Some recent developments threaten inclusivity around the globe. In various societies, for instance, identity politics, fuelled by exclusive political allegiances and populist responses to migration and other issues, undermine inclusivity by stereotyping, polarization, and a resulting loss of solidarity. The widespread erosion of trust in institutions, public and private alike, further exacerbates the threat to inclusivity. A lack of inclusivity in society particularly manifests itself in organizations across multiple, often interconnected dimensions of diversity. This happens, for instance, through inequalities in wage levels and career prospects between categories such as ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ employees, men and women, full-time employees and ‘hired hands’, ‘white’ and ‘coloured’ people, and through disrespect for personhood such as in various forms of harassment and bullying. Inclusivity is inherently an organizational issue and calls to be examined through an organization studies lens; it questions the design of traditional forms of organizing and organizational practices, and may demand the creation of novel, innovative ones.
The complex nature of today’s social challenges suggests that there may not be one best way to organize for inclusivity. For example, in certain circumstances, inclusivity may become a convenient framing to avoid discussing burning or controversial issues, such as equality or democracy. The value of inclusivity can be questioned if, in its very name, differences are pushed to the background and suppressed as irrelevant, thereby confirming the dominance of the ‘normal’ in social, cultural, political or economic terms. Despite many notable efforts, organizing for an inclusive society inevitably goes hand in hand with the bright and dark sides of organizing.
In 2021, EGOS will be located in a city with an extensive history of organizing for inclusivity. Amsterdam, the city, and its citizens have for a long time found creative and sometimes almost subversive ways of organizing their livelihoods and interactions with different social groups in a limited space and under continuous external pressures. Shaking up old ways of thinking and living together, as well as creating new forms of collaboration, communication, compromise, and exchange, have always been central to this city’s organizing – in both its bright and dark manifestations.
The long history of migration to Amsterdam serves as an example of the entanglement of positive and negative sides of organizing. The steady stream of migrants – whether from the nearby countryside or from far away locales – seeking work, inspiration, and protection among like-minded people has led to excellence in many fields and domains ranging from economics to the fine arts, but also to exploitation, dominance, and abuse of power. Therefore, in striving for inclusivity, people struggle with its dark side. This struggle manifests itself in an ongoing search for answers to the question of what it means to be a citizen of the city; a continuing debate about motivations to live and work here; and a ceaseless quest to discover and maintain organizational mechanisms that foster inclusivity.