A new organizational challenge for inclusive theaters:

Who will manage the change?

By Marco Luchetti and Alex Turrini (University of Macerata and Bocconi University, Italy)


Theaters are surely a context to learn about inclusive practices: in recent years, several inclusive projects have been developed and become objects of research and case studies (Nijkamp and Cardol 2020). As Linda Nussbaumer (2012) puts it, it is not simply a matter of adapting an existing service and making it accessible: it is a necessary process of listening, it requires co-design and re-design with users, and it involves sharing experiences and an inclusive approach that is a kind of continuous experiment, a methodology rather than a goal (Nussbaumer 2012). Inclusive theater confronts us with new opportunities and challenges in managing diversity. A necessary strategic change is now required for cultural institutions to become more and more oriented toward diversity. This challenge requires the organization to change its setting and structure. Managers and employees across all departments need to be involved in the creation and implementation of an inclusion strategy and a professionalization of inclusive processes within theaters. The concept of organizational inclusion, which goes beyond diversity management, is a dominant paradigm in the field of public administration: studies mention the importance of inclusion to improve performances and make important organizational decisions (Sabharwal 2014). Equally, the inclusive theater must necessarily rethink itself: change management in the design process is fundamental to shaping theaters in an inclusive way. Inclusion is a complex process that involves the organization at every level, from the beginning, with positive outcomes for the community and the organization itself. We aim to discuss a managerial literature review from inclusive organizations to define who is responsible for diversity management and inclusive growth inside theaters. We collected articles on inclusion practices in the theatrical sector to share a framework for a managerial change in the arts sector and reply to new needs connected to diversity management. We firstly concentrated on literature about inclusive strategies in the theaters, then we focused on organizational diversity in the third sector, and its managerial implications, trying to define and summarize the existing knowledge, using a systematic literature review and analyzing the historical background, for making theoretical and practical contributions relating to diversity management. We finally summarize and describe the commonly shared role and main responsibilities of the inclusion manager and argue for future research on inclusion managers as a desirable profession for more inclusive and diversity-oriented theaters.

Keywords: change management, diversity management, inclusion manager, inclusion strategies, inclusive theatres

©inTRAlinea & Marco Luchetti and Alex Turrini (2022).
"A new organizational challenge for inclusive theaters: Who will manage the change?"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Inclusive Theatre: Translation, Accessibility and Beyond
Edited by: Elena Di Giovanni and Francesca Raffi
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2608

1. Theatres’ inclusive strategies as translation processes

In recent years, cultural institutions such as theaters have been able to take up the challenge of being more inclusive and more oriented to the diverse local communities they serve. They have shifted and – in some cases – reinvented their operations in an attempt to include new and different audiences. However, inclusion should not be just an audience development tool or practice, but it is a complex change process that reshapes and impacts the whole organization. The role of the arts to promote social inclusion is widely recognized but inclusion and its subsequent benefits are often limited by barriers that may be unequally distributed and unattainable for some people (Ayse Collins et al. 2021). Management implications include changes in policy and praxis that entail taking an integrated approach focusing on multiple levels (Syed and Krama 2009). From a management perspective, understanding barriers to inclusion is important as it offers insight into the barriers faced at both an organizational and societal level. Inclusion becomes a process with interlocking dimensions in which everyone feels valued and can participate and be represented (Ayse Collins et al. 2021).

As a matter of fact, many theaters and cultural organizations claim that they commit themselves to audience engagement (Yingling 2020) but they often just include spectators inviting them to join performances, without being willing to change what they do or how they do it (McQuaid 2014). Inclusion in the arts should be conceived as a milestone for theaters so that everyone exercises the rights, “to fully access to places of culture and to freely participate in the cultural life of the community”, but also “to enjoy the arts” (European Commission 2014; Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948)[1].

Therefore, inclusion should be conceived as a means and not as an objective (Greco 2016). Theaters should thus design as inclusive research spaces, even before being accessible, because, as Linda Nussbaumer (2012) recalls, inclusive design is a sort of continuous experimentation, a methodology involving diverse experiences that are put together and shared so that they become an important tool for social change. Inclusion is also a necessary listening process: it requires co-design and co-production with users and is configured as a sort of continuous experiment (Di Giovanni 2021).

If inclusive theater has among its founding principles the participation of all stakeholders in the co-creation of a final product, it is necessary to rethink which tools can guarantee a true representative pluralism of the different artistic and cultural traditions present in the local community which theaters serve.

Inclusion, in this sense, can be considered a set of actions aiming to value the experiences, the knowledge and attitudes from diverse people for organization richness. This process is of course directly connected with the differences that employees, audiences, and communities bring to the business environment, so that a relevant part of inclusion is represented by diversity management (Roberson 2004).

According Turrini and Luchetti (2022), diversity-oriented approach in cultural institutions is reflected in strategic choices regarding four main dimensions in the company: programming (the kind of offered artistic proposal), productions (the kind of artistic production with special reference to the choice of involved artists), power (the governance and organization system), and finally public (the kind of audience involved). Diversity management practices appear in many contexts not yet mature and failures in inclusive design in the workplace demonstrate that investment in the construction of highly inclusive spaces is still needed (Sabharwal 2014).

Finally, theatres’ inclusive strategies might resonate with translation processes. Our contemporary world is pervaded by translatability: societies are today characterized by productive, financial, socio-cultural, and socio-political interdependence, migratory flows are expanding, tourist exchange has become a planetary phenomenon, all societies experience the extraordinary co-presence of every culture of the present and the past (De Mauro 1999, 89-91).

Precisely for these reasons, it is necessary for theaters to ‘translate’ themselves, in the attempt to build a new language, through a process that is also interlinguistic and intersemiotic (Jakobsón, 1959). In its Latin sense of the verb, translating (traducere) becomes part of a fundamental process in theatrical institutions: this idea of ​​going further, of initiating a change, is inherent in the verb itself, it’s not only passing from one language to another but from a framework to a new one. The theater is by its nature multicultural, multidisciplinary, and inclusive, and theatrical performances are fundamentally multimodal and multisemiotic. The combination of words, action, image, music, and sometimes, even smell and touch makes theater an interdisciplinary art form. Kattenbelt (2008) describes the theater as a hypermedium, a complex construction built on a layering of different meanings (Reviers, Roofthooft & Remael, 2020). This ongoing ‘translation’ process also lives on through the development of ever-new projects of accessibility and inclusion responding to new needs of removing barriers of access and ‘translating’ the arts into more inclusive languages.

Furthermore, traducere also means leading. Analyzing the primary importance of this transition towards increasingly inclusive processes inside theatres, it’s no more possible to ignore the question: who will lead this change? Who will translate it?

In the following sections, the paper focuses on diversity in the workplace and how orienting theater toward a more diverse workforce and implementing inclusive strategies. This is coherent with the Manifesto In Favor of Inclusion[2] (2017) – a comprehensive volume, written down by scholars and practitioners, collecting concerns, ideas, intentions, and passwords for inclusion, which states some of the characteristics that inclusive contexts should have – highlights: it is advisable to check the supply chain of inclusion and the inclusive processes put in place by theaters because an inclusive organization must necessarily take care of educating its members for inclusion and developing internal skills necessary to pursue these objectives. In other words, an organization that defines itself as inclusive must be capable of being inclusive towards the outside but also towards the inside, proving to be able to intercept the needs and spaces for action and to develop and enhance specific skills.

2. Organizational diversity in the third sector: a summary of a scholarly debate

Approaching diversity in the third sector, we firstly need to consider the wide and complex definitions of the term and how they influenced no profit and cultural organizations over the years. Reviewing management research, we find out how from just measuring if organizations are or are not diverse, we pass to consider diversity as an added value for the overall organization with clear and commonly accepted strong managerial consequences to address it.

Diversity in the workplace is a topic that entered the public debate several decades ago. Already during the Second World War many women gave proof of their role as workers (Kossoudji and Dresser 1992), bringing the attention on gender diversity, and, starting from the 40s, a new comprehensive debate led in 1948 to the first diversity law in the workplace, Executive Order 9981, by President Harry S. Truman[3]. This executive order eradicated from the US Army Forces any form of racial discrimination based on skin color, ethnicity, or religious affiliation. Despite the early debate, it took many decades to learn to accept gender diversity first and then racial diversity. During the 1960s the civil rights movement offered opportunities to strengthen the debate on cultural and ethnic diversity in the workplace, but it still took a long time for employers to truly understand the value behind diversity initiatives based on cultural background or ethnicity. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[4], “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin” and represents a milestone for antidiscrimination laws in the United States. Diversity in this sense has been considered a legally mandated, a necessary path for nonprofit and for-profit organizations to be representatives of the diverse communities they reach (mainly focusing on racial and gender diversity). Just in the 90’s people started talking about how cultural diversity becomes an added value for a workplace. Diversity in this sense has to be considered a voluntary choice of organizations, considering the possibility to increase heterogeneity, celebrating differences and understanding the role that new diverse organizational members could play (Gilbert, Stead, and Ivancevich 1999). In 1993, Gardenswartz and Rowe published a reference and planning guide to help companies that understood the importance of a diverse workplace due to globalization focusing on the way to spread awareness to get resources to rule a diverse and inclusive setting. They also published The Managing Diversity Survival Guide (1994), a more pragmatic textbook to train managers and leaders to successfully lead their companies facing the challenge of diversity and inclusion. In 1995, Carnevale and Stone published a milestone in realizing the importance of Diversity Management, The American Mosaic, that analyzed the status of American workforce, considering various dimensions of diversity (racial, socioeconomic, cultural, age, sexual orientation). The authors made projections for a more diverse workforce in 2005 and predicted America would have an advantage in the international contest in the twenty-first century, precisely because of the diversity inherent in American society where Diversity Index (the probability that two people, chosen at random, will be from different race and ethnicity groups) is continuingly growing up.

At the end of the last century many other interesting works were published and the interest in diversity management was raised, and diversity training grew up, with publications addressed to organizational leaders and other professionals who wished to understand and succeed in a diverse work environment. Professional organizations began, providing their members and other professionals with diversity training publications: cultural diversity and the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace have come on in leaps and bounds and employers seem nowadays to have truly understood the value of such initiatives looking for even more ways to diversify their workforce, particularly in more inclusive countries such as Australia, United States, and Northern Europe. On the other hand, training programs, even if run by experts, could be suspect if these individuals may not have as much direct experience with the community and the staff members whose skills they claim to be improving or tend to focus just on underrepresented groups, inevitably considering just a specific part of them (Gilbert, Stead, and Ivancevich 1999). The consequence is that efforts to increase sensitivity to minorities may stereotype those groups and may place members of those groups who are present in the organization in the situation of being token minority representatives (Kanter 1977).

People have differences of social group identity, such as differences in national origin, race, gender, work specialization and so on, that represent socio-cultural distinctions, and that have significant impact on their life experiences, and their work. (Cox 2008)

Diversity and Inclusion literature has hugely increased in the twenty-first century, with the spreading of DandI training among organizations all over the world fed by the need of better understanding the potential of a growing diverse workforce (Weisinger, Borges-Méndez, and Milofsky 2016). Organizations realized that diversity training alone would not necessarily satisfy all the needs of different companies searching for a more inclusive work environment. Diversity refers to heterogeneity, it doesn’t simply reflect demographic characteristics or consider underrepresented communities, but it relates to a variety focus on primary (visible) and secondary (invisible) diversities, on personal qualities of the involved people that contribute to increase diversity in the organization. Pitts (2009) found diversity management to be strongly and positively correlated to job satisfaction and to perceptions of work group performance. McLeod, Lobel, and Cox (1996) found that ethnically diverse groups produced higher quality outcomes on a creative task as compared with homogeneous groups.

Fig. 1: A multi-dimensional approach to Diversity in the Workplace (Aquino and Robertson 2018)

Nowadays, it is widely accepted that diversity is an added value, but also an essential asset every kind of organization is challenged to manage. Inclusion has become a strategic decision considering and incorporating the diverse dimensions of diversity and concerning different items inside institutions. According to Aquino and Robertson (2018), in cultural organizations, especially in theaters, the diagnosis and evaluation of opportunities for companies and organizations that want to implement professional development programs in Diversity and Inclusion should be performed at three distinct levels:

  • Leadership Level.
  • Internal Stakeholders or Operational Level.
  • External Stakeholders or Customer Level.

They defend a multi-dimensional approach to address diversity in the workplace that includes various perspectives in an integrated way. Many leaders are looking for a more tailored approach, suitable for their own organizations. Diversity and Inclusion have become an integral part of the strategy in many companies that enhance the differences and wish to increase their performance levels. This awareness, however, is not enough to produce optimal outcomes; each company has a different combination of diversities and becomes unique in terms of DandI. Talking about Diversity, the “one size fits all” is clearly the wrong way (Leiter, Solebello, and Tschirhart 2011: 22). The complexity of managing diversity and its implications forced organizations to reorganize and professionalize themselves following a new inclusive path. Managing diversity does not only mean addressing issues related to gender, ethnicity, etc. but the issue of diversity often comes into play in company dynamics even in situations where it is not predominant (Loden and Rosener 1991).

In this multilevel frame the challenge is to overcome the positive actions; indeed, inclusion is often solved in isolated interventions by the Human Resources department, not able to spread across the whole company and workspace. Too often, in many organizations Diversity Management only means equal opportunities in gender, some others widen their perimeter including sexual orientation, religion, race, disability. But there is another diversity, more hidden and less noticeable, the one including the diversities regarding the organization and business contest. Organizations need some new creative solutions, aiming to change the human capital in the company. Nevertheless, the staff turnover was often heavy, women and members of minorities didn’t advance in internal hierarchies and, moreover, they were often perceived as low-skilled.

For many years, diversity policies have been connected to affirmative action, in particular to the quota system. Affirmative actions have attempted to promote the participation of people with certain ethnic, gender, sexual and social identities in contexts where they are a minority and or under-represented. For sure, in the absence of positive action, most businesses would not have accelerated the change for underrepresented groups in their organizations. However, the use of preferential treatments for people considered diverse today seems to be a path that is no longer viable and EEO[5] laws are no longer necessary, considering new emerging contextual challenges. Transformations in the contemporary social context brought a radical change in the way we define and manage diversity. The system of allocation through quotas is today often overtaken by policies that recognize talented people regardless of any form of diversity and break down any possible barriers. This transition from affirmative action to the management of diversity is a voluntary choice of the organization that, according to Weisinger et al. (2016), could be explained by the changing role of minorities in the society (sometimes really became majorities), the global circulation of talented people and the expanded migration.

The wording Diversity Management was born in the USA in the late eighties, during a period of deep transformation of society, when one begins to perceive the need to have in the job field new strategies to manage the employees in companies. The European Union defines diversity management as the action to enforce the organization using differences and similarities.

Diversity management is the active and conscious development of a forward-looking, value-oriented, strategic and communicative managerial process of accepting differences and using some differences and similarities as an organization potential, a process that creates added value for the company.[6]

Looking at the experiences of other countries such as the United States, cultural integration of diversities can take place by assimilation or by fusion (Pankratz 1992). In the first case we are witnessing a gradual incorporation of the culture of minority social groups into the culture or political and social structure of the majority. In the other case, according to what is referred to as the melting pot theory, we are witnessing a hybridization of the dominant culture with specific elements of minority cultures. Scholars agree that a hybridization of the organizational culture, supporting diversity is a key success factor for the overall organization. In Competitive advantage through diversity: Organizational learning from difference, Herriot and Pemberton argue that effective organization is the process of collaborative learning - drawing on and developing the capacity of every member of an organization to know beyond existing parameters and experience. In this context organizational diversity is not a disadvantage to be overcome, but a key resource facilitating creativity and learning. After exploring the range of contributions and knowledge that different individuals and groups bring to organizations, and the importance of appreciating and working with diversity, the authors concern themselves with joint practice. Innovation through integration will only occur when diverse individuals work successfully in teams and can learn from the results of their actions following effective team working practices and including the interaction of context, tasks, team roles and processes (Herriot and Pemberton 1995).

Diversity programming gives companies an advantage in competing for the best talent, an advantage that is growing as workforces, in many advanced economies, become more ethnically diverse, because of immigration and birth-rate demographics (Hunt et al. 2015). Analysis, run by McKinsey, of the data from a group of 366 companies revealed a statistically significant connection between diversity and financial performance. The companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median, and the companies in the top quartile for racial/ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median.

On the other hand, Richard et al. (2003) found that the impact of workforce racial diversity on organizational performance is linked to the type of strategy, which is followed, and may not necessarily have a simple direct positive or negative relationship, stressing in this way the importance for managers to make strategic choices giving value to diversity to guarantee a positive impact. Even when the benefit of investing in diversity is clear to the organization and there is commitment to this issue, the enormous work behind this goal must be considered. The will to work on inclusive processes is not enough and it is necessary that at every level one becomes aware of the new different values within the organization. Indeed, there may be ambivalent reactions and it may be difficult to promote diversity in a work environment where workers perceive this planned change as disturbing their familiar arrangements (Comer and Soliman 1996). The organization must first communicate to its workers the importance of a different working context and try to break down any possible barrier to inclusive development. Effective communication with employees is at the base of a clear and inclusive process.

Understanding diversity parameters and developing effectiveness with them can help individuals and organizations create strategies that support culturally appropriate diversity and value productivity (Aquino and Robertson 2018). In this sense, diversity management becomes an important means of addressing talent shortages.

In 2021 ISO 30415:2021[7] index has been introduced. Human Resources Management Diversity and Inclusion is a crucial tool that lets companies prove with objective and measurable parameters their effort to enhance diversity and inclusion in the job field (Zavaritt 2021). The index considers governance bodies, leaders, workforce and recognized representatives, and other stakeholders and it is intended to be adapted to the needs of all types of organizations in different sectors. Measure diversity in the organization is the first step to manage it, to monitor its increase and evaluate the success of the implemented policies.

3. Who can face the diversity challenge? The role of inclusive and diversity manager in the organization

As previously discussed, managing diversity necessarily becomes an issue of every person in the institution, a set of sharable values to reach inclusion objectives. In order to manage this complex process, in the last few years, the figure of diversity management has spread to numerous profits and nonprofit organizations.

According to a Linkedin survey[8] they have more than doubled (+ 107%) globally in the last five years (2015-2020), testifying the increasing interest on inclusion policies: in Italy Istat[9] estimates that, in 2019, 20.7 percent of companies adopted at least one measure that is not mandatory by law with the aim of managing and enhancing the differences between workers related to gender, age, citizenship, nationality and / or ethnicity, religious beliefs or disabilities.

This figure in charge of diversity management takes different names in different contexts and companies, we refer to them as:

  • Inclusion and Diversity Advisor.
  • Inclusion and Diversity Specialist.
  • Inclusion and Diversity Manager.
  • Head of Inclusion and Diversity.
  • Director of Inclusion and Diversity.

Despite the specific names used in the company to define people in charge of managing these processes, a series of common characteristics that identify and position the Diversity manager in the organization can be underlined. To this purpose, we have analyzed numerous job descriptions of this role, as published in the main international HR platforms, trying to investigate and resume the main features and characteristics of this profession.

Among the main responsibilities connected to this role, we underlined:

  • Design company policies to reinforce diversity in the workplace, implementing new inclusion programs to protect individuals with specific needs and underrepresented ones.
  • Train managers and staff on processes to guarantee equity and respect for diversity and sensitize them regarding the unexpressed potential of a diverse workplace.
  • Review the overall processes in the organization, the communication materials to check they are aligned with new diversity objectives.
  • Measure the level of diversity inside the organization in order to have a quantitative representation of the level of inclusivity, measure the increasing and the reached objectives.
  • Align the company policies to State or Regional regulations.

The complex management of accessible policies within organizations has prompted them to integrate diversity managers, capable of coordinating these dynamics and align the overall activities to common inclusive objectives. Considering these many different activities in charge of the diversity manager, we can easily understand how this role has to be transversal in the organization and how its success is strictly connected to the capacity of the overall organization to be aligned with the proposed values. Manage diversity in the organization means managing people, being able to let them recognize and give value to everybody’s needs and capacities.

Analyzing the job descriptions of diversity managers, it can be highlighting how often those people with experience in HR are preferred, as well as the ones that in some ways are close to the issues of inclusion and human rights. But what must be the characteristics of those who are preparing to be an inclusion manager? Bourke and Dillon (2018) have identified 6 hallmarks of an inclusive leader; these characteristics help build individual feelings of inclusion within the company and build an inclusive work environment and key elements characterizing a valuable inclusion manager.

Fig 2: Key elements characterizing a valuable inclusion manager (Bourke and Dillon 2018)

  1. Commitment: an inclusive leader is committed to diversity and inclusion, aligning them with personal values. He believes in the necessity to articulate these values to change the current situation and address the accessibility challenge.
  2. Courage: an inclusive leader knows about his/ her limits and it’s open to others.
  3. Cognizance of bias: an inclusive leader is conscious of organizational limits, works to overcome barriers, and assure equal opportunities.
  4. Curiosity: an inclusion leader is open-minded and curious about others and their needs.
  5. Culturally intelligent: an inclusion leader has a multicultural thinking, being open to diverse stimuli from different cultures. He recognizes even less visible differences without fear of relating to different people.
  6. Collaboration: an inclusive leader works to empower others and create the best conditions in the workplace, stressing cohesion and teamwork.

These are not exactly the traits we normally think of when we imagine a leader or a manager but in an inclusive context even leaders must rethink themselves in an inclusive way and adopt a new approach for the benefit of the whole organization. Managers (leaders and medium managers) influence the activity of all employees and should be the first to be aligned with the values of diversity and inclusion. In this sense, the inclusion is the first that must necessarily show certain characteristics because of the amount of attention and interest about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) that the entire organization gives to these issues and the inclusion or exclusion of some workers may really depend on his work and behavior.

As we have discussed in previous sessions, the literature (and what has been learned from practice) looks to the inclusion manager as the responsible for inclusive processes within the organization. However, inclusion is a complex process that guides the organization both in internal growth but also in strategic development and external positioning. In this sense, it is also important to consider the potential role of the inclusion manager, commonly associated to HR good practices, also in the development of an accessible product and in the inclusive involvement of the public, specifically in arts organizations. Too often, in fact, an institution employing an inclusion manager forgets his/her dual responsibility internally and externally.

This article is trying to summarize and describe the commonly shared role and main responsibilities of the inclusion manager, but too often his/her role is not clearly defined in the organization. Often, an inclusion manager ends up working only internally alongside human resources, just supervising selection processes, or only externally coordinating inclusive projects addressed to minorities and underrepresented communities, supporting the marketing department. Hybrid professionals are hired by organizations to stress inclusion as an instrument of audience development and serve the organization in the attempt to engage more and more people but this process if not accompanied with a change in the organization’s strategy could not bring to a growth in time.

Konrad (2003) provides three arguments for diversity management, arguments that every manager must have in mind thinking to the main objectives of his/her work:

  • Competing for the best talent;
  • acquiring marketing intelligence to meet diverse customer needs in a global economy;
  • increasing problem solving and creativity in the organization.

It is therefore important to underline that this path to inclusion must be all-encompassing and inclusive objectives must be common and shared in the organization. Projects developed for the final consumer or for workers could go in the same direction to contribute to build an environment widely perceived as inclusive both inside and outside the organization. The inclusion manager must necessarily work in a transversal way, especially in cultural organizations where the dimensions of diversity are far more intersected, and play an active role in strategic planning, becoming a reference point for the public and workers to align each activity with the objectives of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

We argue future research on inclusion managers could stress this dual aspect of his/her profession, underlining how hiring an inclusion manager is not always the solution if the overall organization is not able to understand and benefit from diversity.

Moreover, every organization that aims to invest in diversity management, incorporating these values and aware of future positive impact in economic, social and wellbeing terms for the organization and its audience, must consider that every change has benefits and costs. These costs and benefits affect the institution’s activity in the short and long term, forcing it to make a series of strategic choices that consider the goal of inclusive development.       

We could identify different type of costs arising from diversity management, either economic or social costs:

  • Organizational costs, the initial costs the organization must sustain to support the organizational change in terms of research, legal expenses, etc.
  • Costs /opportunities, among these the total costs deriving from time that employees subtract to their tasks to address the new objective.
  • Cultural change (may take longer or fail); the success of diversity management requires a substantial change in the organization’s culture which can take a shorter or longer time, and sometimes fail. There can be numerous barriers in this sense, and it is the task of the whole organization to make everyone aware of the new objectives.

Although these costs may seem very demanding, especially for small/medium organizations, not very structured ones such as some artistic and cultural institutions, as we stated in the previous paragraphs, the benefits are multiple, in terms of image, quality of work and personnel, motivation, and being ready to welcome new challenges with innovation and creativity.

4. Does an inclusive theater need an inclusion manager?

As discussed, inclusion today is for sure considered an added value for the organization, but also and above all a fundamental and essential element within any managerial and corporate governance perspective that aims to place itself significantly within the current and future landscape of any type of business.

This awareness, which is a point of arrival, is configured at the same time as a challenge to change in the working spaces and in the guidelines, to change of perspective that makes inclusion not a juxtaposed intervention, but an adapting indicator, both to the dynamics of diversity within companies, and to solicits coming from the outside world, from the community within which and with which the companies operate.

These become a particularly articulated challenge for theatrical institutions. Those who work in the theater, in fact, move within activities with highly variable profiles; first, a theatrical institution must move by considering two macrocosms that must be kept in balance, producers and users, the institution and its audience. Even a company must always consider its target, but in the case of theatrical institutions it is not just a question of intercepting the needs of the buyers: the audience of a theater, both the present and potential, is at the same time a buyer and a sort as shareholder of the company, as co-creator, whose wishes and needs must be fulfilled, but who must also be educated, induced and guided to participate in the theater, in a process of constant osmosis without which no theatrical act could fulfill its civil catalyst function.

This innate vocation to dialogue, and therefore simultaneously to logos and listening, gives the theatrical institution, by its intrinsic nature, a perceptive and even epistemological advantage: the multifaceted character of its work, its actors and its users makes an inclusive approach even more stringent, and outlines its diverse declinations. The peculiarity of the activity forced theaters to consider and keep together many variables.

It appears inevitable that, to achieve inclusive processes within a theatrical institution, to avoid that the management of diversity is reduced to mere occasional, more or less effective interventions, a necessary condition, while not sufficient, is to define who is in charge of diversity management.

In fact, an inclusive leadership would be the essential starting point for operating an action that is always based not only on attention to diversity, but also on its constant presence at every level and in every type of strategic choice: budget, trade union, artistic, advertising, programmatic.

In recent years, many theatrical organizations succeeded in giving value to diversity: if for example we consider black dance companies in the United States, they have been rich in innovations (Luchetti 2020) and created and performed dance by African Americans has become a permanent part of American dance, touring both nationally and internationally. Among these, for example, Dallas Black Dance Theater (DBDT) demonstrated how a company could be able to overcome many difficulties thanks to different profiles in the board, playing different roles in the difficult moments of the organization. For forty years, DBDT has been a main arts organization for African American in the US. Its diversity is a force: DBDT established a deep relationship with its community, and it is now in touch with philanthropists, foundations, city governments and national institutions. Inclusive theatrical organizations, like DBDT, demonstrated how an inclusive leader and governance can help in overcoming and face new challenges, not only the ones strictly connected to diversity. Moreover, theaters investing in inclusion have been able to play a crucial role in the transformation of the community, giving voice to underrepresented people (Di Giovanni et al. 2022).

Despite the many good practices, we can encounter among inclusive theaters all over the world, we must underline that these transformation processes mainly arose when inclusive leaders started to reflect on the opportunities of diversity. That’s why we argue that the presence of an inclusive manager, specifically trained, could spread the inclusive approach in every fold of the complex fabric of the theatrical institution, to the point of modifying its very nature, replacing positive actions, which are sometimes fragmented also due to the numerous and different variables involved, with a global, systematic, and systemic structure, which can fully restore the civic vocation of the theater.


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About the author(s)

Marco Luchetti is a Ph.D. Student at the University of Macerata with a master’s degree in Economics and Management in Arts, Culture, Media, and Entertainment. He is an Academic Fellow and Junior Researcher at Bocconi University. He worked as an Assistant to the General Manager at Macerata Opera Festival and as a consultant for different Italian cultural institutions.

Alex Turrini is Associate Professor in Public and Non-profit Management at Bocconi University. He has a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Business Administration. He was Chair of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship (AMAE) Division at SMU in Dallas, Texas, Director of MA in Arts Management and Administration (MAMA) at SDA Bocconi School of Management, and director of the MSc in Economics and Management for the Arts, Culture, Media and Entertainment (ACME) at Bocconi University.

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©inTRAlinea & Marco Luchetti and Alex Turrini (2022).
"A new organizational challenge for inclusive theaters: Who will manage the change?"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Inclusive Theatre: Translation, Accessibility and Beyond
Edited by: Elena Di Giovanni and Francesca Raffi
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2608

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