One of the working groups set up to help with the work of the Diversity Allies has been exploring courses on equality, diversity, and inclusion -related subjects. While professional-led training may be more interactive, it is also significantly more expensive. Online courses are offered free-of-charge through platforms such as Coursera or FutureLearn, with no obligation to purchase a subscription (unless you are set on getting recognition from your learning). The level of these courses varies, as does their relevance to the archives and records management sector. Rather than just recommending courses the Diversity Allies decided to test one of these. Unfortunately by the time we had finished working through it and decided that it was worth recommending, the course had become unavailable. It remains ‘not running’, and just goes to show that free courses are volatile beasts, and can be taken down at short notice.
After this a few Diversity Allies in the ‘Courses-to-be-Reviewed’ working group completed courses in ones and twos, and shared their thoughts on pros and cons, as well as relevance to our profession. One of these, The Society of American Archivists’ free webcast ‘Cultural Diversity Competency’ by Helen Wong Smith was then suggested for the Diversity Allies to complete together. Unfortunately, trying to do this in the pandemic was not successful. With changed working patterns and all the pressures of the strange situation the majority of the Diversity Allies were less able to complete the course as planned. However, we do think this is probably one of the ways forward to challenge, to stimulate, to help you think in new ways. Learning can have a significant impact on how we understand the world around us if we want to make the sector more inclusive, equitable and more representative of the UK and Irish societies as a whole.
Rather than attempting to collectively review free courses, the ARA Diversity and Inclusion Allies intend to begin listing courses alongside other resources. Learning about equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as the myriad themes that contribute to an equitable, inclusive and diverse sector, does not itself make the sector more equitable, inclusive and diverse. It is, however, something we all can do as individuals and professionals in order to better understand lived experiences we may personally not have access to. This may help us practice our empathy and humility muscles and become aware of our own privileges and shortcomings and therefore reflect instead of becoming defensive. Some of our own biases we will be aware of, but some are unconscious and buried deeper. These take a lot more work to reach and are part of our personal journeys which help us grow, but also prompt us to take action within our organisations.
So, where to begin? Pick a course; any course. Perhaps find some friends or colleagues to take it together. If MOOCs (online courses) do not appeal to you, that’s fine! What is your preferred way of learning? Get hold of a book in whichever format works for you. Read an article. Listen to a podcast, watch vlogs and blogs. Binge on TED-talks on YouTube. Take baby steps, but do the work, and be willing to see the value in seeing things in a new way. And after you have done that, consider how you can implement what you have learnt in your work.