Social Impact Leaders— Interview w/ Ainslee Hooper, Anthropologist
Ainslee Hooper is an Anthropologist, Speaker and author, specialising in disability inclusion, and owns a consultancy focused on helping businesses remove invisible barriers and reduce the risk of ableism.
For the past two and a half years, she has worked on numerous projects with a focus on disability for councils, disability service providers, public venues and sustainability services firms. Ainslee is also completing a PhD in Anthropology examining the impact of COVID19 on the disability identity.
As a disabled person, Ainslee is passionate about disability inclusion. Ainslee started her consultancy after 20 years in the public service, when she noticed a gap in services for disabled people within the disability, and found this gap exists both in and out of the disability sector. Ainslee combines her unique knowledge of disability with her anthropological expertise to foster an understanding of the diversity of humans and their experiences, resulting in improved outcomes for all.
Social Impact — What meaning do you personally associate with this term?
For me, social impact is what we see when the whole of society takes responsibility for an issue. For example, disability inclusion is not just the job of employers employing disabled people. Disability inclusion is everyones responsibility, right down to the communities we live in and ensuring people are not left behind.
Social Responsibility — What is your best practice to integrate it into your daily life?
My best practice to integrate social responsibility in my daily life is to highlight barriers that others might see. By doing so an higlighting why the barrier is a problem, I am helping others see things they didn’t notice before. My life and my business bleed into one, as I do this for clients, helping them identify barriers that exist which impact the consumer experience.
Purchasing Power — What is it all about, and why is it real power?
Purchasing power is all about the power the consumer holds. The consumer will decide to shop or not because of their morals which either connect or not with a business. By consumers refusing to buy from a particular business, they hold the power to make the business step back and look at what’s going on. A perfect example is in the UK where a business was not accessible and had 83% of consumers refuse to purchase from that business as a result. Businesses also have power by choosing who they source products or services from.
Conscious Living — Why is it important to live our life consciously? And how do our actions influence and affect each other, and therefore connect us?
Conscious living is vital to how we live our life, because how we live not only impacts us personally, but impacts our environment and the rest of society. We need to understand that the choices we make will make a mark for us, those who inhabit the same space, and generations to come. If we don’t live our life consciously, we are just existing, going through the motions. As the philosopher Socrates is quoted as saying “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Once we decide to live consciously, we see how our choices not only impact us, but how they impact others. For example, how our choice to purchase something which was created in a sweatshop perpuates modern day slavery or to purchase something from an Australian Disability Enterprise can result in perpetuating what equates to modern day slavery in Australia of disabled people.
Conscious Consumerism — Why, now more than ever, it is important to reflect on our buying habits, and research the brands we are consuming?
The pandemic has afforded society the opportunity to pause and rethink how we do things. Local businesses have suffered greatly, and with the lockdowns it has given individuals the opportunity to assess how much we spend, on what and where. From personal experience, I have purchased two tops in the last 12 months and going forward, I do not see myself going back to old spending habits because they were frivilous, part of the retail therapy idea I so blindly followed. Instead of looking inside me, I looked at clothes to address mental health issues. Now is the time to #buildbackbetter and research the companies that are going to help both the Australian economy and the individuals who support the economy.
Commercial — From your point of view, what are the commercial practices that are unhealthy to humanity?
My top 3 are
Sales — People think they suddenly need things they didn’t before
Fashion — the industry is responsible for a huge amount of emissions in both production and waste due to unsustainable practices.
Visibility: Although we are starting to see more of it, disability has not featured in a lot of marketing campaigns or thought about in the planning process or in the creation of products. This results in feelings of exclusion and perpetuates stereotypes which then feed into issues not being addressed. With COVID19, it’s been highlighted everyone is going to experience disability at one time or another so commercial practices need to take these things into account.
The Future — What is your personal outlook on the future?
As mentioned, COVID19 has taught us many things. What it has shown is how accessible things can be when we want them to be. The disabled community has been fighting for decades for remote working and we’ve been told it’s not possible. Suddenly a pandemic hits and it’s possible. It’s given society the time to reflect on (even if they don’t realise it) what it’s like for disabled people to live in a society that’s inaccessible. I would like to see this carried forward into people’s concious living when things return to “normal” because disabled people are quickly being forgotten about the further into the pandemic we go. I think we can have an inclusive society where everyone is embraced.
Change — What do you personally think needs to change — from a consumer perspective and within the corporate world?
I’d like to see no one left behind. I’d like to see the corporate world embrace disability as part of their diversity strategies and not just as a diversity target. Targets get us nowhere. I as a wheelchair user am not a tick box. Corporations need to be more transparent about their practices so they can be held accountable about practices that impact humanity. We need to understand that EVERYONE is responsible for social impact as we are all a part of society. It’s not just up to someone else, we all can make a change and it starts with us as individuals.
You can follow Ainslee’s journey and work at ainsleehooper.com.au. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on Social Impact:
Hello! I am a serial entrepreneur practising conscious entrepreneurship. This is an interview series about social responsibility and the best practices in incorporating it into our daily lives.
Every day, we make an impact consciously and subconsciously. It is implemented through our actions.
A great example of this is the practice of our Purchasing Power where we can actually direct our impact by consciously deciding which brands and companies we nourish.
I interview change advocates about best practices for incorporating social consciousness into our daily lives, and practices in the business world that need to change for the benefit of social responsibility.
With this interview, we invite the reader to reflect their every day actions. We all have an impact, and if we are consciously aware of that, we can be empowered to start the change for a better future.
Thank you for being the change. I’m looking forward to learn from each one of you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.