In 1676 in a letter to his fellow-scientist Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton wrote “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”. Newton’s metaphor was not original - theologian and author John of Salisbury, writing in 1159 used a version of the phrase, going on to say, "We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours."
This metaphor acknowledges that advancement in thinking and practice often comes from the inspiration, provocation and challenge that encountering the ideas of others provides – giants are those from whom we can learn and springboard our own learning and process. When we think about the influences on the canon of equity, diversity and inclusion today, several significant questions come to mind:
- Who are our ‘giants’? What is our framework of reference for recognising them? How do we challenge exclusionary notions of scholarship, evidence and expertise, and acknowledge and value the work of scholars and practitioners from marginalised groups?
- How do we ensure that we are learning from the widest diversity of sources/resources/lived experience/location?
- How do we encounter ideas that challenge our own ideas in a way that maximises the potential for learning?
- How do we ensure diversity amongst future ‘giants’ in the way we encourage, support, value and promote our students and staff?
- How can co-creation and collaboration with students, staff and other communities enhance our understanding of EDI?
- What can we learn from EDI thinking and practice in sectors other than Higher Education?
- How do we create opportunities to share/benefit from EDI expertise with international partners?
- How do we understand, navigate and benefit from increasingly complex and intersectional ideas about equity, diversity and inclusion?
With a focus on exploring these questions, this conference offers:
- An opportunity to think deeply and creatively about how we can build our learning on equity, diversity and inclusion to draw on the widest range of thinking and practice, including marginalised voices, new ways of learning, and learning from outside of higher education.
- A chance to share what we are doing to disrupt traditional understanding of scholarship and scholars/expertise and experts, and to challenge structures and processes that limit career opportunities.
- A platform to share new ideas that will stimulate our thinking about equity, diversity and inclusion – inviting people to stand on our shoulders and share our insights, as well as learning from those who do likewise.
The conference will have the following sub-themes:
- Learning from students: Including innovative practice in curriculum design; co-creation and collaboration; student engagement strategies; student-led approaches to dignity and respect; mental health and wellbeing; working with student governors and representatives.
- Learning across difference: For example, approaches to fostering good relations and supporting respectful dialogue around contentious issues; ideas for developing whole-institution engagement on EDI.
- Learning across the globe: Sharing insights and expertise that widen our understanding of EDI across the world. For example, indigenous scholarship and ways of learning; models for effective international collaborations and exchanges.
- Learning from beyond HE: Examples of innovative practice from outside the sector.
- Developing giants: Ideas for encouraging and supporting the development of a diverse community of experts, scholars, leaders and practitioners. For example, early-career researcher development, positive action programmes.
- ‘On the shoulders of’: Sharing innovative thinking/research that widens knowledge and understanding of any aspect of EDI. An opportunity to be giants.