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Connection Not Inclusion

Author: Carl Poll

Carl Poll describes the subtle but important difference between the idea of including someone and the idea of making connections.

In services that support disabled people, people with learning disabilities and other groups, ‘inclusion’ has become a must-say word over the last ten years or so.

The idea of everyone being included in society is good. Society is better when the full diversity of humanity is present. So ‘inclusion’ must be a good word.

It’s an ok word but there is a better one, a more equal one: ‘connection’.

‘To include’ is a transitive verb - I have to include someone or something. ‘To connect’ can be intransitive. I don’t have to connect someone to someone else. I can just connect - on an equal basis with anyone who wants to connect with me. There is equality built into the word.

Does it matter? Perhaps, because the act of including someone has inequality already present: I’m in, you’re out but it’s ok, I’m going to include you. The word makes it hard for me not to be patronising.

If we connect, though, you bring something, I bring something. Then we see what happens.

So if anyone were to take note of this thought, maybe we’ll hear people in services start talking about ‘connection’ and the word will start to appear in the straplines under organisations’ logos. Of course, what we do matters – not what we say.

This isn’t an original thought. About 15 years ago I heard John McKnight (of the Asset Based Community Development Centre in Chicago) say ‘inclusion is a good word, connection is a better one’. He didn’t elaborate, but what he said seemed true and I’ve been able to see a difference since.


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.

Connection not Inclusion © Carl Poll 2011.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.