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Creating Shared Value through Inclusion

The principles of inclusivity have transcended beyond just moral imperatives emerging as strategic pillars to drive success. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion isn't just a matter of ethics — it's a pragmatic approach that yields tangible benefits for both the organisation and the communities it serves.

In this article, I will share why inclusivity drives business growth. Recently, I got a chance to talk with Belgravia Foundation CEO Jeff Walkley who believes that being inclusive is not only beneficial for the community, but also makes good business sense. With over 30 years experience in the leisure industry, Jeff has gathered compelling evidence that shows how promoting diversity and meeting community needs can drive business success.

During his early career working at a university, Jeff conducted trials of inclusive physical activity programs for people with disabilities and older adults. By collecting data on participation rates, health outcomes and social impacts he was able to demonstrate clear benefits for participants.

Surprisingly, he also found a "staggering increase" in cafe sales on campus during program times. This showed that bringing more diverse groups into leisure facilities could have economic effects.

Years passed, Jeff has continued championing this client-centric, data-driven approach at Belgravia Leisure. Through regular "Community Network Forums", the organisation listens to local voices to understand emerging priorities. Current initiatives then focus on supporting youth and combating loneliness - issues that impact large sections of the population.

By reflecting community diversity in their workforce as well, Belgravia Leisure centres function as welcoming hubs where all groups have a seat at the table and feel comfortable socialising. Jeff's research confirms people often spend extra hours in these inclusive "community lounge rooms", generating additional sales.

During COVID-19, Jeff recognised the impact during these difficult times and saw an opportunity to foster collaboration even with competitors to develop free mental health training. Reaching over 5000 workers nationwide, this initiative addressed sector needs while promoting the organisation's commitment to inclusion.

Jeff's story is indeed an inspiration about leadership that demonstrates how valuing diversity, meeting community needs and strengthening social connections can simultaneously achieve social good and business growth. For him, "inclusion is good for business" is more than just a phrase - it's a philosophy that has paid dividends for over a decade.

Let's continue by sharing any unique examples of embracing inclusivity to drive both social impact and business success in your organisation. I want to hear your story!

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