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An inclusive conference experience

Over the last two years all conferences, workshops, fairs, and other educational events have gone virtual with varying degrees of success. Now, with the “new normal” shaping up, we were finally able to meet face to face with colleagues from all over the world.

Published : 09.12.2022

Barcelona’s EAIE conference 2022 was packed with a wide range of sessions, networking events and inspiring plenaries. It had a record number of delegates (6,200 participants from 90 countries, and 400 speakers) who focused their efforts on sustainability, inclusivity and diversity through the theme of The Future in Full Colour.

During the opening plenary, BBC journalist and keynote speaker Yalda Hakim reminded the education sector how conflicts around the world are impacting the education of women and girls. Afghanistan-born Hakim drew parallels between the current situation for females in Afghanistan and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine – which has put a halt to the education of many students – before calling the international education industry to action. She wanted to know what we all will do. That got us thinking, whether we should feel guilty or make a difference with our actions.

A conference environment removing barriers

We were able to sense and feel the inclusiveness during the whole duration of the conference. Everyone felt welcomed and appreciated. The sessions invited every participant to contribute and share ideas for development, with a focus on the difficult topics mentioned by the keynote speaker in the opening plenary. The conference environment was altogether designed to remove barriers, discrimination and intolerance.

Claire Hann, Equality & Diversity Officer at Oxford university’s Geography department, has shared her thoughts on how to make conferences inclusive. According to her, conferences provide excellent opportunities to foster new connections, ideas or collaborative projects through networking. In addition to raising people’s profile, speaking at a conference gives them visibility and exposure that proves the value of their contributions to the organisation they are representing and facilitates their career advancement. It is important to avoid inviting the same people to speak as it risks limiting the types of collaborations and innovations that are generated for the future. It is important that academic institutions send professionals in the early stages of their career to attend international conferences.

Appreciating the beauty of diversity

EAIE has always succeeded to ensure diversity. Speakers and attendees have had an equal opportunity to participate in discussions, and actively engage in Questions & Answers sessions and networking opportunities. The chairs of the sessions are well trained to facilitate the discussions and to provides streamlined audience interaction.

During the closing plenary, indigenous people photographer Jimmy Nelson spoke on the importance of preserving cultural identity, exploring our common humanity and celebrating the beauty of diversity – themes which resonated with those in the international education sector.

Until we realign, reassess and look at these extraordinary individuals, and learn to appreciate their beauty, things will not change, Nelson said. He showed us amazing pictures he had taken from parts of the world a normal conference participant could never travel. They were very colourful and suited beautifully the conference theme The Future in Full Colour.

To conclude our experiences during the conference: inclusiveness is important in education. Many educators themselves define it as the act of including and the state of being included.

Picture: www.shutterstock.com