Judith Pete with GO-GN founder Fred Mulder

This is a guest post from Judith Pete. Judith has been leading a project examining ways in which the GO-GN network could include more members from under-represented regions. Here she reflects on the project.

Personal reflections, insights and explorations with stakeholders:

This is a life-shaking kind of project that I have to admit is changing my world view, perception, behavior and life as whole. It all started with a number of interviews with GO-GN members from the Global South, all relevant practitioners and experts on OER and distance learning. Recently, at the end of March, an expert’s workshop was held in Nairobi that drew participants from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, United Kingdom and Rwanda to share their views, expertise and experiences on diversity, equity and inclusion. The purpose of the workshop was that their input would aid in the development of a strategy document on diversity, equity and inclusion for GO-GN. 

As I reflected on the process, my engagements with these colleagues, I had flashbacks to my childhood orientation in rural Kenya, growing up with minimal privileges. I can clearly remember words in statements made by village elders, area chiefs, my mother and village councils, words like: welcome, give, value, comfort, belong, guide, right, wrong, nurture, improve, whole, holistic, learn, love, freedom, include, grow, celebrate, build, together, create and innovate. Consequently, while attending women empowerment seminars and workshops as a teenager, I heard of terms like nurture, inclusive, strive, share, commitment, future and creative. These connotes that the practices and experiences of diversity, inclusion and equity may not be a new venture, whether for me personally, or in a broader context, but may have been in practice at different stages long ago for individual and common good in very diverse societies.

Today, I see a lot of local and global similarities in their use and practices. From the experts work shop, it was clear that diversity means different things to different people; but should not be an excuse of failure to claim the space. The understanding and application of diversity should consider culture, ability, reproductive status, health, criminal record, class and appearance. From the interviews and discussions during the workshop it was clear that the notion of diversity include all listed but that our understanding of diversity should not be limited to them. It also became clear that many of these characteristics may actually be, or be seen as incommensurable in a particular context in time. For example, in some contexts women’s reproductive status determines their status in the community. Community perceptions regarding their gender is linked to, and often incommensurable with their ability to bear children. Acknowledging the limitations of our understanding of diversity is seen as prudent approach to actions; what is called ‘epistemic humility’ #Paul Prinsloo

Equity, on the other hand, recognizes a range of barriers which might be intergenerational, and part of a historical legacy affecting individuals and communities. We therefore need to embrace an openness to critics, as well as commitment to consultations with stakeholders for broader and more informed vision of what equity mean and could mean. When we equate actions and practices, then I remember the terms like freedom, improve, and the like. Equitable actions may nurture ownership of processes and enrich and deepen open practices.

Reflecting on the essence of understanding the notion of Inclusion, I usually appreciate my background and orientation. The thoughts of ‘others’ were very strong in my upbringing. We could not just prepare a meal for the eleven of us in our family; we had to prepare extra for anyone who might come in during meal time. Consideration and acknowledging the marginalized voices, having a sense of belonging, valued, leveraged, welcomed and respected are key concepts in realizing the principle of inclusivity.   

The DEI project envisages open research communities such as GO-GN creating an inclusive community that champions, promotes and apply diversity, equity and inclusivity principles; while fulfilling the network’s aims of raising the profile of open education researches, supporting PhD candidates in the field, engaging with alumni, as well as developing openness as a process of research especially in the Global South and beyond. The proposed GO-GN strategy document should incorporate and embrace practices that are inclusive, equitable and diverse.

Working to develop some practical guidelines and approaches for GO-GN and similar projects is now the next phase of the project.

Martin Weller

Written by Martin Weller

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