Social Inclusion: The Fight Against Inequality

by Kristine A. Schaan, MA, NHA, CPG

The world is filled with inequalities, attributed to a range of diverse and often complex factors. With respect to sustainable development, the United Nations aims to reduce inequalities and specifically:

By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.

Contributions to Sustainable Development: Reduced Inequalities

No alt text provided for this imageAs a global movement with a network of more than 1,500 chapters, Cycling Without Age (CWA) is promoting the social inclusion of all. In particular, CWA provides everyone the same opportunities to be welcomed and recognized within the movement regardless of age. This speaks to one of our guiding principles and organizational ethos, Without Age. Further, regardless of race, religion, education, gender, socioeconomic status, and other mainstream categories, CWA does not discriminate in that everyone has the right to wind in their hair.

At our core, we prioritize serving those who are less ambulatory and face challenges getting out of their residence. Mobility proves to be a major hindrance to social equality as one ages, as well as for persons across all ages experiencing limited mobility due to disability, acute injury or other reasons. By way of example, limited mobility creates inequalities in access to public spaces like parks and community at large. Very often parks and other green spaces will underrepresent seniors and those facing mobility challenges. However, a trishaw ride allows seniors and others with limited mobility to enjoy parks and other public spaces that are otherwise difficult or entirely impossible for them to access.

Strategic Investments in Social Inclusion

Within the CWA Singapore Chapter, we have been actively investing in social inclusion using three key strategies.

First, we begin by equipping our volunteers with education and skills which allow them to be successful in carrying out our mission that everyone has the right to wind in their hair. This is done through our Aging Simulation and Communications Skills Training which encompasses three hours of lecture style teaching blended with interactive components. Participants experience what it is like to be a senior by wearing a specially-designed suit which simulates aging. The purpose of the aging simulation is to cultivate empathy and better understand the range of challenges a senior might encounter. Particular emphasis is placed on debunking stereotypes and embracing the diversity that aging brings. The latter half of the training focuses on how to communicate and meaningfully engage with seniors. Pilots also attend an additional trishaw training so they can learn how to safely cycle the trishaw.

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The second strategy empowers pilots by providing them with ample opportunities to cycle with seniors and other passengers across the country of Singapore. We have deployed an online volunteer management technology in which pilots can simply login and self-schedule their rides based on their preferred location, time, and event type. Empowerment extends to our CWA Singapore office staff as well as our board of directors. On any given week it is guaranteed you will find at least one member of our team out on a trishaw. And empowerment goes beyond the trishaw rides. Our pilots grow to reach seniors in simple ways like opening doors as well as in deeper ways by attending celebrations, speaking events, and other invitations.

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Engage is the third and final strategy. Intentional efforts are made to engage with our stakeholders. We engage with each of our pilots on a recurring basis to learn about their recent trishaw experience. Our intent is to uncover the stories, conversations and any learnings while creating a channel for continuous feedback. We also engage with the seniors and our senior partners by going onsite regularly and learning about their experiences first hand. These qualitative means of engagement help us evaluate our impact and make necessary program adjustments in real-time. Engagement is also done through quantitative means using surveys.

Our Impact: Promoting Equality

Through our organizational efforts and with support from our partner and industry expert, Steward Redqueen, CWA Singapore has released our initial impact findings. Empathy and cross-cultural communication are said to be essential components for advancing social inclusion. As such, our measures sought to understand the extent to which we could instill empathy within our pilots in addition to fostering social interaction and connectedness amongst seniors and the pilots.

Based on pre and post-survey responses, our pilots report a 26% improvement in empathy towards seniors. They also report a 36% increase in their comfort level communicating and interacting with seniors upon receiving our comprehensive skills training and after cycling with seniors. Other findings from our pilots include:

  • Increased desire to contribute to community and help others
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Enhanced relational skills and relationship bonding
  • Reduced stereotyping of seniors and others with limited mobility

Further adding to our impact is the deployment of nearly 100 training sessions to date and nearly 4,000 rides given to seniors and others with limited mobility, all of which has been convened within the last ten months. In addition, our Moving Generations intergenerational bonding program, encompasses over 400 youth beneficiaries.

Expanding Our Reach and Impact

In quarter four of 2018 we completed a pilot program with disadvantaged youth serving as cyclists. These youth come from unfavorable socioeconomic backgrounds and have been identified as at-risk of dropping out of school. It was through this pilot project we determined an unmet need and opportunity to make these pilots a target beneficiary as well. We did this formally by crafting a proposal for another grant, Building Generations, and we were recently awarded funding from the Sage Foundation. This program has been tailored to address the unique needs of at-risk youth by deploying additional training as well as mentoring sessions. Our newest initiative will help build up this generation by imparting empathy and necessary life-skills upon the youth. It is our aspiration that by giving opportunities to the youngest cohort, deemed at-risk and during their formative years, the impact will allow them to meaningfully contribute to society and be successful in their transition towards adulthood.

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In addition, another pilot project is currently underway which focuses on giving routine rides to seniors with dementia and their caregivers. Seniors with dementia are particularly vulnerable to being left behind and socially excluded from community due to the nature of their disease progression. This hinders opportunities for social inclusion amongst seniors with dementia and their caregivers. Our ambitions extend further as we are actively exploring other demographics facing social inequalities that could benefit from our program offerings and capabilities.

These continued efforts to expand both our reach and impact reflect our commitment to social inclusion and the fight against inequality. It is our aspiration that expanding social inclusion amongst disadvantaged and vulnerable populations will help make the world a better place. In what ways is your organization fighting for social inclusion? What impact has been realized to date? Or, what barriers are you facing towards making an impact?

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About our partner: CWA Singapore has been engaged with Steward Redqueen throughout the past several months, serving as our industry expert. Steward Redqueen is a specialized consultancy that works across the globe advising organizations on impact and sustainability. Their vision is to make business work for society with a focus on integrating sustainability, quantifying impact, and facilitating change.

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