When sparks & honey—a marketing & advertising agency founded on the belief that cultural relevance is the most important driver of business in today’s economy—invited me to lead one of its rapid-fire sessions covering 40+ cultural signals from the previous 24 hours, I was excited to spark new thinking about what’s now and what’s next…

We riffed on everything from changing definitions of masculinity, to the huge explosion of LGBT business opportunities in China, to Aziz Ansari’s stand-up monologue for SNL.

And it made me realize…

Everything we talked about was really the same conversation—we just kept coming at it from a different angle.

In the below signal, Air India is talking about seating women in a certain section of its planes because they’re getting mercilessly harassed…

airplane JB

In this one, a blind man attached a GoPro to his guide dog, because he was being mistreated every time he commuted to his job and he wanted to call attention to it…

guide dog

In this signal, gender non-conforming beauty blogger, Manny Gutierrez, was getting attacked online when his dad jumped in and defended him…

make-up

In this one, the parents of a transgendered kid stood up for their kid, even when it meant he had to leave their Cub Scouts chapter…

jb trans kid cub scouts

And every single story had something in common…

Every single one spoke of courage and bravery and people unafraid to take risks.

Document their experiences.

Speak up.

Go public.

These stories are emerging all the time. They’re surfacing all over the world, every minute.

And it’s important that we take notice because they give us hope.

They remind us that there’s a whole group of people who are willing to step up on behalf of others.

Because there are companies who are stepping up in behalf of marginalized communities, and taking a stand at the individual level and at the institutional level.

And this tells me something.

It tells me that we’re making progress.

And yes, it’s delicate. And yes, we want more.

But we ARE making progress.

I define “ally” as anyone who stands up and uses their social capital (or any kind of capital they have) on behalf of others…

I firmly believe that 2017 is The Year of the Ally℠.

If we really want change, we have GOT to think about how we’re putting our skin in the game this year…

It may feel like we’re only taking baby steps.

But we have to nurture the baby steps.

People are waking up and standing up for inclusion.

And that, to me, is exactly the thing that will bring us back together.

To find out more about Jennifer’s new book, “Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change” and download the first chapter free, click here.