From process to progress: Three big ideas for inclusion via diversity, equity & anti-racism (I-DEA)
From process to progress: Three big ideas for inclusion via diversity, equity & anti-racism (I-DEA)
From process to progress: Three big ideas for inclusion via diversity, equity & anti-racism (I-DEA)
Angeline Aow headshot
Kate Taverner headshot


By Angeline Aow, CIS International Advisor & Kate Taverner, Content Marketing Manager



Where are you and your school community on your journey to inclusion via diversity, equity & anti-racism (I-DEA)?


We recognise that identifying where to start and how to take action can be challenging. But wherever you are in this work, there’s lots of guidance and support available.

Together with many educators and experts in this field, we are dedicated to helping our international education community accelerate their ethical renewal to nurture and sustain I-DEA, anchored in human and children’s rights. The process involves an ongoing, systems-informed approach to address individual mindsets, intrapersonal interactions, and institutional infrastructure.


Let’s get you started with these three big ideas that have emerged in our recent discussions to guide your work.

  1. Listening to your community
  2. Learning with your community
  3. Leading your community



1.     Listening

It all starts with you

First, listen and learn about yourself. Understanding your own identity, beliefs, and underlying values help you consider your approach to this complex work. Our identities evolve; therefore, understanding our ‘why’ is an essential starting point to finding your individual and collective entry point(s) to I-DEA.

Guiding questions:

  • What is your individual motivation and commitment to I-DEA, and how are these seen through your practices?
  • How are you engaging with others to nurture and sustain diverse intrapersonal relationships that shape your institution’s learning culture?


Join us for an I-DEA workshop

Save the date for our next Inclusion Via Diversity, Equity & Anti-racism Foundation Workshop (virtual) on 14–16 February 2023

We recognise that identifying where to start on your school's journey to inclusion via diversity, equity & anti-racism (I-DEA), and how to take action, can be challenging. This workshop is designed to support and guide you.

View our events page for latest dates and information.

The sessions will be available on-demand in the weeks following so you can catch up or view again at your own convenience.


Then listen to others

We all have understanding gaps. To identify and drive initiatives or interventions that address inequity, we must cultivate discussion spaces where inequities can be raised. Addressing the actual needs of your community will have the most impact in your context.

Guiding question:

  • How are you centering the voices and perspectives of historically marginalised community members?

For example, at the International School of Dakar, Nneka Johnson and colleagues conducted listening sessions that led to powerful outcomes.

They hosted listening sessions for students, teachers, teaching assistants, and parents.

Significantly, they also held listening sessions with their local Senegalese staff, who form the backbone of their community operations.

Their insights into how their community was feeling gave them very clear indications of what they needed to do.

For example, they updated their recruitment practices to recruit people who represented their student body. They changed their Board policy and secondary school discipline policy to prioritize diversity over specific curricular experience and provide new hires with relevant training.


How to use a data-led, data-fed approach

Matthew Savage’s post suggests ways you can measure what really matters.

He outlines a wide range of helpful approaches for you to consider, from established models such as focus groups and pastoral and counsellor data to new survey tools to apps.

In Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan’s book Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation, we are reminded that ‘what is measurable is not the same as what is valuable, and that data can be humanizing, liberatory and healing. […] By breaking down street data fundamentals: what it is, how to gather it, and how it can complement other forms of data to guide a school or district's equity journey, Safir and Dugan offer an actionable framework for school transformation.’

But, a wise word of caution from Dr Eleanor Parker, Head of Learning Development at King's College London:

‘One of the most common missteps is to ask your communities repeatedly for data to evidence there is a problem. We know there is a problem. Asking for evidence once more from our communities places an unnecessary and traumatic burden on them to relive difficult experiences. Often data already exists, and we just haven’t shared it appropriately or acted on it; there are often others in our community who have asked these questions before, and they may have been silenced.’

For our part at CIS, we are engaging with school leaders, practitioners, and students in CIS member schools by reflecting together and co-constructing action wherever we can.

We’ve been gathering and analysing head of school salary data from our worldwide membership community of international schools for many years.

We share what we learn to raise awareness about salary and benefits practices and trends so international school leaders can make decisions to reduce the existing pay gaps related to gender, demographic, and contract categories.

In this post, we spotlight key findings from the 2021 Head of School Salary research and include a link to our report. In this latest research, we specifically looked at how gender and ethnicity impact the salary of school heads. The data we collected tells a story—and it’s one we hope will change in the future.


Race to be Human Documentary Film Screening

23 May | Virtual

Addressing the impact of racism on our mental health through the lens of students, experts and educators.

To register, our members can log into the CIS Community portal>Events>Webinars & Live sessions.



2.    Learning

Together with your community

Whatever your role within your school, are you leveraging your sphere of influence and championing initiatives and/or interventions?


‘International mindedness cannot be just a performative idea that we tout for optics and convenience. We must align promise with practice within the entire international school community. And all stakeholders need to be included.’—Cynthia Roberson, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Mulgrave School


At the International School of Dakar, Nneka Johnson explained how they amplify student voice. (The webinar From process to progress: Engaging with inclusion via diversity, equity, and anti-racism (I-DEA) is available to watch on-demand for our members in the CIS Community portal.)

One of the most powerful aspects of this work is how students are leading professional learning. Students fully led their faculty orientation day. The workshop was based on microaggressions, cultures of responsive teaching, schemas and implicit biases. Their students are also teaching other students how to use their voices.

At International School Beijing, teachers are teaching teachers. Clarissa Sayson, Angela Maez, and Sarah Sisu report that their I-DEA work began as a grassroots community in 2020 and is now a formal and intentional group addressing DEI issues—the anti-bias and anti-racism (ABAR) Committee.

They began with a faculty and leadership collaboration with alumni on professional development opportunities to challenge their thinking and grow from complex and difficult conversations.

Their ABAR Committee has celebrated their progress and commitment to this work, from their curriculum audit to incident report systems to bilingual workshops for local contract staff and much more.

At the United Nations International School (UNIS) in New York, Judith King shared how strategic and intentional their work has been to make change happen by listening to their community.

Alumni and parents have shared stories, and school leadership and the board of directors listened intently. Students created an Equity and Inclusion Board, and Judith’s role as Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion was created as part of their whole-community approach.


Storytelling leads to tangible outcomes

At United World College Mahindra India, their Anti-Discrimination Officer Reid Pierce found that one simple approach made a big impact among their I-DEA efforts. 

Among the strategies he recommends, it was a personal and anonymous storytelling exercise that led to the creation of the school’s DEI policy.

It was a student-led experience, a ‘particularly cathartic experience for some, and discussing discrimination openly was empowering for everyone.’

Guiding questions:

  • How are you empowering your community to learn together?
  • How can you design systems that bring historically marginalized identities to the forefront of decision-making?
  • How can fundamental understandings across the school help to accelerate I-DEA initiatives?


3.    Leading

Role of governance and leadership

For your community to be truly inclusive and for this work to gain any traction, there must be demonstrable and sustainable support from the top—commitment from senior leaders is vital.

There should be clear, well-communicated strategy and processes.

And there must be acknowledgement and celebration of progress.

Leadership commitment to taking action should lead to fewer disruptions to change efforts, less disheartenment, fewer isolated interventions, and greater engagement with the resources available for your whole community.

One clear way to show commitment to this work is by integrating a dedicated role within senior leadership, such as an Anti-Discrimination Officer or DEI lead.

‘If you have similar roles in place, like Anti-Bullying Officers or Inclusion Officers, bring them on board to help build support amongst the community.’ says Reid Pierce.

At International School Beijing, their ABAR Committee meets regularly with school principals to keep momentum with their progress and plans and is seeing the work more and more embedded into the school’s wider strategic plan.

Guiding question:

  • Is your leadership team committed to this work?

Our member feedback continues to lead the development of webinars, workshops, support and blogs, not to mention our efforts to weave I-DEA elements throughout our evaluation and accreditation process for the members seeking CIS International Accreditation.

We are committed to this ongoing work and welcome your ideas and suggestions.


Join me on 13–15 September to learn more

We will be facilitating a foundational workshop on 13–15 September, when expert speakers will guide participants in this vital work.

We designed the workshop to engage and challenge you to develop your awareness and understanding of the fundamental mindsets, behaviours, systems and structures to consider as you engage with I-DEA work in your learning community.

Practical tools and approaches to activate conversations, reflection and action-taking will be shared to support your school with accelerating progress towards equity and inclusion.

Our line up of expert speakers at our May 2022 workshop included:



Related content:

  • Workshop 13–15 SeptemberInclusion Via Diversity, Equity & Anti-Racism Foundation Workshop
  • On-demand webinar: From process to progress: Engaging with inclusion via diversity, equity & anti-racism (I-DEA) is available for our members in the CIS Community portal, along with others in our library related to I-DEA (see feedback below)
  • 23 May Documentary film screening: Race to be Human addressing the impact of racism on our mental health through the lens of students, experts and educators.
  • Read more blogs related to inclusion via diversity, equity, and anti-racism (I-DEA)


From process to progress: Three big ideas for inclusion via diversity, equity & anti-racism (I-DEA)
  • Diversity (I-DEA)
  • Global citizenship
From process to progress: Three big ideas for inclusion via diversity, equity & anti-racism (I-DEA)