversations and feedback.

Suggested Diversity & Inclusion Statement:

A Framework for Cultivating an Inclusive Organization

To more fully attain our vision and live our values/beliefs, we strive to make our commitment to diversity and inclusion evident in AIN’s structure, policies, processes, gatherings, and membership. So, how do we articulate this commitment and create an inclusive community that embraces explorations of difference as value?

All of us are better than one of us.

Supporting Statements:

  •   In the spirit of appreciation and affirmation, AIN believes in the inherent dignity of all people. Each of us has the right and opportunity to develop our full potential and thrive.
  •   We commit to co-creating an inclusive community that reflects the ideals of equity and justice. We commit to leveraging the unique contributions of our diverse members so that we can collectively and effectively co-create opportunities for a better world for all.
  •   We embrace the ideal of a diverse ensemble of applied improvisation scholars, teachers, trainers, and practitioners because it will enhance our organization, not take away from it.
  •   Our commitment to working/playing collaboratively compels us to build relationships where all members are valued, heard, and empowered. We believe that meaningful, lasting connections are based on the mutuality of respect, trust and curiosity with one another.
  •   An inclusive community must engage with diverse points of view, see and hold multiple perspectives, and work to understand others from their perspective. We seek to cultivate an exquisite level of listening, attention, and presence with one another— always striving for better ways of relating and communicating with one another.
  •   We each contribute—embodying a “yes, and” principle guides us to explore and heighten our respective contributions. Our work and play together should build on each other’s’ ideas, perspectives, experiences, strengths, knowledge, and abilities to maximize our collective potential.


Supporting Practices:

The art of Improvisation reminds us that our differences need not be barriers, but

rather opportunities to enhance empathy and enable new perspectives. Our practice and application of improvisation not only offers us the opportunity to see things another way—but also to act in another way. If we are to cultivate our best and most inspired work together, we must continually engage in the essential task of attending to who we are and how we want to be with one another.

  •   Respect diverse identities, including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, nationality, religion, and socioeconomic status.
  •   Be open to hearing and experiencing different perspectives, ways of relating, and communicating.
  •   Nurture relationships across difference. Build relationships where your partners are valued, heard, and respected.
  •   Begin where someone is, not where you want them to be. Commit to learning from a broad range of perspectives and experiences.
  •   Name impact, trust intent. Notice the intent and impact of our communication with one another. Notice where and when we’re connecting and/or disconnected.
  •   Attend to the situational and contextual variables that shape our interactions, relationships, and exchanges.
  •   Think critically about behaviors that may be disempowering others, and invite feedback about your impact.
  •   Take responsibility for when and how we might exclude others: by trivializing, devaluing, or invalidating their perspective; by valuing only what others have in common with us; or by not noticing the subtleties of our privilege and status.
  •   Assess how our actions contribute to the culture, norms, practices, and rituals. Are there ways we inadvertently perpetuate social inequities that exist locally and globally?
  •   Reflect on our own socialization into various identity groups and the impact this has on our participation in AIN.
  •   Consider what kinds of stereotypes we might be carrying and how they may impact the way we relate or don’t relate to others and to each other.
  •   Seek ways to actively build individual and collective skills around cross-cultural interactions, communication, and dialogue. How can we support each other in the skill- building process?
  •   Consider the circumstances and lived experiences of various individuals and groups (e.g. underrepresented groups) in our decision making.
  •   Assume shared responsibility for building and sustaining an inclusive climate within AIN.