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  • Writer's pictureCanopy Collective India

Reflecting on the DEI workshop- a Diary Entry by Manisha

Updated: Mar 13

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are not just buzzwords; they represent profound values that are integral to our understanding of society and, increasingly, to the practice of nature conservation. These are words with a significant exploration into the overlooked facets of our past and present. But what exactly do these words mean? Is the celebration of diversity limited to songs of unity and secularism? Does equity mean having a place at the table, or is it more than that? And what is inclusion? Is only talking about our sustainable future enough to call ourselves inclusive? With these questions in mind, four individuals pondered a quest for sharing and learning. For Neyi, Tamma, Yams, and I it was continuous rounds of Zoom conversations that helped them find the dictionary meaning and practicality behind these three words.




We found different ways in which we can be diverse, from what we like to wear to our political affiliation to our caste and gender. And then comes equity. But before jumping into it, we need to realize and acknowledge that we are all diverse in our nature, character, and history. And these diversities have given us an identity. Identity, which brings or does not bring many privileges, gives us a place in society, which is fluid and ever-changing with time and our socio-economic circumstances. And when we realize this about ourselves and others, we can take the first step towards equity. Because then we would walk the extra mile to make sure we were equal. And in doing so, we can also strive to be inclusive, as individuals, in our personal and professional lives. Diversity encompasses far more than superficial differences; equity goes beyond mere representation; and inclusion is about creating environments where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered.




An example that comes to mind is about an article that I wrote with my project assistants, Pemba and Dechin. This was 2022, when we were working on a WWF-India project together to document human wildlife conflict in high-altitude areas. In this project, we all had different roles to play; mine was in designing the methodology, analysis, and writing; theirs was in collecting data, data entry, video, and photo documentation. When writing the article, they were my co-authors, and we navigated through many jugaads to make this work. Somehow managing through the patchy internet of Jemeithang, I would share the findings of the article on the phone, get their comments and feedback in a WhatsApp voice note, and then translate it into English texts. This made the work more collaborative and inclusive of every individual’s strengths and capacities. To be honest, it was difficult and additional work, but ensuring things this way made it equitable and inclusive of my teammates and their contribution to the project. Even simple things like these are what we scholars or practitioners overlook and ignore. And in a comparatively new field like nature conservation, where we are still learning to incorporate interdisciplinarity, we tend to ignore these values and ethics to a great extent.


Coming back from my trip down memory lane and to see if this can be talked about with others, it was around September–October that we decided to host a two-day workshop on the below title, Embracing the Values of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in Nature Conservation. When Neyi, Nandini, and I were discussing the activities we could have for the workshop, we knew we wanted to keep it fun and curious. And so, we kept a multitude of games to explain concepts like implicit and explicit bias, diversity, equity, inclusion, and privileges and connect them all with our work on nature conservation. To keep sessions light and musical, we had Salil, and for themes that could only be explained by field experts, we had transgender activist Rituparna and emotional intelligence conservation teacher Shamim. Even though the number of participants was limited to 19, we had practitioners, leaders, and changemakers from across age, gender, and, to brag a little, nine states.



The first day of the workshop began with understanding implicit bias through a tag game, adapted from Fowler (2006). This was followed by the definition of implicit and explicit bias, their types, and identifying a few biases around us. Later, the participants divided into groups and identified different biased statements they had heard or seen and found the reasons behind the bias. It was remarkable to see statements about the biased nature of individuals or communities stemming from lived experiences, word of mouth, and subconscious perceptions being recollected and shared by participants. While doing such exercises, it is important that we create a safe environment for the participants to share. We were lucky that most of the participants had come from a 3-day nature walk, so they already had prior time to bond with each other. While many times, as moderators as well, our actions unintentionally might hurt or not bore well, in such cases, it is important that we talk, apologize, and make sure we do not repeat the mistake. Being unbiased in our actions, thoughts, and words is a continuous process that can only be perfected with time and practice.


The last session for the day was a guessing game in which participants had to guess characters using and without biased statements and actions. While the participants took longer to guess characters without using biased statements, it was a reminder that our bias is deeply rooted in our brains and we should acknowledge and learn to undo it. To close the day, we had Salil take us through a ball of sound, bring it to the room, and disperse the energy with it as we ourselves scattered over different places with new thoughts. Thus, the first day of the workshop concluded with an understanding of implicit bias and its impact on our perceptions and behaviors. Participants uncovered and challenged their own biases, fostering a deeper understanding of how bias operates in society and how it can be addressed.



The second day of the workshop delved into the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion through a series of interactive games and discussions. We all celebrated our diversities, learned everyone’s styles of celebration, and, in a two-person session, found similarities and differences with each other. Guest speakers offered insights into important themes such as gender sensitivity and emotional intelligence, highlighting the interconnectedness of DEI principles with conservation practice. When we closed for the second day, there was a scene that is still etched in my heart: participants gathered in a circle, humming in unison—a powerful symbol of harmony and strength in community. Remembering it feels like an achievement, leaving me motivated and encouraged to continue on this journey towards a more equitable and inclusive future of nature conservation.



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