The Network for CommunityHospitality was recently formed at the Waikato Management School by Cheryl Cockburn-Wootten and Alison McIntosh. So far over 40 community organisations have joined it, including the Fast Track Inclusion Trust. The Network for Community Hospitality has provided a number of unique opportunities for like-minded community-building organisations in joining efforts to identify and tackle common challenges – for example how do we promote inclusiveness in our community and evaluate the outcomes of our actions?
Though the term ‘Community Hospitality’ invokes the generous and friendly reception of guests and strangers, our communities still harbour large groups of people that feel marginalised and disenfranchised. One such group has disabilities that stand them apart – against their will - from their community.
Whilst disabled people were specifically excluded from community life in years passed, this is not the case anymore. Most organisations communicate, if not boast, inclusive values. However, statements of intent are ineffective unless backed up with specific systems or protocols to implement inclusiveness. Our investigation has shown that organisation leaders seemingly assume that putting in place ‘protective’ mechanisms against exclusiveness simply guarantees inclusive outcomes. This leaves individual staff ‘at the coalface’ responsible for personal interpretations or lack thereof.
The Arts2Gether project developed the concept of ‘Intentional Invitation’ to reach out to marginalised people, beyond traditional modes of community invitation. The project piloted interventions in different community settings, with the purpose of magnifying micro-interactions where evidence of shift in inclusive attitude or behaviour may be traced. Community encounters were planned to gradually increase in scope so that we could benefit from cumulative learning in real time through feedback from community leaders and participants involved.
Findings confirmed the power of the Intentional Invitation mechanism to promote engagement and participation. Disabled and non-disabled people spent time worked side by side on enticing projects – and this provided the opportunity for previously marginalised people to contribute talent, ideas, support in authentic ways. Our interview data demonstrates how these encounters prepared the grounds for such shifts in integration to occur, fostering new experiences of togetherness.
The Network for Community Hospitality was pivotal in running this pilot project: it provided the opportunity to share university resources (for instance in promoting the project at the ‘O’ Week), engage with the student body (for instance in enrolling a group of volunteer students to organise and run the campus encounters) and expand future research capability by collaborating on funding applications.
Heartfelt thanks to these social innovators!