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OK Boomer. The Diversity & Inclusion Code is going to change the art world. Or had it changed long ago?

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From 42 to 18 pages. In fact, that says it all about the new Diversity and Inclusion Code which saw the light of day on Friday, November 1. After all the wooliness and ifs and buts of the original Cultural Diversity Code, the new thing is a miracle of clarity. Is perhaps also necessary, in these times of identity wars, where on the left and right of the debate, emotions tend to run high.

None of that at the Children's Book Museum in The Hague, where a fine motley crew, although still predominantly white, welcomed the new code. Plenty of room too for the less obvious cases of diversity and inclusion: where many people think only of people of colour, other genders and other origins, it is of course also about people with disabilities. So nice that one of the two & awards this day was for What Counts, a club that aims to create a society in which the deaf and hard of hearing can participate fully.

Five fingers

But what does the code entail? Joan Tol, who took over from chairman Siebe Weide on this Friday, explained rather hands-on. 'It is not that simple to suddenly apply that code. Compare it to quitting smoking, you need a whole new mindset.' To win over users, the code can be summarised in five principles, or steps. 'I came up with the hand-pitch. Almost everyone has a hand. Not everyone has a hand, and not everyone has a hand with five fingers, I also realise this when it comes to inclusive thinking, but let me explain it with my own hand.'

'Principle number one, the thumb, is that you are aware of the need for diversity and inclusion. Second principle is the index finger, indicating where you want to go. Integrate diversity and inclusion into your vision. Then we have the next interesting finger. This 'middle' finger has very much to do with creating commitment and support. You're going to need that a lot. Then also realise that you will have to deal with resistance. So you have to deal with that. The ring finger stands for loyalty. Make a plan. Write it down too, because you will need it if you want to apply for a grant. Finally, the little finger, which is a bit of an odd twist, but evaluate what you do. Those are the five principles of the code. Everyone gets it now!'

Dual code

Culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven then had the code pressed into her hands, with a firm 'good luck with it'. In her acceptance speech, the minister emphasised that the Diversity and Inclusion Code is now also a grant condition, as is the Fair Practice Code. So from now on, arts organisations applying for subsidies will not only have to apply the code, but also explain how they do it. This is a lot less non-committal than the previous code, which immediately confronts several institutions with difficult choices. For instance already clear last month that the combination of the fair practice code and that for diversity and inclusion is going to cause a tremendous landslide at the Performing Arts Fund. Not only is there less money for fewer people, it has to be divided among more new creators.

Nor does the minister want to make it too strict: 'Endorsing the code as a grant condition does not mean that you will only get a grant if you are a tiptop organisation in all areas. But it does mean that you are willing to work on it and make a plan of action'.

'Akkefietje with Stef Blok'

'Diversity is about being invited to the party,' she continued, 'and inclusion is about actually being allowed to dance along on the dance floor. Culture in particular is a place in society where everyone should participate.'

Van Engelshoven acknowledged that the ministry of OCW itself also has some work to do: 'Last summer, in response to An altercation with Stef Blok, we took a sharp look at how we ourselves are doing in The Hague at the ministries when it comes to diversity. It turned out that OCW was dangling at the bottom. 'We are doing well when it comes to male-female ratios, but culturally we are not doing so well at all.'

Gossiping with eyes wide open

As a remedy, the minister started listening to employees. She is now part of the ambassadors' network on diversity at the ministry. She heard from a hearing-impaired employee that she couldn't keep up with the gossip at the coffee machine because people had their backs to her. So from now on, gossip while looking at everyone, was her solution. Whether that is thanks to the code?

The question becomes, for the coming years, whether this code, like the one for fair practice, is really going to change anything. Is the policy not, as it should be, running neatly behind the times? After all, that's how it is with the fair practice code: it came at a time when the water was on artists' lips, after years of eroding working conditions under pressure from budget cuts. The same is actually true of the code. It's really only useful for organisations with directors of Gerard Cox age, the 'boomers' who think it's all just bullshit.

Indeed, right now the world is already changing dramatically, Joan Tol told us: 'There is a whole generation emerging for whom diversity is a matter of course. Very competent people who at some point get into positions where they are the decision-makers.'

Good to know Good to know

Read all about the diversity and inclusion code.

Listen to some of the speeches during the introduction.

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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