Episode 20 - Creating Cultures of Belonging

Episode 20 October 10, 2023 00:30:48
Episode 20 - Creating Cultures of Belonging
Episode 20 - Creating Cultures of Belonging

Oct 10 2023 | 00:30:48


Hosted By

Steve Indig Dina Bell-Laroche

Show Notes

Welcome to Sportopia, the place to re-imagine the future of sport! This week’s episode welcomes a conversation to introduce the idea of creating cultures of belonging in sport. Hosted by Dina Bell-Laroche and Steve Indig, partners of Sport Law, this episode flies at 30,000 feet to look at the systemic ways to enable cultures of belonging. Throughout the episode, our hosts discuss the legal and leadership practices that lead to cultures of belonging in sport. Our commitment is to continue this conversation with a series of follow-up episodes where we bring in guests with different lived experiences to talk about the practical realities of being inclusive.

Check out more blogs from Sport Law to learn more:

Email us at [email protected] or contact us on social media @sportlawca to let us know what you want us to discuss next. We want to hear from you! Stay tuned for new episodes every two weeks!

Hosts: Dina Bell-Laroche and Steve Indig
Producer: Taylor Matthews 

Learn more about how Sport Law works in collaboration with sport leaders to elevate sport at sportlaw.ca

The Sportopia Podcast is recorded on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. We wish to thank these First Peoples who continue to live on these lands and care for them, and whose relationship with these lands existed from time immemorial. We are grateful to have the opportunity to live, work, and play on these lands. 

Sport Law is committed to recognizing, supporting, and advocating for reconciliation in Canada and to actively work against colonialism by amplifying Indigenous voices and increasing our own understanding of local Indigenous people and their cultures.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:01] Speaker A: Hi, it's Steve indigot sport Law. Leave me a message. I'll get back to you as soon as I can. [00:00:07] Speaker B: Hey, Steve, it's Dina. You aren't going to believe what just came across my desk. We need to chat. Give me a call. [00:00:26] Speaker A: Welcome to the latest episode of Sportopia. We're so excited to share our knowledge and have conversation about healthy human sport. This episode we'll be talking about societal shifts towards a more inclusive, equitable and ethical environment for participants, rather than taking. [00:00:45] Speaker B: A deep dive into the sport experiences for participants of different identities. We'll focus today's episode on some of the systemic challenges that is making it particularly difficult for sport organizations to fully shift towards a more integrated, inclusive, and equitable sport environment. But Steve, before we dive in, I'm just wondering what's coming across your desk this week. [00:01:09] Speaker A: What I want to talk about today is being the fall, and usually the spring is annual members meeting time. And I've been participating in a lot of them the last couple of days, taking on different roles. Sometimes I'll chair the meeting because somebody's not comfortable assuming that role. Other times I'll simply act as parliamentarian to make sure things are being run the appropriate way. The motions that are required are being passed appropriately, and lastly, sometimes just acting as a voting scrutiny, particularly for online meetings. Of course, very common these days for a lot of members meetings to be on Zoom or a similar platform to eliminate the cost of travel. And usually the meetings, if conducted efficiently, are usually less than an hour. So it does save a lot of time. A lot of listeners might ask, why do we need that type of support? And just from this last weekend, I was at one meeting where they were making bylaw amendments and actually made the amendments but didn't pass the motion to approve it, which is a requirement under law and legislation. And I stood up in front of a lot of people and went up to the chair and said, you forgot to actually pass the motion. So they kind of thanked me for attending. They said, see, there was a reason we brought you. And the other thing I quickly want to talk about is the online voting systems. So under law, when you run an online meeting, the voting mechanism is supposed to be confidential. And when we say confidential, it's not about whether you, Dina, voted or not. We have the right to know if you voted, to of course, ensure you are a voting member. But the law says that I shouldn't be able to tell how you voted, right? So a lot of times using platforms like a Zoom poll, you may not have that kind of anonymity or confidentiality. So what we use at Sport Law is simply voting. And of course, it does require a little preparation to upload email addresses and what the motion is going to read and then educate people on how to do it, but we find that after the first voting event, it becomes quite routine. So did want to bring to our listeners attention some of those requirements. And yes, a lot of you will use zoom or ask for an oral vote, which can be appropriate. But again, I always like to call them. That person might come along and say, you're not doing it correctly in accordance with legislation and you don't want to be in a situation where they're right. So that's my long winded answer of looking at my calendar this week. And how about you? What's going on? [00:03:55] Speaker B: Well, I had a delightful conversation with a young man yesterday, and he was referred to me by his general manager because he's grieving the loss of the founder of the association that he works in, someone who he described as a mentor, someone who was a father figure to him. And I was just so touched that on a couple of levels, first, that the organization knew to provide him with support. I was just blown away. So that to me creates it gives me a sense that they're walking the talk with respect to fostering cultures of belonging, which we're going to be talking a little bit about here today. And then what was really remarkable is in our hour discussion, my first question is, tell me more about what brought you to me. And he traced back his story of friendship with this man who was a father figure who died relatively suddenly. And it really helped him make sense of what he was going through. And his biggest takeaway, he said, everybody's asking me what's wrong with me? And now after an hour with you, I feel like I can let them know nothing's wrong with me. I'm grieving the loss of someone who really matters to, you know, Steve, you and I are so privileged because we get to support people, many of whom are know the dark night of the soul right, or some significant challenges. And often just having someone listen to them, bear witness, provide them with a comforting environment where we're not judging them can really mean a lot. So whether it's you're tackling governance issues or on my end, I'm normally dealing with leadership challenges. We can't understate or underestimate the power of generous listening. So I just wanted to share that. Yeah, so we're really excited to talk about, as I shared this idea of fostering cultures of belonging. And before we jumped on the two of us, along with Taylor, our trusted Sportopia producer, we spent more time than we normally do, kind of grappling with this topic and what's our way in and what do we really want to talk about? And so what we acknowledge because we come to this really self aware and hopefully with a spirit of curiosity and humility, we want to talk about some of the big kind of systemic issues and then setting the table for future conversations. So, Steve, as we dive in, when we think about fostering cultures of belonging, just curious, what are some of the most important legal considerations that you think our listeners need to know so that we really are walking the talk with respect to shaping these inclusive and inviting environments for participants? [00:06:51] Speaker A: I see two sides of inclusion, Dina, and I'm going to let you speak more to the leadership, and I'll say ethical side. And of course, I want to speak to the legal. I always, when I explain things to people, I try to create a foundation. And in this particular topic, I think that foundation, at minimum, is the human rights legislation in each province or territory. And basically what human rights law says is that it is illegal to discriminate because of a prohibited ground. And the prohibited ground definition is what we're very used to hearing about age, gender, gender identity, sex, religion, beliefs, things like that is what we're not allowed to say. You can't participate in the sport of X because of one of those reasons. And what we're seeing right now is that people are being presented with situations that, one, they're probably not prepared for. Two, they were unexpected. We're getting a lot of calls and people saying, well, what do I do? And when I lay that foundational, legal principle one is I always tell people, Stop. Pause. If you're presented with a question that you're unaware of what the answer is on how you're going to what your gender equity guidelines are, what your trans inclusion policy is, please just stop. We've had clients pay out tens of thousands of dollars for one sentence, and you have to begin to understand the legal principles. The legal foundation, at first, we have a duty to accommodate. I have to try and create an environment to include you. And that may mean bringing in an additional coach. That may mean allowing an individual who identifies as a different gender to participate in a particular category, which we're not used to. And we have to accommodate to the point of undue hardship. And undue hardship doesn't always mean money. It could mean different areas that we've tried, we've given them one on one support, we've included them, but it's just not working. And you're going to have a whole file as to why it didn't work. The other reason in which we have the ability to discriminate is for bona fide justification. Is there an ample reason why we're preventing someone from participating? Is it bona fide? And some examples of that would be a women's gym where, why can't a man go to a women's gym? Well, the bona fide justification is we're trying to create an environment where women feel more comfortable, that they don't have to deal with the presence of men, and they just, again, have that comfort level. Other areas we see it are religious organizations to promote a particular view or a particular religious objective. Those are bona fide justifications. Those are okay to have. But what's happening in sport is that really we're not prepared for the request for accommodation. A lot of times we go quickly to the how much is that going to cost me? And I remember one particular case I was involved with, it was probably a decade ago where an organization was faced with a human rights complaint. And through conversations and education with them, we talked about people with physical disability and how can we get them into a paddleboat? And of course, the answer was a lift. And the club told me, well, they can't afford the lift because it costs about $5,000. And my response back was, well, do you pay for your national team to go to nationals? And the response was, well, yes, we do. So they've chosen to allocate their funds towards their national team and not necessarily for an inclusive purpose. So we kind of have to challenge people on the way they think. I'm curious, Dina, what you think about some of the considerations are for inclusion. And the way I'm thinking about it from your perspective, is that ethical, values based leadership side? [00:11:01] Speaker B: Yeah, it's such a great question when you start to think about fostering cultures of belonging. And what I loved about what you were teaching all of us, Steve, is there is the minimum standard, right? And that's entrenched by law. So you have to have these practices in place. And what's challenging for sport leaders is, by and large, sport is a volunteer construct, meaning we have this kind of revolving door nature to the system. That means the decision makers are transient. They're around for a few years, typically where their children are, and then they leave. And all of that decision making and knowledge leaves often with them. We're not really good at succession planning in sport. And when I say that, I want to acknowledge that at the national level, there's maybe a bit more stability, maybe not these days, and maybe quite a bit less so at the provincial level, but at the community level, it's in and out. So it's easy to understand how these seemingly what we would say, you must have these practices, these policies, these approaches in place. But when the leadership isn't stable, we can understand why there are so many fissures and cracks. And that's what we're seeing right now. Right? So really, really challenging for leadership to espouse and foster and then ensure these cultures of belonging when leadership really isn't stable. That would be my first observation. The second thing is, I think we really need to promote and ensure that the leaders, the stewards, right, that they are self aware, that they understand their social location, right. That they understand that beyond their commitment to lead the organization, that they understand things like power over. They understand that sport and writ large, we're all under a patriarchal regime which makes it more difficult, for instance, for women, people of color, trans athletes, right, to push back against systems that have been oppressive for a long time now. And so if the leaders don't understand the privilege that they have to be in positions of power and authority, they are going to say and do or not do things because it's not available to them. So understanding our privilege is so important. And to me, if we really want to ensure these cultures of belonging, we need to ask the people that we're here to serve, how are you feeling in this culture? How do we know that people feel like they belong? How do we go about recruiting and hiring people and making it appealing for people that don't look like us to know that they can contribute? So this management philosophy that I've been espousing for Gosh since 2010, right, when I did my master's research in the topic of management by values, to me, everything comes back to our moral compass, right? And thriving cultures are connected to values. We use values as the language to describe our culture. And it can feel like, really amorphous. But we know when we ask people, do you feel like you belong? If the answer is yes, you can actually correlate that to higher scores around the health and vitality of the culture. And why does that matter? What's the bottom line response? Well, we know that if we feel like we belong, we're more likely to stay. And if we're more likely to stay, we're going to increase the likelihood we're going to perform. And when we perform, we're going to help create that thriving culture. So there's an interrelationship between really ensuring that the cultures are really walking the talk with respect to ensuring that those values are being understood and lived and promoted and baked into all levels of the organization's culture. So I think we're going to go back and forth here, Steve, because usually when I finish something, you pick up another thread. I'm just curious, what are your thoughts on some of what I was sharing? [00:15:45] Speaker A: What I like about what you've said is it segues into, again, as you've alluded to what I was thinking is that it's all about preparation and making it an agenda item, being aware that this exists. And I really like trying to influence organizations to be proactive. And of course, I have lots of stories, real lived stories, where even just two weeks ago I was told we don't have to worry about trans inclusive athletes because we don't have any. But it's just a matter of time before somebody becomes interested in their sport and wants to be a part of that, and they may not have the proper policies, education or ability to manage it. And that's why I like trying to recommend organizations to be prepared and proactive. And that, for me, segues into policies. What I like about policies is they give you a roadmap to manage an issue and manage a particular problem or something that of course comes across your desk. And then if you don't have those issues, then you never have to look at that policy, which might be a good thing or it could be a bad thing, but I really love the idea of preparation, so that when somebody comes to you and asks for a bit of a different registration process or a different class or group or grouping in which the way we manage sport, Be prepared. It's coming. And where my mind also was going, dina is on accommodation. Marijuana just became legal. Some people will be coming to work with a medical marijuana prescription. Do they get to smoke marijuana and then attend a basketball tournament or a soccer tournament? And what does that look like? So there's lots of different ways that organizations need to be prepared. And of course, in my world, that means creating policy, creating the roadmap that I can follow to help me make the right decision. [00:17:43] Speaker B: Yeah, I really like that, Steve. And it got me thinking about ensuring that we're creating trauma informed responses, right? These cultures of belonging really need to be trauma informed and an example of being trauma informed. So I'm someone who specializes in grief and loss and bereavement. So I've taken quite a bit of training on trauma informed responses, right? And so a quick example of that would be if you see someone who's struggling, rather than ask them, what's wrong with you? Changing that narrative to tell me what happened? Would you like to tell me what's happened to you? And so ensuring that we have in place these policies and procedures. But beyond that, if the people inside the cultures aren't educated on some trauma informed responses, right, we risk othering people. And then that creates then these loops of legal battles because people don't feel that you're walking the talk with respect to your you know, I really like this quote by Brene Brown. She says, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance. And what that inspires for me is we have to do the work leader, know thyself. So it comes back to, do I know who I am? Am I living into my values? Do my values mesh with these cultures that I'm choosing to be a part of? And when I don't feel like I'm belonging, what do I do? Do I then wait and wait and wait and let it build up? And that I'm putting in place legal structures to deal with this issue? Or, as you know, the leadership coaches at Sport Law, we promote and advocate for courageous conversations. Can we design alliances that allow people to kind of debate and grapple and be with each other? Not in a way that's discriminating or harassing each other. But I would say so much of the stuff that comes across our desk is people behaving badly and not having the courage to talk with each other, to be able to kind of lean into that discomfort and saying, hey, Steve, I didn't like the language you used when you were talking to me. So then these things escalate and before you know it, it creates these cultures where you're working against what you're trying to do as a collective. So I'm curious, anything else that's popping for you? [00:20:12] Speaker A: Well, of course, we align on certain topics. I love that philosophy, Dina. A lot of times when people are asking for an accommodation or we're presented with a situation we haven't dealt with, sometimes I say, bring in that person and ask them what their expectations are, what is their desired outcome. Maybe it's accommodation doesn't always mean giving the individual what they've asked for, and it's reasonable accommodation. You don't get to be on the national team because you've asked to be on the national team and you're protected by a prohibited ground. I've actually had that happen in my career where an individual filed an appeal with a national sport organization because he wanted to be on the national team. And I was like, wow, so do I. I'd like to go to the Olympics every four years. That sounds like fun. But of course, the individual didn't have the ability to be on the national team. [00:21:08] Speaker B: Right. [00:21:09] Speaker A: So accommodation is not about giving somebody what they asked for, it's about reasonableness. And how do we figure out what's reasonable is? Communicate, what are your expectations? And just because you want to be in the Monday group at 07:00 P.m. And that individual doesn't fit within that group for multiple reasons, accommodation could be offering them a program on Tuesday. So communication is really important. The way in which we communicate is even more important. As I've alluded to before, I've had clients pay out tens of thousands of dollars in human rights violations for one sentence. Like I said to you at the beginning of the podcast, when you are presented with something that you may not be familiar with or don't know the answer to, thank you for the question, I will get back to you. But you've got to do it in a timely basis. Just had a recent case last week where an accommodation request was made. The organization probably took a little too long to respond. And most people who are looking for accommodation, particularly their parents, have probably been advocating for their child their entire lives for equity and inclusion and equality. They usually have a short string. And so timeliness is important, and I know I go back to policies and education, but if you are proactive in thinking about how am I going to manage these situations, obviously you're going to be in a far better situation than pretending it's not going to happen. [00:22:45] Speaker B: Yeah, you said a couple of really important things, Steve, that I'd like to elaborate on is, you know, the importance of reasonable people. And I would say that I've seen a dissent in what I would say is the expected or what I might call the reasonable behavior. What I'm noticing is there are drastic differences in what I had anticipated someone might experience as a result of our decision or something we communicate. And so I do think that reasonableness. And what's a reasonable response given everything is being questioned right now. So that makes it a bit more challenging, right? So being prepared really anchoring your decisions in your values, because if you've co created that language with your ecosystem, right, with your culture, you're going to reduce the risk that that decision isn't going to meet the needs or you can't defend that decision from a reasonableness perspective. So really appreciate what you shared there. You're giggling before I get off. [00:23:48] Speaker A: I'm laughing because, of course, the definition of what's reasonable is, it's within self to determine that the legal test for reasonable. And I'm laughing because of course it includes the word reasonable. The legal test is what would a reasonable person do in a similar circumstance. [00:24:04] Speaker B: Right? You say the value of respect. So define respect. Well, it's being respectful to each other. True. Not helpful. Right? We need to kind of grapple with this. So I love this. Yeah, it's like you stack ten people and it's like, what would the majority do given the same circumstance? But this is where our privilege right? There's a bit of a call out to that. Because if the nine people or the ten people we're asking all look like us, have similar experiences to us, are all the same gender and color and ethnicity and orientation, you can see why it might be reasonable to us and those of us that look and think the same way. But what about them? And that gets back to my point around othering I and you. And we at Sport Law are advocating for better governance. So these are the people that sit in the chairs, basically at the board levels, who are making these important decisions. So we're imploring people to ensure greater diversity at the board seat so that those decisions are reflecting reasonable people, but also that that reasonableness is diverse, right? That we're bringing in people with those different perspectives. So I wanted to share that. The second thing that I'd love to share. I wrote this blog a few years ago called Mentoring femtoring and beyond, and I got so much response from this. And in fact, it was so intriguing that I appeared at an international conference with three of the femtes that I had femtored, and people were like, what's this language? Why are you bringing a new language into the system? Because it's a different process. I have mentored people, and the word mentor comes from the language of men, which means to think. And so when I mentor the people that I'm supporting, they're coming to me because of my experience maybe my knowledge and connection. There's still a bit of a power over, though, right? Can you feel that kind of privilege, Steve? What I prefer, I don't mentor as much anymore. I femter. And Femtering is much more a companioning based model that has me being shoulder to shoulder with people. And also the assumption is I'm going to learn as much as you are. Yes, it's going to be different, but when we femter each other, there's mutuality, there's reciprocity, and the experience for me is so much more inspiring. I don't feel like an obligation to do this. I feel like I'm receiving as much as I'm giving. When I wrote that blog, there was a lot of conversation and I would say, if we want to foster cultures of belonging, I'm seeing quite a few people saying we need more mentors. I would challenge that respectfully. And I would invite us to ask ourselves, we need self aware leaders who are going to deploy the right modality. Does the person who's coming to me need mentoring or do they need femtoring and what would that look like? So it comes back to my early point that we need as a system, as a sector, to really invest in individual capacity to lead and steward in the 21st century, which is so different than the command and control approaches and these reward system that got us to where we're at but are now limited and so far beyond their best before date. So those are some final thoughts that I would share. Steve. [00:27:36] Speaker A: It's interesting, it aligns with what you just know. Of course, from a legal perspective, can you write a legal opinion? Can you give us a legal opinion? Can you put something in writing to say whether we're going to win our case or not, or are we right or are we wrong? And truthfully, we're doing far less than that. It's people are calling to talk through the process and to make sure they're on the right track. And rather than writing a ten page opinion paper on the legal principles of accommodation, people are really just saying, thank you, I believe I'm doing the correct thing or I'm going to pivot into what we come up with. So I really like where we are that people are starting to put these issues on their radars and starting to be proactive and again, calling just to make sure that they don't do anything foolish or shortsighted and know they're on the right track. So hopefully today's podcast will help people know there's a place to have those conversations that we are already yeah. Yeah. [00:28:39] Speaker B: Well, that's our intent, right, steve for Sportopia is to give back to the sport system that we care about so much and to offer a perspective. By far not the only perspective, but that's what animates us we are privileged in that we get to travel across this beautiful country and have really meaningful, deep conversations that hopefully in turn are helping people think differently about the situation that they're in. So one of the things we're really excited about is, as a commitment to our listeners, we're going to be continuing the conversation on fostering cultures of belonging and inclusive sport by bringing in guests who have different lived experiences. Different social locations so that we can kind of dig in right to these various topics as we all kind of work towards a healthier version of sport. So in the episode notes below, you're going to find some sport law blogs that we may have referenced today that we think might be helpful to you, the listener, as we kind of explore cultures of belonging. [00:29:46] Speaker A: Thank you so much to our listeners. We are so grateful to share our vision of Sportopia with you and to elevate sport, as always, to have your say in sporttopia. Email us at hello at sportlaw CA or on social media at sportlaw CA to let us know what you want to hear about next. Stay tuned for our next episode. Thank you. [00:30:07] Speaker B: Stay well.

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