Diversity, equity and inclusion specialist Dakota Robin works with several organizations, including Inklusiiv, which Finnish Design Shop supports as a community member. Robin spoke with Design Stories about guidelines to help enable encounters that are free from bias and discrimination, both in person and online.
Hi, Dakota! Could you tell us a bit about your background and professional path? What led you to work as a certified human rights trainer and LGBTQ+ consultant?
“I could have never imagined that what started as volunteer work and the desire to help others would turn into a profession! All I ever wanted was to be that person, whom I myself desperately would have needed in my youth, for someone else. My gift for impacting others was quickly noted, which led to my nomination for an EU-funded international training. In the end, I and four others were selected to take part in 2,5 years of studies conducted all around Europe. We all became internationally certified human rights trainers.
For the past six years, I have worked as an enterpreneur in the field of human rights, both in the public and private sector. So far, I have trained the likes of doctors, psychologists, employees of notable international corporations, school personnel, authorities as well as politicians.”
You talk about unconscious biases that impact our daily actions and choices. How do they manifest and how can we unlearn them? What role do mistakes play in the process?
“It is worthwhile to reflect on your biases when meeting someone new, as you will notice that certain thoughts or mental images arise even before you have been introduced to the individual. In this case, it is advisable to ask yourself, where do these notions originate, as they could not have been evoked by the person themself. As you begin to find your path to the source of your biases, you may begin to question them and thus become more conscious of your own actions.
Making mistakes and faltering is an essential part of learning, which is why it is equally important to create a safe space for learning, without fear of being cancelled for your thoughts.”
“Creating a safer space requires that each individual has the desire to act in an equitable and respectful manner.”
You say that your work largely revolves around constructing safer spaces. Could you briefly explain what a safer space refers to as a concept?
“A safe space refers to an environment, space or platform, where everyone can take action and co-exist without a sense of fear. It encompasses a space that is open for all and where everyone can be themselves – one that is free of discrimination, harassment as well as sexual, physical and verbal assault. The administrator of the space must immediately intervene in behavior that disrupts the safety of the space in any way.
Unfortunately, we can never refer to a space as completely safe when it is shared by more than one person. In addition to a sense of responsibility, creating a safer space requires that each individual has the desire to act in an equitable, respectful manner towards all those involved.”
You were a part of Inklusiiv's diversity, equity and inclusion training, which Finnish Design Shop offered to selected influencers, who are committed to the subject area. What role does social media play in bringing about societal change?
“Social media is by far the largest and most boundless realm for sharing information, which makes it a significant tool for promoting positive change. Unfortunately, social media has yet to become an equally inclusive and safe space for all minority groups. Many large platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube do not support influencers with a minority background in an equal manner. One can find a vast amount of research on the topic.
The greatest issue with social media is the fact that it is so difficult to control. People are able to distribute harmful and false information without being held accountable. Social media has also become a place for many to vent their own discomfort – in this case, the outburst often targets another individual, whose humanity is easily forgotten whilst staring at the screen.”
“Paying attention to sensitive language use helps promote open and mutually respectful discussions.”
What does the home mean to you, and which factors make a happy home for you?
“For me, the home is connected to inner peace and strength. It can either be a place or a person, whose company helps me rest and recuperate.”
Finnish Design Shop wants to co-create a flourishing community, where everyone feels welcome. How can all of us take part in establishing a safer space?
“Amplifying underrepresented voices is what matters most, in addition to maintaining open and mutually respectful discussions. The following guidelines can help shape a safer space for all.”
5 tips to help promote a safer working environment
- Avoid projecting your own biases on others when meeting new people. Instead of making assumptions, ask politely.
- Be kind and considerate to everyone in equal measure. Refrain from leaving anyone out of a conversation.
- Pay attention to sensitive language use. Do not consider yourself superior to others: merely displaying so-called tolerance towards others is inadequate.
- Do not inquire on personal matters. When asking questions, always consider in what manner, about what topic, and in which situation it takes place. Sensitive questions can prove highly traumatic when posed in the presence of others.
- Always take action when witnessing misconduct. Instead of letting the moment pass or solely comforting the target of the violation afterwards, confront the culprit when the misbehavior takes place. Change is enabled by holding the perpetrator accountable.
Text: Eero Nurmi Images: Alexander Beer and Dakota Robin