GYA Members

Fostering Inclusive Leaders: Designing A New Approach to DEI With The GYA

In a world that is being rendered apart by polarization, it has become more critical than ever that we collectively find ways to bridge our differences and honor different perspectives at a systemic and individual level. As an international society aimed at giving a voice to young scientists across the globe, the Global Young Academy (GYA) is deeply sensitive to the complex and challenging environments in which their members operate (both within the GYA itself and in their own personal and professional lives).

GYA MembersHowever, the GYA also recognizes that, as scientists, their members’ work and research continues to play a critical part in shaping all of our collective futures; not only providing the scientific basis for better decision making, but also by serving as role models for inclusion, collaboration and productive debate. After all, their vision is “science for all; science for the future”.

Becoming a role model in this regard takes time, tools, practice, empathy and confidence; all things that GYA members seek to develop. So they wanted to address it and believed the organization could offer all of these, and more, for its members to leverage in the future they are currently building.

Conversation Over Prescription

In early 2023, Lalit Khandare and Vanessa Schweizer (the Co-Leads of the GYA Focus Group Addressing Systemic Discrimination) approached our team of facilitators with a challenge. Could we run a series of global, virtual workshops that invited their fellow members to not only explore inclusive leadership, but also how they might foster it within their own communities?

Of course we jumped at the chance to collaborate on such an important project and it was clear we shared an underlying ambition: to ensure we avoided hosting a generic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) workshop and instead focus on one that acknowledged that…

experiences of exclusion are not limited to the examples often broadcast from the Global North. They occur in all geographies and cultures and how they manifest differently across them must be acknowledged to ensure a global workshop is inclusive by nature.

when society at large isn’t equipped to hold the space about such complex (and oftentimes polar) experiences, a short workshop certainly won’t fix it. But we can at least provide a safe space to start the conversation and equip the participants with the tools they need to continue it in their own communities.

So that’s where we started, with conversations…

“There was great energy to these workshops. I was mindful of the potentially sensitive topic but the team worked really well to create a welcoming space.”



Building Capacity To Continue The Conversation


Together with the Co-Leads (Lalit Khandare and Vanessa Schweizer), we designed a short series of events with the principles of appreciative inquiry at their core. By adopting this approach throughout, we were able to focus on identifying and doing more of what we know works. Besides Co-Leads other facilitators of the workshop were Ismet Mamnoon, Emma Skipper, Binyam Sisay Mendisu, and Sara Summers. This was key for the team, as we knew these workshops were only the beginning of the conversation, not the end.

With this in mind, we knew we needed to equip the participants with both the capacity and tools to continue the conversations themselves, away from the virtual environment and facilitation of the Inclusive Innovation team. As a result we were able to explore inclusive leadership through the deep and foundational lenses of:

    • Identity – discussing the idea of how being an ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ has shaped our life experiences
    • Implicit bias – how subtle acts of exclusion can manifest and how we might be more mindful or them and help others within our spheres of influence
    • Polarity thinking – building awareness and appreciation of the complex world of indestructible paradoxes. Rather than assuming poles are at odds, we explored the opportunities presented by their interdependence and how we might manage them with concrete action steps.

“I found myself paired with a participant that I’d thought I’d have difficulties with in this setting, however it turned out it made my learning curve even steeper.”

From the very beginning, these workshops were designed to be the first step in creating the pathway for embracing this Inclusive mindset within the GYA, and beyond. We cannot wait to see where the conversation takes them.


If you’re interested in talking about what conversations Inclusive Leader Labs could catalyze for your organization or team, drop Emma Skipper an email at