The Architecture of Inclusion: Interdisciplinary Insights on Pursuing Institutional Citizenship

Susan P. Sturm, Columbia Law School


Structural inequality has captured the attention of academics, policymakers, and activists. This structural reorientation is occurring at a time of judicial retrenchment and political backlash against affirmative action. These developments have placed in sharp relief the mismatch between structural diagnoses and the dominant legal frameworks for addressing inequality. Scholars, policymakers, and activists are faced with the pressing question of what to do now. They share a need for new frameworks and strategies, growing out of a better understanding of institutional and cultural change.

The Harvard Journal of Law & Gender has used the publication of The Architecture of Inclusion: Advancing Workplace Equity in Higher Education as a catalyst for an interdisciplinary inquiry focused on developing this much-needed knowledge. The Journal used its convening power to assemble a group of creative scholars from such diverse disciplines as history, sociology, political science, economics, psychology, organizational theory, business, and law. The articles growing out of this Workshop elaborate the three main ideas comprising an architectural approach for developing and sustaining efforts to address structural inequality, set forth in an earlier article called The Architecture of Inclusion. That article first articulated the norm of institutional citizenship as a justification and goal for diversity initiatives. Institutional citizenship involves creating the conditions enabling people of all races and genders to realize their potential and participate fully in institutional life. Second, the article identified a crucial institutional role, called an organizational catalyst, as a mechanism of institutional change. This role involves individuals with knowledge, influence, and credibility in positions where they can mobilize change within complex structures such as modern research universities. They do this by connecting and leveraging knowledge, ongoing strategic relationships and collaborations, and forms of accountability across systems. Finally, the article develops the role of institutional intermediaries in sustaining and providing accountability for this institutional change process. Institutional intermediaries are public or quasi-public organizations that leverage their position within preexisting communities of practice to foster change and provide meaningful accountability.

This essay provides a more complete explanation of the architectural metaphor as the organizing frame for the project of addressing structural inequality. It then draws on the interdisciplinary articles commenting on these themes to clarify and elaborate the concepts of institutional citizenship, organizational catalyst, and institutional intermediary. Finally, it considers the question of the applicability of these ideas to race and its implications for the role of law and lawyers.