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Diversity Articles and Publications

Diversity and Organizational Change - A Working Framework

Developed for the "Training of Trainers"
Adrienne S. Chan & Sandy Berman
Vancouver, B.C. Canada 1998

Diversity - refers to the unique and identifiable characteristics that distinguish us as individuals, and identify us as belonging to a group or groups. Diversity therefore includes class, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and abilities/ disabilities. Diversity offers strength and richness to the whole. (Hastings Institute 1994)   Diversity may also include ancestry, age, colour, political belief, marital status, and family status. Diversity is an inclusive approach to all people that recognizes the diversity we may have in any given time, even among groups that appear to be homogeneous.

Organizational change - is a process

Organizational change is usually built around the activities of change agents or change teams, who seek to bring about changes in human resources, organizational systems, and the programs, products, and services of an institution or organization.

Administrators and managers are responsible for serving as change agents, as well as union representatives and other members of the organization. Change agents and change committees have a special concern for resolving any gaps and discrepancies between the desired state, and the actual state of affairs. Organizational change is the process by which the goal of an inclusive, multicultural, anti-racist, anti-discriminatory organization may be achieved. (Lower Mainland Multicultural Education Consortium -1997)

  1. Social justice is a perspective that is fundamental to our work in diversity and organizational change. This includes the view that injustice must be corrected, as well as addressing and dealing with discrimination and oppression actively. It is not enough to say that we value diversity or cultural pluralism. Analysis of group experiences and addressing issues of power, privilege and equity shapes this work. This means recognizing and critically assessing the systems which exclude and exploit people.

    Social justice is about transformation. We are attempting to change the way that systems are structured, organized and managed. This means moving from improving the existing system to radically changing it.

    Radical change requires a moving away from the continued dominance and control of the current power elite. It means challenging situations and becoming informed about the myriad of ways the system maintains itself (the status quo -- those in power retain control) in economic, social, educational and political contexts.

    To address issues of power is to identify the imbalances and the nature of oppression. Naming oppression and power through a process of dialogue, brings about an awareness of how these factors affect our lives. This awareness results in a shift in how we relate to the system and our place in it. It is in this shift that we need to create actions that lead to change.

    Our work towards change cannot be segmented or isolated from the way in which society is organized. Ultimately we must deal with the issues of social justice in an integrated way both within organizations and society as a whole.

  2. Diversity is inclusive of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, dis/ability, religion, ethnicity, age and any other aspects in which an individual or groups may be subject to marginalization, discrimination and oppression. Diversity takes into account that we are not one identity at any one time. The intersections of identities is acknowledged as complex and has a relationship to power and experiences of oppression, hierarchy and patriarchy.

  3. Diversity and organizational change has a personal, social and political context. These contexts influence and affect individual and group responses to the issues. These contexts are recognized as key influences in how any work on change can be achieved. Every day activities and events can become socialized and politicized.

  4. Our position as workers, consultants, organizers, teachers and researchers, is something that we acknowledge and work with. Our position affects our stance with the groups and organizations we are in relationship with. We cannot assume that people come from similar positions or places, and this is also linked to our own personal, social and political context.

  5. People's stories shape their lives and their responses. Our stories shape our motivation and intention in doing this work. We come in contact with people who will tell us their stories and this informs us about their place in the organization and gives us a greater understanding of that organization.

  6. Addressing organizational culture(s) is a key element to the change process. Critical assessment and reflection on the culture of the organization is essential. Power is socially and culturally constructed in the organization. Organizational culture includes norms, beliefs, values, symbols and patterns of behaviour.

  7. Entry into an organization does not guarantee influence or change. Our position as "insiders" or "outsiders" is assessed in terms of how we can influence the process. If small changes are achieved they are seen within a view to the macro goal of inclusive, welcoming, non-discriminatory, non-oppressive organizations.

We cannot pre-design the end result. We need to build action upon action to bring about the shifts and changes. So if the vision is social justice, the path is one that we create together.

Hastings Institute (1994). Valuing Diversity Training. Vancouver, B.C.
Lower Mainland Multicultural Education Consortium (1997). Organizational Change Training. Vancouver, B.C.

© Copyright Adrienne S. Chan and Sandy Berman,
1998 Vancouver, BC, Canada
Developed for the Training of Trainers

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