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The Possibilities of Inclusion for SIGCHI

When we are inclusive…
We can be heard.
We can be respected.
We can make change.
We can have impact.

For over three decades, the SIGCHI community has sought to be inclusive in building new technologies. As we know, a central tenet of HCI is to understand the needs, challenges, and context from other people’s perspectives to make the technologies we design and build better serve people’s needs. And so, by applying these principles of inclusive design to our professional community, we hope to make our community better support the needs of our members.

When we are open to hearing diverse points of view, and respecting the individuals that make these points—we can change how we work together, how we can learn from each other, how we can build new technologies, and how we can strengthen our professional community. We can make a difference and have an impact. These are the possibilities of “inclusion.” It is not just about opening doors to more people, but how this inclusive welcome can be impactful. Inclusion is not about changing people so that they can be included, but instead, changing processes that can include as many people and perspectives as possible.

Beginning this year, the SIGCHI Executive Committee has a made a commitment to use what the community knows about inclusion to reflect on what is possible, to expand on what we can do, to create a more inclusive professional community. As one of the “grand challenges” expressed by our SIGCHI community members [see blog], we need to welcome and support our members, regardless of professional discipline, geographic locations, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, economic advantage, or disability. Our members have asked that SIGCHI respect these differences to enable professional growth and opportunities.

As an ACM SIG (or Special Interest Group of the ACM), we have attempted over the years to support inclusion in a variety of ways, through:

    • the creation of the SIGCHI Accessibility Community to collect data on what our community can do better to support members with disabilities;
    • financial support for travel to SIGCHI-related events through special funds;
    • SIGCHI Townhall meetings which encourage the sharing of diverse viewpoints;
    • incorporating robot presence at conferences for members who can’t travel to conference locations
    • continuing to offer childcare in some form at many conferences;

These are just some of the efforts the SIGCHI community has accomplished and they are much appreciated, however we understand they are not enough. This year the SIGCHI community has recognized and communicated this in many ways, including through the recent call for “Grand Challenges.” Voices have been raised and the SIGCHI leadership has heard, among other things, the need for more:

    • sensitivity to diversity in conference keynotes;
    • support for financial relief for conference and travel costs;
    • variety of diversity and inclusion outreach and events;
    • regional input into EC decision-making
    • conferences opportunities for all types of SIGCHI members, particularly practitioners;
  • recognition that accessibility is a critical part of how conference venues are chosen, how publications are presented, and how the SIGCHI organization works.

We need to hear more about what is needed, respect these voices and ideas, and make change, but accomplishing this conference by conference does not scale. We need policies that can ensure we are working together to be more inclusive, that can cross conferences and maintain consistency within conferences as leadership changes each year. To be sure, we will not solve all the issues that confront us when it comes to inclusion with one meeting, or with one policy change, or even with organizational change. As a professional community that spans countries, cultures, disciplines, age, disabilities, sexual orientation, and gender identity, we may not even agree on the activities we should pursue or even the very definition of inclusion. This is a long-term effort, and we will need many more discussions, experiments, and changes. Our first step needs to be prioritizing what should and can get done. SIGCHI as a professional organization will only be more inclusive when the concept of inclusion is woven into the very fabric of each decision we make, each conference we lead, and the way we support each member we welcome.

I am honored that the SIGCHI EC appointed me to be the organization’s first Adjunct Chair for Inclusion. While I have served in many capacities over the years (e.g., from co-chairing CHI2016, to co-chairing many years of Diversity & Inclusion Lunches and Women’s Breakfasts, to developing CHIkids), no leadership role I have volunteered for has been a greater honor. At the same time, no leadership role has worried me as much as this one. Never have I had as many questions as ideas. Ever since I took on this role, I continually ask myself, how can we hear all the voices of our members? Is it ever possible to agree on inclusion efforts? How much will it be possible to do?

My first step on this journey is to form a task force that will give voice to “inclusion innovators.” I hope to find people who are already doing innovative work in inclusion, people who want do work on inclusion for the future, and people who represent the members’ voices we need to hear. The SIGCHI EC has tasked me with spurring on as much participation from our membership as we can in this area of inclusion. So, how can we find all of you that have ideas and want to help? Shortly, I will be asking for nominations and self-nominations (volunteers). I will also be asking all conference steering committee chairs to consider developing one new inclusive approach their leadership can take in the coming years. I see developing inclusion not as one person’s job, but as each person’s contribution to our SIGCHI community.

Together we can be heard.
Together we can build respect.
Together we can make change.
And together we can have impact.

I look forward to working with each of you.
Allison Druin, Pratt Institute
SIGCHI Adjunct Chair for Inclusion

Some articles that that may be of interest to you and can inform our discussions on the topic of inclusion, include:

Jeffrey Leiter, Nicholas Solebello, Mary Tschirhart
Copyright © 2011 by ASAE Foundation.

Jonathan Lazar, Elizabeth Churchill, Tovi Grossman, Gerrit Van Der Verr, Philippe Palanque, John “Scooter” Morris, Jennifer Mankoff
March 2017
Communications of the ACM

Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh
JUNE 05, 2018
Chronicle of Higher Education

Kathy Gurchiek
March 19, 2018
Society for Human Resource Management