/ Resources
What is 'inclusion' and can we measure it?

What is 'inclusion' and can we measure it?

Pocket Change Episode 7 with Dr Kun Zhao

According to Dr Kun Zhao, 'inclusion' is a complex and multifaceted concept. At its heart its about making sure that all members of society are able to participate, to engage, to work, to learn and have a say in the decisions that affect them.

In this episode of Pocket Change, Dr Kun Zhao explains the work of Inclusive Australia; bringing together an alliance of organisations and individuals committed to making a social movement for social inclusion in Australia.  

It's about not just the absence of prejudice, it's about belonging to the local community and humanity around the world. Critical to social inclusion is contact; when we meet those different to ourselves, our prejudices towards them tend to diminish.

Grab a coffee, press play, and enjoy this episode of Pocket Change. What is Inclusion and can we measure it:

Pocket Change is a series of pocket-size videos about a key aspect of behaviour change.  Each episode features a BehaviourWorks Australia Researcher explaining their area of expertise in a clear and simple manner.  



Hi everyone.  Geoff Paine here and I'm interviewing Dr. Kun Zhao about your work with Inclusive Australia. Tell us about inclusivity and why it's important.



So inclusion is quite a complex and multifaceted concept, but at its heart it's about making sure that all members of society are able to participate, to engage, to work, to learn, and to have a say in the decisions that affect them.



How do we measure inclusivity?



So about five or six years ago, we teamed up with Inclusive Australia, and they are an alliance of organisations and individuals committed to creating a social movement for social inclusion in Australia.


And one of the first things that came up was, you know, how do we know how we're going

when it comes to social inclusion in the community, in workplaces, in organisations?

And so we really needed to have a good overarching measure of social inclusion to be able to see if we are making a difference and if there are any trends or changes over time when it comes to measuring social inclusion.


Now, this is quite an evolved process, but for us we created a social inclusion index, which is made up of five different sub-indexes or pillars. So the very first subindex of social inclusion is the absence of prejudice and discrimination.  So we asked people about their experiences of discrimination and we look at things like major discrimination.


So things like being unfairly fired or denied a job. But we also look at what we call everyday

discrimination. And these are minor but potentially more chronic and can be just as damaging instances of discrimination. So things like people treating you with less respect,

people call you insults, people behaving as if they're scared of you.


So we look at that as one sort of component of social inclusion. We're also interested in other aspects of inclusion as well.  So it's not enough just to say it's the absence of prejudice and discrimination.  We also look at people's sense of belonging, that sense of belonging with the local community, with Australia as a nation and with all humanity, all people around the world, and we look at their experiences of wellbeing.


That's the second subindex or component of social inclusion. The third subindex or

component of inclusion is about contact.  So we know from the literature on prejudice and in social psychology that contact is a really important component of the solution when it comes to addressing prejudice.



So we look at people's contact with those from different groups and the quality and the quantity of contact and friendships that they have to people from different groups,




Because it's very hard to be prejudiced if you actually know someone from a particular group?



Exactly. And finally, because we're behavioural scientists and we're interested in the actions

that people can take to promote inclusion, we also look at two types of behaviours.  One is about advocating for social inclusion, so things like taking part in a demonstration, but we also look at people's willingness to volunteer for social inclusion as well.


So those are the five pillars or the sub-indexes of social inclusion.



And this is an ongoing study where you have waves of data that come in. Explain how that works.




So the Inclusive Australia Social Inclusion Index is an ongoing survey that we have of the Australian community over time.  And so we tend to collect data towards the end of the year on an annual basis. Currently we have about seven waves of data now, so we're getting quite a sizeable dataset, roughly, people overall.


We also make sure that we collect boosted samples of people from marginalised or disadvantaged groups, so people with disability, LGBTQ plus people, younger people, older people, racial and religious minorities, just to make sure that their voices are also heard in the data as well.



So have there been any particular findings that you've got from these waves of data

that have come through?



Yes. And now that we're up to seven waves of data over six years, we've been able to see some a fairly clear trends in the data. One of the things that we've noticed is that over time,

people's sense of belonging with their local community, with Australia as a whole

has been dropping a little bit each year.


There's been a slight decline. We thought it might have been something to do with COVID and the lockdowns, but it looks like this trend actually happened even before COVID.


So even back in 2021, we started seeing this decline in people's sense of belonging

with their community and with Australia.  But what's reassuring is that throughout this time,



people's sense of belonging with and connection with all humanity, with people all over

the world has remained somewhat stable.



Okay, so what about workplace inclusivity?  Tell us about some of the work you've done in that area.



In addition to the community, we're also really interested in how do we measure and what works for inclusion in the workplace. And we know that there's massive interest among organisations in thinking about what they can do to improve workplace diversity and inclusion.


But there are a lot of so-called best practices out there. A lot of the literature states

that these really are just best guesses, and we don't know very much about what works. And an interesting finding that I really like from the research is a study showing that

there really isn't much of a relationship between what an organisation says

are its corporate values - so diversity, integrity, collaboration - and how those values

hold up in the eyes of its employees.


And so we want to know what how we can measure inclusion and employee experiences in the workplace, but also what sort of interventions, what kind of practices and policies

and programs can organisations carry out to to create a more inclusive workplace?



Are these workplaces - it's not just

academia, like universities?  What workplaces are we talking about?



That's a tricky one to answer. The answer to that would be probably large organisations.

Most of the research comes from large organisations. There's less small organisations, and that's an area where we would like to see more research.



So what sort of things would work for organisations in reducing exclusivity or increasing inclusivity measures?



Well, that's what we want to know as well.  So a project that we've been working on is a large evidence review of the research in terms of what practices and policies and interventions organisations can carry out for workplace diversity and inclusion.


And in this review, we looked at all sorts of things.  So things like diversity training

and education, workplace accommodations, flexible working arrangements, 

greater accountability, job coaching, all of these different things.  And then we looked

at the quality of the evidence and the sorts of effects and outcomes and impacts that were associated with each of these types of practices and policies.  And I think the main finding

is that that wasn't sort of one single thing or intervention or practice that outperformed all the others.  So for example, there was quite a bit of research on diversity training, and I'd say it was generally better quality than some of the other research.


But we know that the outcomes associated with it tend to be more sort of circumscribed

short term learning outcomes rather than these large scale, sweeping organisational changes in diversity and inclusion and the scope of the wave so far include during and post COVID as well.



You're also looking at workplaces that are undergoing big changes in general.



That's right. So after COVID, in terms of working from home, the workplaces are going through a lot of churn and turmoil anyway. So it's a really interesting time to get this data

on how culture is changing, how work practices are changing.



This is interesting stuff - and topical stuff.



Absolutely. And there's a lot of really interesting questions around, you know, how does working from home or working on Zoom all the time or teams affect things like workplace inclusion?  And there's still a lot more that we need to learn about this.

Sign up to the broadcast

Get monthly behaviour change content and insights

I'm an alumnus, friend or supporter (including donors, mentors and industry partners)
I'm a Monash student
I'm interested in studying at Monash
I recently applied to study at Monash
I'm a Monash staff member
I recently participated in research activities or studies with Monash

I agree to receive marketing communications from Monash University. Monash University values the privacy of every individual's personal information and is committed to the protection of that information from unauthorised use and disclosure except where permitted by law. For information about the handling of your personal information please see Data Protection and Privacy Procedure and our Data Protection and Privacy Collection Statements.

If you have any questions about how Monash University is collecting and handling your personal information, please contact our Data Protection and Privacy Office at dataprotectionofficer@monash.edu.

Education & training

Looking to upskill?

Check out our Monash University accredited courses, along with our short and bespoke training programs.


Have a project for us?

We offer a broad range of research services to help governments, industries and NGOs find behavioural solutions.


Explore our resources

We believe in building capacity and sharing knowledge through multiple channels to our partners, collaborators and the wider community.