Sasin Chula is the First in Thailand to Uphold IDEALS Policy that Promotes Diversity and Equity as well as Inclusion for Sustainable Organizations and Businesses    

Sasin School of Management, Chulalongkorn University is set to become a focal point for DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) efforts. It is launching the “IDEALS” policy in partnership with Steps to establish the Neurodiversity at Work Research Center (NWRC), Thailand’s inaugural research center focused on exploring possibilities for individuals with varying perceptual abilities to access employment opportunities, thus fostering a sustainable business community. 

According to a 2020 report by the World Economic Forum, companies that prioritize inclusion experience approximately 30% higher profits and more than double the shareholder returns. This aligns with findings from the Harvard Business Review in 2019, which revealed that inclusive workplaces witnessed up to a 56% improvement in work performance and a 50% decrease in resignations. 

These statistics underscore how organizations emphasizing inclusive participation can ensure enduring growth in the future. Yet the question arises: Is equitable participation merely an ideal, or can it be practically implemented or realized? 

Sasin School of Management, led by Professor Dr. Ian Fenwick, Ph.D., Sasin Director, has sought answers to these questions. Recently, Dr. Ian has worked with faculty and students to launch the IDEALS policy, encompassing Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access to Learning at Sasin.  

“IDEALS was initiated to create an environment that accepts each person and their differences.  It promotes co-existence with increased equity and equality in the future,” explains Assistant Professor Drew B. Mallory, Ph.D., Research Director of the Neurodiversity at Work Research Centre (NWRC), a research and community initiative launched at the same time. IDEALS aims to cultivate a culture supportive of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) within the organization, serving as a role model for other entities. 

Assistant Professor Drew B. Mallory, Ph.D.

Consequently, Sasin’s goal is to explore, study, and experiment with the implementation of IDEALS for equitable participation over a 5-year period starting from 2023. 

Crafting a policy that ensures the inclusion of everyone and fosters equitable participation and engagement stands as a crucial endeavor for all organizations. As an educational institution, Sasin aims to ensure that this policy becomes a cornerstone of each student’s journey, empowering graduates to apply IDEALS knowledge and experiences in both organizational management and collaborative problem-solving, enabling them to assume leadership roles in their respective countries. 

Real Inclusion Means Real Participation  

Of course, merely comprehending the concept of diversity is insufficient; genuine progress stems from valuing and respecting the diversity that exists, consequently fostering enhanced inclusion. As Dr. Mallory emphasized, “Inclusion occurs in an organization when its members feel confident about their psychological safety.  They can be themselves and can feel proud to have a sense of belonging.”   

Tackling this initiative, especially within the backdrop of Thai culture, posed notable challenges. Thai culture, renowned for its virtues of humility, modesty, and respect, while unquestionably praiseworthy, occasionally posed obstacles to straightforward self-expression and open communication. These barriers inadvertently can block participation and—and even fairness– as individuals might have suppressed their authentic desires. “No one is being themselves” when they feel the need to fit in, he explained. 

Sasin’s approach strives to foster an environment of security, allowing each individual to embrace their authenticity and find acceptance, whether in their academic pursuits, professional endeavors, or teaching interactions. For instance, faculty members are encouraged to put forth unconventional ideas without reservation, while staff members are empowered to tackle necessary tasks with confidence. Dr. Mallory claimed that, “If people can feel they are truly a part of the organization they will offer their full cooperation regardless of what position or status they have in that organization.” 

Everyone is key in IDEALS 

“One of the learning processes Sasin has always embraced is what we call ‘Participatory Problem Solving.’ In simple terms, this involves bringing together instructors and students in the classroom to collaboratively analyze and discover solutions or conclusions to address various challenges,” explained Dr. Mallory. To illustrate this approach, Dr. Mallory shared a case where a student was confronted with a recurring issue at a small-scale technology business: frequent employee turnover. The employees brought in to replace those who left would themselves soon depart for other opportunities.  

“We did some brainstorming and employed the “Participatory Problem Solving” process and found an effective solution inviting staff with satisfactory performance to take part in the selection process for new employees.  The idea is that recruitment should not be a matter left only to HR or the management and management.  Existing staff should be able to be involved and offer advice in the process to feel a sense of belonging to the organization. The same idea has been implemented in the creation of IDEALS.  

Assistant Professor Drew B. Mallory recalled that Sasin’s initial adoption of IDEALS wasn’t premeditated; instead, it followed a business-like approach. The institution delved into its internal dynamics to gauge the depth of understanding about diversity. Concurrently, it scrutinized internal policies to identify any groups or individuals that were “excluded,” whether intentionally or inadvertently. 

The development of IDEALS gradually unfolded, guided by a committee composed of Sasin  representatives. Their active engagement in meetings served to map potential directions, foster collaborations, and establish connections with various organizational networks. This committee’s work entailed crafting a curriculum and policy that resonated with globally accepted practices, safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders and integrating the most profound research and concepts from around the world, pertaining to functioning within culturally diverse societies. 

At the same time, because Sasin wanted to comprehend the holistic needs of its workforce, going beyond superficial factors such as gender, racial or religious heritage, the School also sought new ways to connect with staff. Focus groups and discussions ventured into the profound life experiences of members of the School, allowing the many differences and similarities to bubble to the surface. 

“At Sasin we take pride in the differences and diversity we have within the institution. From the faculty, students, and alumni to the staff the different opinions we have will contribute towards making the IDEALS policy a reality and not only an ideal” explained Professor Drew, although he said that these differences often will not be harnessed when staff do not feel engaged.  

IDEALS: Equitable Co-existence, Embracing Diversity  

A cornerstone of IDEALS is the concept of equity, which doesn’t entail uniform possession or receipt of everything in equal measure. Dr. Mallory explained, “It means that everyone receives what is necessary corresponding to the individual’s needs.  For example, if the person is hard of hearing they may receive some form of technical assistance that helps record what has been said instead of you. We can benefit from our differences if we are all are equipped with what is needed to work, to learn, to speak, or to progress.” 

For students, the School has to become available in ways it has not conceived of in the past.  

“Everyone who wishes to learn and has the potential to do so should not be impeded,” said Dr. Mallory. “To ensure the highest learning potential of our students, we have to create the enabling opportunities.”   

Dr. Mallory recounted Sasin’s active experimentation with various initiatives to address the needs of both staff and students. These initiatives ranged from scheduling meetings to avoid prayer times, expanding options for Halal meals, and facilitating interactions between Thai and international staff, to the potential establishment of an interfaith Meditation Room. 

He also noted his efforts to enhance the learning environment, driven by student feedback that expressed limitations in terms of meeting and interacting with peers.  “This would not happen in the classes I teach at Sasin since I require students to change groups 2-3 times each day so that they interact with a different group of people for each activity.  Initially, this idea was met with some resistance from students who felt irritated with this requirement but at the end of those classes they told me how it was a wonderful experience getting to know other students whether Thai or foreign, and learning more about their lives and ways of thinking.” Dr. Mallory acknowledged that the idea for the constant switch around came from the students themselves.  

Setting up the NWRC Center to increase the potential of those with diverse perceptions  

IDEALS is being put into action in the community as well. Quoting statistics from the World Health Organization, it is revealed that approximately 15% of the global population, amounting to around 1 billion individuals, possess varying forms of perceptual differences. In line with this global trend, Thailand stands as no exception. “This is a group that has social and economic potential but still has a problem finding work and building the economy of the country” the Sasin professor explained, while introducing how the Neurodiversity at Work Research Center (NWRC) was founded.  It is Southeast Asia’s first research center to increase opportunities for people to find work and enable those who have faced discrimination to be able to participate.     

Dr. Mallory confirmed that “Sasin wants to see those with diverse perceptions enjoy the freedom to choose a future that is appropriate for them like others do.”  He also added “We are determined to see a society that is open to providing opportunities and adjusting the environment in some ways to enable this to happen.  It is necessary, therefore that we provide a system and the tools for research that is adequate for Thailand.” Starting with business education for Thailand’s next generation of leaders. 

The NWRC is slated to undertake comprehensive research and training in the realm of occupations. This initiative seeks to delve into the experiences of individuals with diverse perceptions, tracing their journey from the point of course registration to eventual employment. In tandem, Sasin is set to collaborate with Steps (stepcommunity.com), a prominent consultancy agency in Thailand focused on working with neurodivergent workers. This partnership is focused on matters relating to the preparation of young individuals with diverse perceptions and the promotion of non-discriminatory business practices, which, in turn, fosters greater diversity in employment opportunities. It also works on studying the business case and blocks to inclusion in contemporary organizations.  

Dr. Mallory puts it simply, “We’re putting in place a practical approach to gather and analyze data, creating tools and methods to gather accurate evidence. This evidence will show how valuable individuals with diverse perceptions can be to an organization. What’s interesting is that research suggests these changes don’t need major investments; small adjustments can make a big impact.” 

The results of this research won’t just benefit companies and government bodies. Dr. Mallory hopes that they will also help students understand the difference between varying abilities and the opportunities that come from leaders offering meaningful work. 

According to information gathered by the Department of Public Relations in 2022, out of Thailand’s 856,844 people with disabilities, only 36.5% are employed, with a large number working in agriculture. Studies consistently show that 79% of employed people with disabilities experience better physical, mental, and intellectual well-being. Additionally, 88% find benefits from employment, including skill development, improved quality of life, and trust-building. 

Sasin at the hub for DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) 

With the IDEALS policy in full effect and the expansion of platforms for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), it’s a certainty that forthcoming Sasin graduates will emerge as leaders who prioritize social concerns and deeply value the contributions of every member of society. This, in turn, promises lasting advantages for all stakeholders involved. 

However, Dr. Mallory reminded us that the journey from diversity to equity and inclusion should differ across nations. There’s no universal blueprint; each country needs to tailor its approach to match its unique context. Thailand is traversing this path as well, with Sasin is at the forefront. Sasin is working to educate others with a toolkit of multicultural, adaptive approaches and a deep understanding of Thainess. “The only way to go national is to be local,” he said.  

Be part of creating business organizations that realize the potential of each individual by following IDEALS and projects under the concepts related to coexistence in a sustainable society at www.sasin.edu/inclusion.   


1. The Valuable 500 – Closing the Disability Inclusion Gap, World Economic Forum: www.weforum.org  
2. The Value of Belonging at Work, Harvard Business Review: hbr.org  
3. Increasing Employment Opportunities for Disabled Persons, The Government Public Relations Department: thailand.prd.go.th  
4. Neurodiversity at Work Research Center (NWRC), Sasin School of Management, Chulalongkorn Univerisity: sasin.edu/nwrc 
5. TransTalents Project, Sasin School of Management, Chulalongkorn University: sasin.edu/transtalents 

Chula’s encouragement and support for research is excellent for teachers, students, and the public.

Associate Professor Dr. Suchana Chavanich Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University

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