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London Build Expo. A melting pot of ideas

The London Build Expo 2021 was one of my first in-person events from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other than doing research and helping teams to create more inclusive products and services, I love to be on stage and advocate for Inclusive Design and the research that I do to empower people with different needs.

A few months ago, I’ve been invited by the organizers of London Build Expo, one of the largest worldwide events in the building industry, to join a panel of speakers on November 17th to share experiences about the future workforce with a focus on a fast forward to a completely diverse industry.

London Build Expo features more than 27,500 visitors and more than 220 Career Professional Development sessions. In a few words, it is massive!

The panel was composed of experts from the building industry with years of experience in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices. Christina Riley, a senior planner at Quinn London Ltd moderated the event where Jenny McLaughlin, project manager at Heathrow Airport, Teik Tan a multi-cultural affinity network group co-chair at Balfour Beatty, Mark Harrison, head of EDI transformation at the CIOB, Nicola Jones, national vice-chair, Women in Property, Stefano Paiocchi, a senior associate at Zaha Hadid Architects and me discussed the future workforce.

I genuinely brought to the conversation some of the insights that I gained during my recent research at the University of Cambridge.

Design is like an equation with variables including form, fit, function, cost, sustainability, safety, and with a multiplier coefficient that affects people’s perception of inclusion and accessibility.

Several changes are currently happening in society, and they can positively affect this equation: people are getting more knowledgeable about inclusion, are learning about diversity, and recognize that equity is not the same as equality.

To make this equation fit current societal challenges we need to remember when we design a space, a service, or simply an HR policy for our employees to explicitly make an intent, and that this intent can include or exclude certain people.

In order to guarantee that we respect the famous #GoldenRule and we acknowledge unconscious bias, the diversity of human needs and desires and we make sure we design inclusively, we need to first recognize exclusion, what are its consequences, and how we can reduce the barriers and remove them to allow employees and teams to thrive.

The COVID-19 has brought numerous quantity of challenges; however, it also carried a series of opportunities we could benefit from.

From allowing people with mobility impairments to access online events from the comfort of their home, to families enjoying a different work-life routine, to advances in healthcare delivery systems in remote areas in a timely manner.

The future of the workforce is hard to predict with a 100% level of confidence today, however, we had the opportunity to experience unprecedented constraints that led to reframing daily routines, the work-life balance, and how to redefine inclusion for a variety of different people across the world.

A lot has still to be done, but we should remember that inclusive spaces are not an option. They should be the norm.

Designing according to people’s capabilities, needs and desires constitute the right approach to avoid exclusion and increase inclusion.

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