For those unfamiliar with the terms, DEI is shorthand for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the workplace.
Inclusion refers to the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging, that they are supported by the organization.
Equity ensures that processes and programs are impartial and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual.
Diversity refers to the presence of differences in the workplace, usually meaning differences in race, gender, age and ethnicity. For Robin Weis it stands for another special and often overlooked difference.
“Disability in some form affects 15% of the world’s population,” says Weis. “That is 1.5 billion people, not million, billion. It is by no means a niche topic.”
Weis was addressing an audience of Cornerstone professionals specialized in the Non-Profit sector. He is the Public Sector Manager of the Zero Project, a global foundation based in Vienna which works to remove barriers – and empower the aspirations of persons with disabilities.
It does not disburse funds. It engages directly with organizations, innovators and communities who can bring about impactful and innovative change for all – persons with and without disabilities.
“The disability is not the problem,” he says. “It is just a characteristic of the person. The problem is the barriers, both physical and mental, that they face every day. We try to remove those barriers by creating and distributing innovative solutions that will democratize access to Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies.
We show what an actual world and environment with zero barriers looks like.”
Zero Project was formed in 2007, the year the UN drafted the UN CRPD – its benchmark convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. Guided by the spirit of the UN CRPD, the Zero Project shares global good practices and curates, identifies, and awards 70-80 Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies on an annual basis
In the process, the foundation has become a global repository that captures Innovative Practices and Innovative Policies that have been peer-reviewed by a board of international peer-review experts.
The Zero Project has curated 700 innovations from over 180 countries and has a network of 9,000 members. Disability is universal and the project’s target area is an equally vast cross-section of opinion leaders and decision makers. In a four-year-cycle, the research process focuses sequentially on Education, Employment, Accessibility, Independent Living and Political Participation.
The annual shift of thematic focus has allowed the Zero Project to amass a virtual library of good practices, especially, in the business and ICT sector.
“The business case is made that it is actually to the benefit of a company and its bottom line to employ persons with disabilities,” says Weis. “If you are an SME and you want to find out how to employ persons with disabilities, then you can go on our website – zeroproject.org – and find proven examples of what works.”
The work of the Zero Project has special significance to the challenges facing professionals in the executive search business
“We at Cornerstone can help our clients understand from an employment perspective, how they might be able to incorporate this work into their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives and in their employment practices,” adds Linda Gray, host of the call and leader of the Non-Profit practice at Cornerstone.
“Removing those barriers would allow them to open up a talent pool that we as recruiters haven’t necessarily tapped into as much as we need to.”
A transcript of the presentation by Robin Weis and the Zero Project is available here.