I have been thinking back to my ACPA experience and realized that for an organization that claims it thrives on inclusiveness, there are lots of cliques, or inner circles, if you will. I fully recognize that I am a part of these as well. Through my time in the association, I have developed my own inner circles. My close group of friends and colleagues. We have our own events with each other. We host our own socials. We travel to meals with each other. We are open to new people, but we don’t create environments that would necessarily make others feel comfortable in them. We are not trying to be malicious or exclusive. I believe that it happens because we are trying to scale-down the conference experience. We are trying to make it more manageable. Each year we may personally invite one or two others to join us, but ultimately the core group never changes. It never fluctuates.
This does not exist solely in ACPA. It exists in other professional organizations as well. We recognize it. It always seems that the same people are winning the awards and are on the planning teams. It is the same people every year and they just shift around the responsibilities among themselves. Yes there may be an application process for some of these positions. How do you choose someone else who may not necessarily have the experience because they have not been given the chance to crack the inner circle? Would you pick someone who was previously on the planning team or the other person?
How do you crack into this circle? I would like to know. There is an immense intimidation factor of being an outsider. How will others perceive me? This is why I believe we create and stick to our own circles. It is comfortable and we know how others will perceive us. For the most part, these relationships do not change. Pieces of information may alter over the years, but the core of the person and the group remains. We create circles around our comfort areas. This is why they persist and why we rarely break through when on the outside.
In essence, we then create our own inner circles to feel included. But are we really included when we needed to create our own circle? Perhaps we do break through to an inner circle but I find that happens only when we are personally invited. And typically, we are invited because we are similar not because we are different. This could be physical, philosophical, or educational. If you are different, more than likely you will need to find another circle or start your own.
I am not sure what this means for us as professionals. More of an observation that I have made over time. I feel that we do need smaller communities to help make sense of the work we do. To make things seem more manageable and less overwhelming. Even with social media, it is nearly impossible to engage with all 3500 people attending a conference. We need these smaller communities to actually connect with real people. I just think we need to do a better job of making them seem less exclusive. We need to do a better job of including new people. This also extends beyond the conference environment. Why is that it is always the same people presenting or chosen for teams/groups? Other people are volunteering. Other people are applying. Do we choose the familiar because we are scared of the unknown? Are we scared of new ideas? Are we scared of disrupting our inner circles?