Diversity in Partnerships Is Uncomfortable – And That’s Good!

By Jocelyne Daw

In the coming years the community landscape will look dramatically different. Growing demands on resources and increasingly complexity of issues will require bridging traditional and untraditional boundaries to create powerful partnerships for social change. As a result, diversity will be inevitable. As different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives get blended, cognitive diversity will increase. Cognitive diversity is defined as the differences in our thought and problem-solving processes. This diversity drives innovation and is critical to better serve the community. So, how do you make sure your partnerships embrace diversity? 

Embrace Discomfort

Embracing diversity begins with getting comfortable with discomfort. For a partnership to be fully sustainable, diversity must be embraced by every partner.  That may seems challenging.  But think about this: many leading researchers and social scientists have proven a link between diversity and productivity. In the United States, management researchers found that when people work directly with someone with at least one diverse trait, it challenged them to think differently, prepare more and work harder.

Focus on the strengths everybody brings to the table.

We are brought up in the Western World to focus on what doesn’t work or what is different. Challenge yourself to appreciate the differences of others.   See them as potential drivers of change. The more opinions, the more variety, and the more diversity we bring to the table.  This allow us to unchain our creativity, which is hidden in every one of us.

Manage Differently

Encourage a task-focused climate of give and take, rather than always seeking consensus as the end goal. This type of dynamic can push your team to new levels of creativity and productivity. Aim to foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their views and their unique perspective

Stand up for diversity

Stand up if you experience discrimination or lack of respect. Raise your voice for the unheard opinion. Help others appreciate how every person has a different strength.   And in that strength there is opportunity to grow and be more productive. For instance, a colleague might comment that nonprofit partners aren’t capable of understanding finances.   Remind them that nonprofits are actually very entrepreneurial. They raise almost 50% of their revenue through earned income strategies – often more in fact. By being critical of someone’s weakness you miss the chance to appreciate and benefit from their strengths.

Sustainable and just societies require diversity and the accompanying new perspectives. Our world is getting smaller and ultra-connected. Successful organizations harmonizes these connections and collaborate.  Their ability to do this, relates directly to how fast they innovate. The implications are key for our global society. Innovation thrives when we are faced with the unfamiliar. Diversity is what will make society more sustainable and just.