By Natasha Olivier and Alessandra Siudym
The desire to be seen and heard may be one of the strongest forces that has driven humanity since the earliest storytellers. In a modern setting, sharing stories about our pasts and what we believe in can be an invaluable tool to support an atmosphere of awareness, acceptance and mutual support. This is the reason that in 2021, a small group of volunteers launched EcoVadis’ first Human Library event. Now, in July 2022, we hosted the Human Library for a second time to dozens of enthusiastic participants.
The Human Library is a unique way to allow for a diverse range of people (“Books”) to share their unique experiences and backgrounds with curious participants (“Readers”) in free-form, personalized conversation. Participants from different EcoVadis offices have volunteered to share their stories, which cover a broad range of topics, many of which directly pertain to inclusion and diversity, and all of which find a common challenge in misunderstanding and discrimination. Readers have the opportunity to sign up in groups of up to two people and have twenty-five minutes to engage with the Books.
Typically, a Book takes about half of the available time to share their topic, leaving the remainder of the session for discussion and questions. This year, we integrated a follow-up opportunity to allow for participants to request additional information, such as how to get involved in the support of a particular cause, or ask for the Book’s recommendation on where to acquire more in-depth knowledge about their topic.
Last year, the Human Library was an idea born out of RainboVadis, the company’s internal LGBTQI+ network. The event was met with widespread positive feedback, with participant Katarzyna stating “The event was a great opportunity to familiarize myself with different people from our company and their personal experiences.” While some stories were emotionally challenging, she found it “great to discover that such initiatives are happening in EcoVadis.”
Marcin, another participant, wrote: “I enjoyed that this event facilitated approaching different ideas with an open mind, broadening the horizons to show how amazing people we have in the Vadis family.” He also brought up some suggestions on how to improve for this year’s Human Library, including a follow-up mechanism to allow curious Readers to get in touch with the Book for supplementary information, even after the session has concluded.
This year, the Library has grown beyond this scope and is now housed within EcoVadis’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team. Anybody working at EcoVadis can be a participant. In 2022, eleven Books volunteered to share their stories, allowing for up to 55 individual sessions to take place within a two hour period, involving Readers from across the globe.
For next year’s event, we hope to expand the Human Library by hosting additional “chapters” across different time zones so as to reach as many EcoVadians as possible.
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