How to be Inclusive and an Ally

How to be Inclusive and an Ally

Definition of equality, equity, diversity, inclusion, and allyship

Equality is a proactive approach in ensuring that all have equal access. For example, creating accessible materials for all to read.

Whereas equity would be making tailored personalised adjustments for certain people in different environments so that fair treatment is given to everyone.

Both equality and equity methods are advised to improve accessibility, inclusion, and diversity in your organisation.

Make Your Mark Inclusive Volunteering Toolkit defines Diversity as “attributes which reflect the make-up of society (e.g. race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, disability, faith, etc)”, and Inclusion as “values-driven practice to create a diverse, open and welcoming environment which is evidenced through concrete commitments and action”.

Please note that to be a diverse and inclusive workforce or space for volunteers, you should strive to develop an inclusive working culture. For more information, please see Inclusive Working Culture.

Allyship is a term that refers to supporting inclusion for a marginalised group to which you do not belong to. For example, you may be a white person who is a wheelchair user but you’re an ally to a Black person who is a wheelchair user.  You can read more on A Quick Guide: What is Allyship.

How to be actively inclusive

Inclusivity is the ongoing active process of creating an environment that welcomes, and is suitable for, as wide a variety of people as possible. This often focuses on those with marginalised identities because current structures and processes tend to suit those who share characteristics with those society considers “normal”. It is vital that we create an environment in which people can be happy and successful.

Thus, the aim of inclusivity is not to change people to be ‘normal’ to fit into society, organisations, workplaces etc, but it is to remove barriers to have equity and fairness in those spaces. Both the Beyond Diversity by Jo Yuen workshop that we provided as part of the EDI Fortnight 2024 and Make Your Mark Toolkit provide guidance on how to do this.

We also recommend that you embed accessibility, an inclusive recruitment and working culture, and proper support systems so that those who are from diverse backgrounds feel fully valued, appreciated, and supported in their roles.

Based off the EDI Fortnight 2023 Disability & Neurodiversity training and the neurodiversity resource hub, here are steps to monitor your own behaviour in being inclusive of differences in behaviours and communication styles that are not ‘typical’.


Your interpretation of how another person behaves/communicates is from your own experiences as this is how we all base our future exchanges on. As humans, our perspective of the world is formed from what we have learnt/seen/read in the past, which are entirely unique to us as individuals. However, this can easily fall into the trap of “but my ‘normal’ way is the best way / this doesn’t fit in with my perception or ideologies, so it is invalid”. Thus, it is important to observe your own reactions to others and to reflect on your impact.


As said above, you are acting upon your own experiences, which can lead you to form certain expectations from others of what you deem as typical behaviour/communication. This would be the stage where you can ask yourself the following: “What else could be happening here? Is there another way of seeing this? What can I do to understand this way of behaving/communicating?”. This respectful internal curiosity will break old habits of holding someone to your standards/perceptions of how someone should behave/communicate that you may have possessed. Viewing others’ behaviours and communications empathetically, believing that they are good people trying their best, helps you to understand that other people’s ‘normal’ will differ from your ‘normal’. From this reflection, you can actively change your normalised perception of someone else to acceptance of different behaviours/communication styles.

Take accountability for your actions

If you do offend/upset/embarrass/distress another person, even if it is accidental, it is vital to take accountability for your actions. Apologise to the person and ask them how you can redeem the situation. This will make you understand why something you did offended/upset/embarrassed/distressed them so that it does not repeat itself in the future. By taking accountability for your actions, it will remove bad feelings between you and the other person in addition to making the other person feel valued. Always remember the following: listen, empathise, accept, and apply.


Harness the ambition that exists in others – this will activate positive change. The more people who actively change to be more inclusive, by having a broadened perception of others, the better your organisation will be.

If you are still wanting to learn more or discuss how you can best embed inclusion, Scottish Environment LINK and CEMVO Scotland have created the Scottish Environment EDI Network (SEEN) for people to join to encourage more sector-wide dialogue around equality, diversity and inclusion in the environment sector in Scotland. This is an opportunity to share information, events and areas of good practice, as well as a way to become involved in the bi-monthly SEEN online sessions facilitated by Leigh Abbott (ScotLINK) and Christopher Clannachan (CEMVO). All information is shared on a Teams group. Please contact Leigh to join

How to be an ally

As mentioned above, allyship is a term that refers to supporting inclusion for a marginalised group to which you do not belong to. Thus, it is thinking about the ways in which you can support people.

The Beyond Diversity workshop by Jo Yuen that we provided as part of the EDI Fortnight 2024 explains ally skills and shares an extensive list of allyship resources in their slides.

Pride Outside also recommended several allyship tips as part of their LGBTQ+ talk in EDI Fortnight 2023 including putting pronouns in email signatures for trans and non-binary colleagues/volunteers to know that you’re a safe person.

The Religion and Belief Diversity workshop by Interfaith Scotland also provided materials on Creating Safe Spaces as part of the EDI Fortnight 2024.

Allyship in the Outdoors by North Face also provides detailed information on racial inclusion and allyship too.

In addition to the above, you can be an ally by using top-down and bottom-up approaches to diversify your organisation. For example:

Most importantly by kind and considerate to others – including yourself!

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