What we can learn from the Mardi Gras movement about the purpose of purpose

Many people want to make a positive difference to the world, but few are in a position to actually do so. Take equality as an example. We can each play a small part by being inclusive, respectful and open to those around us regardless of who they are or how they identify, but real change needs enablers with the skills and know how to make a long and lasting impact. 

This is one reason why Sefiani is so proud to work with global engineering firm, Arcadis who create spaces that encourage connection and allow equality to thrive.  

A remarkable history for our humble roads.

Attending a World Pride panel discussion from Roads Australia and Arcadis, I heard speakers from Transport for NSW, Mardi Gras, Roads Australia, and Arcadis discuss their focus on creating places for authenticity and impactful diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). 

The panel discussed how streets and spaces have played a fundamental role in activism and gay rights for decades. From the first brick thrown in protest during the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Christopher Street, New York City, to the first demonstration on 6 October 1971 on Sydney’s Ash Street, in support of homosexual law reform. Streets have and will continue to be places people can gather, be seen and be heard.  

Streets offer inclusion. Sydney’s Oxford Street, the home of Mardi Gras, created a safe place to protest, celebrate and gather. A place, outside of the bars where queerness was accepted and expressed, that was inclusive for all, no matter where they were on their personal journey. If they were loud and proud, or still hoping to join in anonymously, Mardi Gras and Oxford Street created a scale of event that could cater to both groups and anyone in between.  

So, as communications professionals what can we take away from this event which paired the rainbows of Mardi Gras with the logistics of streets and placemaking?  

Speaking your brand truth authentically. 

Consumers expect brands – both B2B and B2C – to speak to DE&I. The brands that do it well, and that don’t run the risk of green washing, are those that speak to a topic truthfully, transparently and authentically. They identify the area where they can truly reflect the company’s own actions and expertise, so they can meaningfully add to the DE&I conversation. 

When thinking engineering and transport, World Pride and Mardi Gras aren’t necessarily the first events that spring to mind. By identifying the white space they could speak to, Arcadis and their partners discussed pride authentically and added an important question to the radar of everyone in the room – how can engineers create more inclusive spaces in the future?  

Know the messengers that resonate with your audience.

It is all well and good for me, as an LGBTIQA+ ally to discuss the importance of authentic communication when speaking to this audience, but the reason I feel so confident relaying the learnings from this event is because they used the right messengers.  

The panel not only were experts in their industries, but they were part of the community that they were hoping to represent and engage. Their experiences were personal, true, and added perspective that a lot of the cis, heterosexual people in the room may have not considered when they took the elevator to the event space.  

Genuine perspective cannot be manufactured, you need to know your audience and represent them correctly and meaningfully.    

Make your call to action strong and it can last for decades.  

Mardi Gras was created out of a call to action, a cry from the homosexual community in 1978 – “out of the bars and into the streets.” This message which was critical to the movement and created the Mardi Gras we now celebrate every March.  

While it started as a protest, the message remains true every year and has evolved with the event. Communicators can take a meaningful lesson from this. If you know what you want consumers to do, think or feel, cry it from the rooftops. Without this call back in 1978, who knows where we would be.   

Through this whole event, one thing that stuck out was that words and how we communicate them carry so much meaning. It is essential that we, as communicators, help companies, individuals and groups ensure their target audiences feel heard, understood and acknowledged in a meaningful way. Engineers can create spaces for inclusion, as communicators, we can ensure every message is communicated in an inclusive way.   

People dancing in Mardi Gras Sydney