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  • Writer's pictureMark Loftus

What can the ‘3 sisters’ teach us about inclusion?

Who are the 3 sisters?

Robin Wall Kimmerer is the author of the wonderful, gentle, yet fierce book ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’. The book is a mesmerising reflection on what the earth can teach us if we are open to learning, and combines rationalist 21st century science with deep wisdom from her indigenous people.

The ‘3 sisters’ are corn, bean and squash and Kimmerer tells of the rich connection between these very different plants.

What they teach us

One section reflects on the tradition of passing 3 seeds to each other as a gift. The gift may seem small, but these 3 seeds contain the future of a nutritious, balanced diet that will also sustain and enrich the land.

How the corn germinates and grows first, shooting upwards and providing the support for the bean to entwine its tendrils around the stem of the corn. Then the squash, germinating last, but spreading widely at the base of the other two plants, with its prickly leaves offering protection from bugs and weeds, and keeping the soil from evaporating too quickly.

The corn’s root system is close to the surface so it benefits from new rain, whereas the other’s roots dive down to deeper soil. The bean’s roots fix atmospheric nitrogen, forming a natural fertiliser, feeding the other two plants as they both provide support and protection, and leaving the soil in an enhanced condition.

And for people, from a nutritional standpoint, the 3 complement each other, the bean’s high protein balancing the carbohydrates from the corn and squash.

"Balance is not a passive resting place—it takes work, balancing the giving and the taking, the raking out and the putting in.” — Robin Wall Kimmerer

It seems to us at Jyre that this is a great metaphor for the diverse team that works at getting the best from their differences.

Diversity is a good thing

Just as the corn flourishes far more effectively when it is planted with beans and squash around it, so the beans and squash flourish from being planted with the corn. Each plant helps the other be at its best - flourishing, resilient, each making a distinct contribution, and collectively leaving the world as a better place.

So it is with diverse teams that truly value their differences and work to make the most of the distinctive contribution each can make. The alternative is the monoculture of serried ranks of identical plants, needing frequent application of herbicide and fertiliser, apparently more productive, but in the long-run less sustaining and health-giving.

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