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4 powerful lessons I’ve learned from interviewing Delitelabs’ community

When Piero Gandini (Director of Possibilities at Delitelabs) invited me to conduct a few interviews with Delitelabs’ participants and alumni – most of whom are newcomers* to the Netherlands – I thought it would be like most other interviews I’ve done in my freelance writing career.

It turned out to have a bigger impact on me than I expected. I left every interview feeling grateful, humbled, and fortified with important life lessons, from the power of entrepreneurship to the importance of using inclusive language.

Here are a few lessons I’d like to share with you:

1. The power of entrepreneurial skills

To help newcomers integrate into society, governments typically offer employment support and language education – which is certainly valuable. However, after speaking with a few newcomers, it became clear that Delitelabs focus on entrepreneurial skills is just as effective in deepening integration.

While Delitelabs is not exclusively for (aspiring) entrepreneurs, its programs promote and teach entrepreneurship skills, from pitching to conducting market research to marketing and branding. These are all incredibly useful skills for any professional.

Many of the participants and alumni I interviewed had a natural entrepreneurial spirit, armed with strong ambitions, resourcefulness, and an infectious positivity – despite the hardships they’d experienced.

Take Ibrahim Tatarlar, for example, a professional accountant from Turkey who fled to the Netherlands after the coup in 2016. In Turkey, Ibrahim ran his own accounting firm, but he has struggled to find employment in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, he remains steadfast and motivated to build a business in the future, confident in his abilities, entrepreneurial personality, and the skills and knowledge he gained at Delitelabs.

2. The importance of community

All of the Delitelabs alumni I spoke to cited their classmates, as well as the program faculty and guest experts, as a major component of their transformative experience.

Aiva Eiduka, for example, discovered a newfound passion for personal branding through conversations with her classmates and faculty members. “They often had completely different viewpoints and different ideas,” she says. “They broadened my perspective.” Today, Aiva is working with one of her classmates, Ilham Atus, on his personal branding journey.

Another key element of Delitelabs is mentorship, in which mentors with real-world business experience guide participants through their growth and entrepreneurship journeys.

These close-knit support systems serve as an empowering source of hope and inspiration. As a firm believer in diversity, equity & inclusion, I’ve found Delitelabs to be a great example of the commitment we need from businesses and individuals today if we want to build truly inclusive societies.

It turned out to have a bigger impact on me than I expected. I left every interview feeling grateful, humbled, and fortified with important life lessons

3 The need to recognize (and use) our privilege

While many of my conversations started out with stories of unimaginable hardship, almost all interviewees made it clear that they did not want people to feel sad for them. They expressed sincere gratitude despite having to face dangerous situations and risk their lives at no fault of their own.

It made me reflect on my own life and how fortunate I am. While comparative suffering is not a healthy habit, I do think it’s important for all of us to take a step back every once in a while and actively acknowledge our privilege. Only then can we pave the way for social change and dismantle unjust systems.

Ask yourself: What are some ways in which I have had unearned advantages in my life?

Then ask: How can I use these advantages to level the playing field for others?

We don’t get to choose the privileges afforded to us, but we can choose how we use them.

4. The value of using inclusive language

Working and interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds is definitely in my comfort zone – but that doesn’t mean I’m not continuously learning and educating myself.

Through my interviews with Delitelabs’ alumni, I was reminded of the importance of inclusive language. In some conversations, I’d find myself using popular English idioms or expressions like “wrap your head around” or “up in the air.” It dawned on me that these are pretty western-centric phrases, so not everyone will understand what they mean. As a content writer whose audience is not limited to the west, it’s especially important to me to write in an inclusive and accessible way.

Definitely, it’s a learning process, as society continues to progress and it takes time to build new habits. If you’re interested in learning more about inclusive language – and how to put it into action – here are some of my favorite resources:

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We still have a ways to go in building real inclusion – within businesses, communities, and on an individual level. After speaking with the Delitelabs’ community, from participants to alumni to board members and corporate partners, one thing is clear: if we want to build inclusive societies, things like entrepreneurship, community building, recognizing our privilege, and using inclusive language, will be key ingredients. I am excited to continue learning and growing – and sharing these diverse, important stories with you!

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Employees and leadership in your organization could have a similar learning journey that Sophie’s. Delitelabs offers tailor-made programs to experience diversity and inclusion, and cross-cultural innovation first-hand at the workplace. Interested? Get in touch!

*For Delitelabs, the term “newcomers” includes persons with forced migration backgrounds, asylum seekers, economic migrants, and local groups.

Written by Sophie Poulsen - Content Creator at Delitelabs

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