The glossary entries are the result of a collaborative process among OpenHeritage consortium partners and have undergone an internal review. However, they only express the perspective of the authors listed under each term, not of all partners. You can find information on the glossary production process and the full glossary here.

Shan-Ti Tsai
Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Markus Kip
Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany;

Short definition

Inclusiveness is an outcome that results from a process of social inclusion. Social inclusion recognizes diversity and seeks to overcome institutionalized, structural, or personal impediments to the participation of people because of their self-identity or ascribed identity (such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, abilities, class, and so on). Inclusiveness thus specifically addresses individuals or groups who were previously not included or excluded to participate in and influence decision-making processes and actions (Bicchi 2006; Reynal-Querol 2005; Ibarra 1993). To be included, all members must be able to share and have equitable access to power and resources (Smith et al. 2012). Inclusiveness is used as a term across disciplines including education, sociology, psychology, politics, and economics.

Key discussions around the term

Inclusiveness is closely related to social inclusion which is an affirmative action to change social structures, institutional circumstances, and habits that lead to or have led to social exclusion. The focus on social inclusion stems partly from the worldwide attention to growing income and wealth inequality, and its social and political consequences (Bordia Das 2016). The core concept of social inclusion is often developed based on Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach (Sen 2000), which highlights the need for inclusive policies, and argues that every person must be provided with the capabilities to lead the life they have reason to live. The capability approach is a moral framework and proposes that social arrangements should be evaluated primarily given the freedom it allows for people to promote or achieve self-development.

In terms of conceptual clarification, the debates around inclusiveness border with other concepts such as social integration (Khan et al. 2015), both ostensibly aiming to make societies more cohesive. Following the UN Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Social Integration in 2008, social integration has been defined as “the process of promoting the values, relations, and institutions that enable all people to participate in social, economic and political life based on equality of rights, equity and dignity” to make a “society for all” in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play (Ferguson 2008). Against such focus on values and institution-buildings, the concept of social integration has been criticized for turning a blind eye on its implied (cultural and socio-economic) presuppositions, thus becoming compatible with politics of cultural homogenization (Khan et al. 2015). By contrast, social inclusion tends to bring the focus more on the process of improving the terms of participation in society for people who are disadvantaged based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or another status, through enhanced opportunities, access to resources, voice and respect for rights.

Tools and methods for inclusion have been advocated particularly by international organizations such as the UN and the World Bank to reduce the international issue of unequal economic and social resources. UN studies have also provided a framework of indicators for analyzing and measuring social inclusion (Atkinson and Marlier 2010). According to the World Bank (2013), social inclusion is the process in which the social and economic opportunities of disadvantaged people are improved and their ability to take part in society and their dignity are affirmed. Studies and projects thus mainly focus on how to achieve social inclusion in various fields. Most of the related studies emphasize that reaching social inclusion requires a broader and deeper knowledge of exclusion and its impacts. Such perspective, however, has been criticized from various perspectives, including postcolonial, feminist, and Marxist approaches that conceive of institutionalized, structural, and personal impediments on the basis of structural conflicts, and thus propose different, more politicized solutions than the World Bank (Bergeron 2003). As Kaasila-Pakanen (2015) argues, proposed organizational fixes are often insufficient to address the complex processes in which identities and otherness continue to be constructed in inclusion and diversity programs thus ultimately reproducing inequalities.

Reference list

Atkinson, A.B. and E. Marlier. 2010. Analysing and Measuring Social Inclusion in a Global Context. United Nations publication, New York.

Bergeron, S. 2003. “Challenging the World Bank’s narrative of inclusion.” In: World Bank Literature, edited by Amitava Kumar, Mineapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp.157-171.

Bicchi, F. 2006. ‘Our size fits all’: Normative power Europe and the Mediterranean. Journal of European Public Policy, 13(2), 286–303.

Bordia Das, M. 2016. “Social Inclusion in macro-level diagnostics: reflecting on the World Bank Group’s early systematic country diagnostics. “World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, (7713). Access online:

Ferguson, C., 2008. Promoting social integration. Report commissioned by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) for the Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Social Integration, Helsinki, Finland, July 8-10, 2008. Access online:

Ibarra, H. 1993. Personal networks of women and minorities in management: A conceptual framework. Academy of Management Review, 18(1), 56–87.

Kaasila-Pakanen, A.L., 2015. “A postcolonial deconstruction of diversity management and multiculturalism.” In: The Oxford handbook of diversity in organizations, edited by R. Bendl, I. Bleijenbergh, E. Henttonen, and A.J. Mills, pp.175-194.

Khan, S., Combaz, E. & McAslan Fraser, E. 2015. Social exclusion: topic guide. Revised edition. Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.

Reynal-Querol, M. 2005. “Does democracy preempt civil wars? “European Journal of Political Economy, 21(2), 445–465.

Sen, A. 2000. “Social Exclusion: Concept, Application, and Scrutiny” Social Development Papers no. 1; Asian Development Bank. Access online:

Smith, A. N., Morgan, W. B., King, E. B., Hebl, M. R., & Peddie, C. I. 2012. “The ins and outs of diversity management: The effect of authenticity on outsider perceptions and insider behaviors.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42(S1), E21–E55.

World Bank. 2013. Inclusion Matters: the Foundation for shared prosperity. World Bank Publications. New York.