Inclusion is a powerful concept. Yet how do we practice, reflect on and engage inclusivity during challenging situations?

Inclusivity is integral to fostering environments that are welcoming and supportive for all individuals. It is also an essential component of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) principles and practices embedded within BCRPA’s Strategic Plan ‘Champion Pillar’.

Whether you’re an after-school program leader, a recreation programmer, or a community member who wants to ensure inclusion in your community and in your family, there are simple practices you can follow to support everyone to thrive.

Katy Bigsby, the founder of REiL Learning, has provided advice on building inclusivity into your practice on a personal and organizational level. REiL Learning specializes in “tricky” times, with tools to build bridges during challenging situations and design ways to integrate creative, practical approaches to inclusion in your programs.

You can strengthen your personal inclusive practices during ‘tricky moments’ by:

Acknowledging the things that are said or happen which irk you, such as what frustrates or irritates you. Many of us shy away from feeling these emotions of frustration or anger which leads to us blaming ourselves or the other person, avoiding the person, being afraid, or feeling anxious. In this mindset, it’s much easier to enact a punitive response than an inclusive one. The key is to acknowledge what we’re feeling or thinking, understand that we all experience frustration and anger, and be aware of the potential for blaming. All these suggestions also model positive behaviour for the learners we support.

Taking time to build rapport by being interested and engaged with all learners. Remember, this has nothing to do with liking another person. Liking is a preferential choice we make with our friends; rapport is an ongoing commitment to see and hear others. Rapport takes time and patience and involves supporting not managing learners.

Co-creating group guidelines with participants. The more clarity around what works and what doesn’t work the better. Although some participants may not seem to like the guidelines, what my research found was that we are less likely to behave in erratic, punitive, or authoritarian ways when guidelines are clear.

We can strengthen organizational inclusive practices by:

Integrating strength-based approaches to support all learners. You can do this by asking learners to tell their stories. Try using prompts like,

  • “Some things you need to know about me are…”
  • “The best ways for me to show what I know are…”
  • “Some things I want to get better at this year are…”

Beefing up staffing. Aim for at least two leaders per group, and 1-on-1 specialized staff as needed. REiL works with many teams where the numbers and needs far outweigh the staffing. Either build smaller groups or increase up your staffing level.

Taking time during staff meetings to hear and discuss challenging situations. If you’re a fixer, be aware to listen more and allow the person and team to problem-solve. Note that some issues are not quick fixes. Be patient with yourself and your team. If you’re someone who feels unsettled in challenging situations, you are in good company. It’s okay to not know and to feel unsure. We ask children and youth to try new things all the time. They, at times, feel unsure. This happens as adults, yet we don’t always model not knowing well.

Including proactive policies and procedures which are inclusive, especially when it comes to challenging situations. Instead of a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, try including clear guidelines around how the organization works. Integrate proactive ways to de-escalate situations, including training and written policies, and practicing the three REiL pro-active building blocks: rapport, boundaries & guidelines, and flexibility.

For more information, visit REiL Learning’s website. REiL Learning supports school, out-of-school and community organizations to build inclusive practice.

Continue learning with Katy on BCRPA’s e-Learning website. Katy’s trainings include:

Integrating Social-Emotional Learning into Practice, Proactive Strategies, Supporting Kids Who Experience Anxiety, The Big 3 and What’s up with Bullying?

About REiL Learning:

REiL Learning is an educational consultancy providing professional development, content creation, facilitation, and engagement for school, out-of-school, government, and community organizations. We specialize in building bridges in “tricky” situations and in designing ways to integrate creative, practical approaches to inclusion. Through our well-received workshops and tailored engagement sessions, we support projects and teams in designing and delivering meaningful learning for all learners. REiL Learning is a play on words for what is “real” infusing imagination and creativity into the experience of learning. For more info visit

About Katy Bigsby

Katy is the founder and lead adult educator of REiL Learning, an educational consultancy that supports organizations to integrate social-emotional learning and build creative ways to engage all learners.

​Katy is known as an expert on creating inclusive and caring learning environments where all learners – and leaders and educators can thrive. Katy holds a master’s degree in educational leadership, specializing in adult education and brings a wealth of experience as a teacher, counsellor, and adult educator. For more information about Katy and her work visit