Through this project we have developed tools that explore how organisations can:
- create safe spaces where collective learning can take place, in order to create a common understanding and a culture that allows diversity;
- facilitate change processes that value diversity, developing structures and procedures to further this approach.
These tools come from organisational analysis, communication, decision-making and other fields. Most of them are well known in change management and here we have adapted them for organisations working in youth and volunteer exchange.
We hope that you will find tools and concepts here which will be fruitful for your own change and learning processes.
What do we mean by a diverse organisation?
A diverse organisation is one where the staff, volunteers and people involved are not heterogenous, but rather they reflect the communities in which they work and welcome differences of experience.
Sometimes diversity is understood as an approach to fostering an understanding of multiculturalism that tries too much to smooth over differences and doesn’t support challenges arising from the existing heterogeneity. We do not support that notion and instead encourage efforts to openly discuss and reflect on differences and individuality within teams and organisations.
The more conflicts about different ways and styles of living which arise, and are dealt with constructively, the more inclusive and supportive of diversity the organisation can be. Leaders of an organisation, therefore, have the responsibility to create space for exchange and constructive dialogue to better understand and accept differences as well as differing perspectives.
Why is it important to be a diverse organisation?
How an organisation supports diversity and inclusion within its own structures and procedures will be picked up by the young people with whom we work. We should, in essence, practice what we preach.
There is also evidence that an organisation that is more diverse will have a wider range of skills and experiences to draw from, which can mean better results.
There are also key concepts that underpin what it means to undertake change within an organisation, we explore these further at principles of organisational change.
Self-reflection regarding your organisation and its development
Becoming a diversity-sensitive organisation is a process of learning and reflected action. Like most processes, reflecting and changing an existing culture is not a quick win. To give you a bit more of an idea, we give you a set of questions that you can reflect upon as a starter:
- Who are the people living in our society? What does our organisation look like in comparison? Who are the people working in it?
- Does our organisation reflect the diversity of our society or only part of it?
- Are people with characteristics different from the mainstream in which we live welcome in the organisation only in so far as they assimilate into the existing organisational culture?
- Are leadership positions taken and decision-making done by a diverse or mostly homogeneous group? Are there one or few “token” people? Does everyone know how decisions are made?
- Is white culture treated as the norm? Do the art, holiday activities and food we use reflect the culture(s) of other people as well?
- Is discussion of discrimination and oppression normal and encouraged, or seen to distract from “the real work?” Do people in leadership positions participate in and support discussion of power and issues of oppression?
- Who is the organisation accountable to? The board, funders, staff or communities targeted by the stated mission?
- Is there space for reflection and communicative structures that help overcome discrimination?
- Are there safe spaces, just for people facing discrimination, for dialogue and exchange identifying and valuing differences?
There are many other facets to diversity-oriented organisations than just the ones addressed above. If you found that one or more aspects would need a change in your own organisation, then we hope that with the tools available on this site and in the handbook we can support you to continue making a change towards a more inclusive work environment.
> Download the full handbook (PDF)
We love feedback!
If you would like to give your feedback on specific methods, please use the comment section available. Or if you would like to give us your thoughts on the project as a whole contact us.