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Photography project reduces feelings of isolation

They say a picture is worth more than a thousand words. For colleagues at Deloitte Ireland who are originally from other countries, photographs can help tell powerful stories about what it feels like to be far from home.

Our Dublin office wanted to improve the sense of belonging of colleagues from outside of Ireland. The team adopted an innovative research approach called Photovoice, which focuses on photography for social change. Using images, captions and group discussion, the initiative helped unlock personal perspectives around cultural diversity.

"We wanted to explore their thoughts, feelings and experiences of diversity, respect and inclusion," explained Torunn Dahl, a senior manager in HR. "We also wanted to find out what challenges they faced in a way that surveys and focus groups would not have achieved."

Breaking down barriers

In April 2018, Torunn set up the photo project with help from sociologist and researcher Dr Maria Quinlan. She ran three workshops with 11 volunteers from nine countries including Moldova, Zimbabwe, India, Brazil and Malaysia.

Each volunteer was given a camera for four weeks and was asked to take photos to illustrate a range of themes that they collectively agreed on, around the opportunities and adversity they faced. Some of those themes related to how they were adapting and settling in, and how they were dealing with language barriers and the need to prove themselves.

The images, shared at an art exhibition at our Dublin office three months later, brought the volunteers' experiences to life. "The stories were so powerful; you were left with a real sense of the individual," commented Torunn.

She believes the initiative and exhibition have helped them think about ways to attract and retain global talent. It has also strengthened the dialogue around inclusion among leaders. "We've seen a change in their desire to increase awareness, drive different conversations within their teams and look for support in building inclusion," she added.

Its success also paved the way for a new Photovoice project, which focused on the experiences of working parents and was launched on International Women's Day 2019.

"At Deloitte Ireland, we employ people from over 60 different countries. This wealth of diverse backgrounds, perspectives and knowledge are hugely important in serving our clients. But even more critical is that everyone in our business understands the experiences of our international colleagues, and that not everybody’s time at work, or hopes and challenges are the same. This is an important element in ensuring we create a sense of belonging for all of our colleagues within our business. The Photovoice project really highlighted this."

Harry Goddard, CEO, Deloitte Ireland

Picture perfect

© Zain |2018 | Deloitte

"I decided to take this picture of the moon because it does definitely remind me of home. Actually, I don't know if it specifically reminds me of home – I've lived in about 15 different countries already, so I don't know where home is, but I spent most of my time in the Middle East. In the Islamic faith the moon is an important symbol, so this reminded me of home a lot."

© Melody |2018 | Deloitte

"Deloitte is like a platform for people from different cultures to meet up because ever since I've worked at Deloitte I've met so many people from so many different nationalities. It's really interesting because if it wasn't for Deloitte I wouldn't have known so many different cultures, met so many people. I believe it's like a bridge between people, different kinds of people, and we should take advantage of that."

© Adelin|2018 | Deloitte

"This picture represents Deloitte and Ireland in my view. Just like the cranes are constantly working on building something, I feel that Ireland gave me the opportunity to construct my career and build a future for myself. To me, Deloitte is an opportunity to develop the person I am, to advance into something better every day. It is a place where I constantly improve, because there's always something new to learn here. In some way, Deloitte is the crane that helps me to reach new heights."

© Pauline |2018 | Deloitte

"This is one of the walls in the office in Whitaker Court – it's the back wall, loads of doors. I guess what I've tried to say with this picture is that I was nervous coming to Ireland, not sure what to expect and what kind of walls I might come across trying to get a job or [if I could] be myself and not encounter any of that... and it's actually quite a positive message in that, at Deloitte, I've felt that the door is always open for me, and that I can always walk straight through and do what I'm here to do and what I want to do."

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