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Ten Strategies for dealing with diversity


The Starting Place -- Set the Stage for Creative Use of Diversity

Strategy 1: Strengthen the prerequisites for positive use of diversity - e.g., nurture respect, make quality dialogue available, build tolerance for ambiguity and dissonance, encourage an expanded definition of diversity, make sure "bridge people" and facilitators are around to help, etc.

The Path of Appreciation -- Let Diversity Manifest

Strategy 2: Enjoy and celebrate diversity - Variety is the spice of life. Viva la difference! Sameness is downright boring. Flaunt your collective diversity among yourselves and collectively in your community and to others. Be downright juicy and exciting!

Strategy 3: Translate differences into uniqueness. For example, we need more multi-culturalism that attempts to spread a broad understanding of many cultures, or which helps diverse people get grounded in their own diverse cultures, not as superior to others, but as intensely valid and their own. Also, people's stories are particularly powerful at opening our hearts and minds to each other as unique beings with much in common, rather than seeing our differences as problems.

Strategy 4: Help/let differences self-organize. Open Space conferencing is the premier example of this. People use their different passions to help them gather together in groups for dialogue and action.

Strategy 5: Set aside differences to focus on common ground. This doesn't mean denying our differences -- just don't let them get in the way of all we have in common. Future Search specializes in this, logging conflicts and helping people move on to discover and build common ground.

The Path of Resourcefulness: Use Diversity to Add Value

Strategy 6: Connect differences to create synergy. Use differences to deal with strengths and weaknesses and create emergent phenomena. People's different personality types and learning styles, for example can be used together to great advantage. The fast-moving person can help get things done, while the reflective person can make sure that what's done makes sense.

Strategy 7: Use diversity as a resource for resilience and adaptation. Biodiversity is a good model here. If your corn has diverse strains, some of them will surely survive an attacking bug, resulting in more resilent strains for the future. If you've got solar power and grid power, you're in good shape for both cloudy days and blackouts.

Strategy 8: Use differences to increase understanding of complex issues. Everyone has a piece of the Big Picture. If people really listen to each other, they'll get a bigger picture of what's going on. The trick is to include truly diverse perspectives in the conversation -- and then listen.

Strategy 9: Work through differences to resolve conflict. Usually this requires, again, the conflicted people hearing each other well, and feeling heard. Then they can start to see each other as fellow human beings and work together to find good solutions. Mediation and Nonviolent Communication are good tools for this.

Strategy 10: Highlight differences for broad social benefit. For example, some websites, public issue briefing books and civic minded journalists describe what diverse people think about certain public issues so that citizens can understand the different perspectives and trade-offs and make up their own minds.

See also


Not All Differences Are the Same

Diversity is as big as the universe


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