Quick Exit
Quick ExitQuick Exit

Interactive Web Tool Supports More Inclusive Workspaces and Services

Shelter advocates say improving inclusion of the 2SLGBTQ+ Community is a continuous journey towards human rights for all

December 11, 2023 – In honour of Human Rights Day, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters’ (ACWS) launched Guide for Gaps, a new web-based tool to support organizations who want their workplaces or services to be more inclusive of individuals from the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

“This is a tool not just for shelter organizations, but anyone who works in a gendered service-area. It’s designed to help both organizations at the beginning of their inclusion journey and those who are well on their way,” says Kristy Harcourt, a social worker and facilitator of the ACWS 2SLGBTQ+ Community of Practice group that created the Guide for Gaps. “It doesn’t matter how much work an organization has done to increase inclusion, from my experience, inclusion work is ongoing work.”

Designed in two parts, the tool starts with a BuzzFeed style quiz for teams to assess where their inclusion is strong and where there is opportunity for growth. The second part is a selection of resource materials to help organizations know where to start in the next phase of their inclusion journey. These tools address different areas of an organization that can impact 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion, exploring attitudes and awareness of staff and clients, the workplace culture, as well as policies and operations which may enhance or detract from a 2SLGBTQ+ service user’s experience.

“Many people think that as long as they aren’t individually causing harm, they are being inclusive,” says Mitch Fournier, a social worker who identifies as queer and nonbinary. “But organizational policies and procedures can be unintentionally harmful. We don’t want to be causing harm for people coming to us to find safety.”

Some of the resources found in the Guide for Gaps include:

  • A glossary of terms related to the diverse range of gender identities and expression;
  • Tips on how to create authentic spaces;
  • Best practices for non-binary inclusion in workplaces;
  • A guide for workplace pronoun use; and
  • First-person accounts from trans women and Two-Spirit Persons seeking services.

Fournier has participated in the development of Guide for Gaps since the beginning. They say, “We designed the guide to meet people where they’re at: with encouragement and not frustration. Everyone has to start somewhere and the language in the Guide for Gaps is intentional to create a safe space for learning at all levels.”

This desktop and mobile-friendly guide grew out of the Blueprint Project, which aims to implement evidence-based assessment tools to support the safety of individuals experiencing domestic abuse. It was initiated by the Blueprint Project’s 2SLGBTQ+ Community of Practice and ACWS is a sponsoring organization.

“We are excited to be a part of this important resource,” says Jan Reimer, Executive Director of ACWS. “Our members shelters want to be inclusive. They want their staff to understand the barriers 2SLGBTQ+ community members face when experiencing or surviving domestic abuse. I’m grateful for the people who have worked on this project and know that this will be a tool used beyond our shelter members to support inclusion throughout Alberta’s social service system.”

The potential of this tool is transformative. By helping organizations develop understanding among their staff and create organizational policies that consider different gender and sexual identities, safe spaces and inclusive services will evolve to serve all members of our society.

Find the tool at acws.ca/assessment-tool.



The Blueprint Project is a research initiative funded by Wage & Gender Equality Canada and the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters to develop reliable assessment tools and protocols for agencies supporting those living with or fleeing domestic violence. Its goal is to develop a team of collaborating agencies providing wrap-around supports that are survivor-centred and trauma-informed. The Blueprint Project represents a shift away from a referral-based system and promises to reduce the barriers to individuals navigating multiple complicated systems that may not fully understand the dynamics and complexities of abuse. There are three Community of Practice groups made up of service organization staff (both residential and non-residential agencies) and people with lived experience in the community. These Communities of Practice explore ways to support safe and inclusive wraparound services and include the following communities: 2SLGBTQ+, Indigenous, and Newcomer, Immigrant, and Refugee. Learn more at acws.ca/blueprintproject.



Media Contact:
Alice Leef, Communications and Community Engagement Support