Social inclusion has become more than a buzzword in the international development community.
There’s been a growing recognition that engaging all members of society — including those who are traditionally marginalized — is essential to true progress in any sector. Ensuring inclusion requires a deliberate and thoughtful approach to designing and carrying out development projects whether they’re focused on building literacy, fighting disease, or supporting family farmers.
Now there’s a resource to help development practitioners do just that.
On Wednesday, May 16, World Learning launched the TAAP Toolkit and Guide for Inclusive Development at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC. The toolkit was created in collaboration with the Women’s Refugee Commission, IREX, HelpAge International, Mobility International USA, and Leonard Cheshire Disability.
“TAAP forces its users to think deeper and find more sustainable and transformative solutions,” said World Learning President and CEO Carol Jenkins in her opening remarks. “We believe this tool is the most comprehensive tool to date to ensure everyone is at the table, heard and respected.”
TAAP — which stands for Transforming Agency, Access, and Power — engages development practitioners, organizations, and policymakers to move beyond diversity and amplify the voices, opportunities, and dignity of all people. The toolkit is an accessible and open-source guide offering practical tools, technical advice, and hands-on activities. Launched in Europe last month, it is now available for download worldwide at www.taapinclusion.org, where professionals can also sign up to join the TAAP Community of Practice.
The launch event brought together around 100 development professionals committed to social inclusion. It featured a panel discussion with inclusion experts, as well as remarks by World Bank Director of Social Development Maninder Gill, IREX President and CEO Kristin Lord, and Sai Aung Thein, the former deputy director of World Learning’s Institute for Political and Civic Engagement in Myanmar who helped pilot TAAP.
Gill and Lord shared why inclusion is critical to achieving their missions.
The World Bank, for example, works to fight poverty through economic development. But Gill says the organization realized that progress wasn’t reaching all members of the communities where it works. For them, poverty wasn’t just an issue of resources, but of deep-rooted stigma and discrimination. “We realized that unless you address issues of inclusion, a focus on poverty alleviation alone is not going to help us achieve that goal,” Gill said.
Lord echoed Gill in her remarks, saying that IREX believes not just in integrating inclusion into its programs but also into its own internal operations as it works for a more prosperous and just world. As she explained, “Unless we are very deliberate about inclusion, not only will we not have inclusion, we will not have prosperity and we will not have justice.”
Sai Aung Thein explained that the TAAP Toolkit provides a framework to make all of this possible.
In 2016, he discovered TAAP’s potential firsthand when he conducted two pilot programs in Myanmar using the toolkit. He recounted a “truly eye-opening” four-day workshop on social inclusion with civil society leaders from across the country. “After the workshop many people came to understand who they were…and how their social identities affect their inclusion and exclusion,” he said.
Sai Aung Thein believes that knowledge is particularly important today as Myanmar faces conflict that’s rooted in the lack of social inclusion for its many ethnic minorities. “In order for Myanmar to move forward, all people of Myanmar should be included in the process of peacemaking,” he said.
He encouraged everyone in attendance to pay attention to inclusion in all aspects of their lives and work. “If we believe in inclusion, we need to start with ourselves,” Sai Aung Thein said. “We need to be aware of our thoughts, language, action, so we are not perpetuating exclusion. I believe the TAAP Toolkit can help us greatly in this effort.”
To close out the event, a panel of experts — which included Maitreyi Das, global lead for social inclusion at the World Bank; Anthony Cotton, LGBTI senior advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development; Emma Pearce, associate director for social inclusion at the Women’s Refugee Commission; and Rizwaan Akhtar, World Learning’s manager of Iraqi youth programs — shared their thoughts on the future of inclusion with TAAP as a guide.
Cotton told the audience that advocates should continue look for ways to make inclusion less daunting to those who want to do this work but don’t have the time to delve deeply into it. “It’s about building allies to the inclusive development world and then creating tools for them to do the work,” he said.
Das agreed, saying she would like to see sectors that have traditionally been less focused on inclusion — such as infrastructure and water practice — integrate it into their work using the TAAP Toolkit. “My sense is, as we move in this agenda we need to move away from the things that have become easier and to go where people haven’t gone before.”
The TAAP Toolkit, which puts inclusion within reach for professionals in all sectors, will go a long way toward making this possible. “Most people approach inclusion from a place of fear,” Akhtar said. “I think an amazing part of the TAAP Toolkit is that it helps break that down and starts with smaller steps.”
TAAP will be an important part of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s efforts to improve inclusion in the humanitarian sector. “We need to not reinforce and instead address the drivers that lead to exclusion,” Pearce said, adding that the Women’s Refugee Commission plans to report its progress back to the TAAP Community of Practice — in which practitioners, organizations, and policymakers come together to solve problems, share knowledge, cultivate best practices, and innovate to advance social inclusion.
World Learning is excited to see how TAAP will transform the critical work that development practitioners are doing. To learn more about the TAAP Toolkit and Guide for Inclusive Development and join the TAAP Community of Practice, please visit our website at www.taapinclusion.org.
As Jenkins said, “Act fast and address the global challenge of social inclusion now.”
— Amy McKeever
Amy McKeever is the writer/editor at World Learning.