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“An Inclusive Downtown” with Maddie McConnell

Category Blog

Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) continues to be the topic of study and growth for numerous organizations within this era of acknowledging differences. Maddie McConnell, DII’s former graduate fellow from IUPUI’s School of Tourism, Events and Sports Management, took a deeper look into this phenomenon to suggest practices around DEIA in the Downtown Indianapolis events field. After extensive research and real-world experiences as a member on our events team, Maddie consolidated her findings to construct valuable insights for Downtown Indy, Inc. (DII) and the greater urban framework.

The basis of the research was to: explore the feelings of welcomeness and inclusivity in Downtown, determine how public space activators can increase outreach efforts, and emphasize the importance of intentionality behind DEIA focused events. To better understand these concepts, Maddie spoke with a series of Downtown leaders who offered ideas and insights to assist DII in producing a meaningful and sustainable impact of DEIA. Her study gave a detailed synopsis of what business owners and Downtown stakeholders are suggesting and what needs to be done to enhance a diverse and inclusive perception of their Downtown.

Former Graduate Fellow Maddie McConnell presents her research to the DII team and IUPUI faculty.

​The truth is all about perception. Perception is the navigator of life, meaning one’s perception is one’s reality. This principle was essential to Maddie's study, as there must be a conscious effort to monitor and evaluate various perceptions that cultivate Downtown. Perceptions are what make, create, or degrade the experiences that public space activators bring to life.

These experiences mentioned are essential as well. In fact, Maddie’s findings highlight that public space activators should transition themselves into an experience-based mindset as opposed to an event-based mindset. This is due to the exclusive perception the word “event” brings versus an inclusive perception the word “experience” brings. The word event often implies that someone is invited, which consequently means someone else is not. The word experience has the ability to demolish boundaries and grant freedom of expression, creating an inclusive Downtown atmosphere. 

Pictured from left to right: Events Manager Emma Bennett, Events Director Courtney Howell Rissman, Graduate Fellow Maddie McConnell, and Interim President & CEO Bob Schultz.

Furthermore, inclusion is the key to unlocking an organization’s fullest potential, and DII is in a position of influence to maximize this potential. DII has the opportunity to be one of the key trailblazers in Indianapolis within the DEIA phenomenon. Maddie’s research revealed the importance of consistency and intentionality while doing so, as public confidence is built through a culmination of the two. What can also be built is a new organizational culture, holding the power to uncover different perspectives of knowledge. In other words, culture breeds opportunities to learn and grow.

DII will continue to adopt this new structure and conduct research as the inflow of people coming to Downtown increases. It is up to DII to feed off the energy and excitement this will create. No one organization is beyond growing; DEIA will be accepted, embraced, and utilized to grow exponentially.