When your co-worker is an open book
The seats at the 13 round tables in the conference room at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC are slowly filling up. In the seats are employees from the fund about to become readers of the Human Library, an annual event hosted in partnership with the IMFs Diversity and Inclusion office.
Content sourced from On-Board Book Depot
Most often at Human Library events, the books belong to a community book depot and their content has been verified and they have been trained for the role of an open book. They have been edited for publication, as we call it.
At the IMF, the books are actually staff that have volunteered to become part of an onboard book collection. The work started in 2017 and many books come back to be published again for more conversations. In our world they are brave souls that have valuable knowledge that help enable their co-workers to better understand the diversity in a work place with people from over 140 nations.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover. Everyone has a story.
The courage of books putting themselves out there. Thank you!” – IMF Readers Review 2019
Rewards in being open about our diversity
One of the books has a hearing impairment and use a hearing aid when attending meetings and other gatherings at work. The disability started in his youth and only got worse over the years. He volunteered to be published to help sensitise his co-workers to his condition and to others like him. This was his first time speaking in such a public manner about his disability.
Another book has found a way to live life undisturbed with a skin condition known as Vitiligo and is opening up to answer the questions that so many have, but only few dared to ask. And it is liberating for her. To have a safe space to debunker the stereotypes and challenge the stigmas. By the end of the day, she was ready to also get published outside of work, to visit schools, libraries and universities to answer questions.
Finding common ground
Other topics on the bookshelf included a survivor of domestic abuse, the refugee, a healer and hidden disability. All of them employees that volunteered time away from their desk to contribute to the inclusion and diversity efforts at the fund. All of them with valuable experiences that we can all learn from, if we want to create a truly inclusive workplace.
“When our books allow us publish them, they are making knowledge available to co-workers in a framing that helps people find common ground. All parties quickly become aware of this and by far a vast majority jump at the opportunity to know more, to better understand. I mean, who does not want to be understood, at work and in our private life, says founder Ronni Abergel.
The third annual Human Library at the IMF was hosted on September 19th, 2019 and featured nearly 20 different books recruited from staff.
A Human Library is a safe space to have a conversation with a total stranger that has volunteered their experiences and knowledge in order to be an open book for you and answer any questions you may have. Typically the topics relate to groups in the community that are often stigmatized or exposed to negative stereotyping.
Since 2017 the IMFs Diversity and Inclusion Team and the Human Library has worked together on hosting events at the fund. Approximately 400 members of staff have taken part in a Human Library session and the response from readers and books has been overwhelmingly positive.
In 2020 the program is scheduled to repeat at the fund and expand with more partners such as the World Bank Group.
The On-Board Human Library Book Depot is a group of staff that volunteered to be trained and published at internal events hosted for co-workers.