3 ways to make a real difference in your DCI initiatives



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By Michael V. Nguyen 6 minutes Read

Large companies often strive to make a real difference in their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, but inevitably make poor progress.

I’ve discussed the three most common pitfalls for organizations looking to implement DCI initiatives. Raising awareness and understanding of these pitfalls is a good start for any organization that is sincere in its commitment to DCI. However, in addition to knowing what pitfalls to avoid, organizations must also intentionally and authentically apply a few key principles with any DCI initiative if their goal is to make a real difference. Unfortunately, these principles are seldom understood or, even if they are understood, seldom well implemented. That is why most DCI efforts are unsuccessful.
It is imperative that organizations do better because in the context of critical issues nationally and globally – changing demographics, civil rights, health disparities, immigration, and diversity in the workforce, workplace and the market – DCI offers both huge opportunities and serious challenges.

Give people a “big” goal

There are two ways of looking at systems and the people who participate in them. One way is to look at people as “small”, that is, collectively and from a distance, by observing their behaviors in terms of trends and global trends. The other way is to see people as “big”, or in a detailed and personal perspective.

Seeing people as great involves seeing the world from people’s intimate points of view. Applied to DEI in organizations, it puts us in close contact with details and peculiarities that are not easily reduced to statistics. In contrast, seeing people as small requires looking at them through the prism of a system, from a standpoint of power or existing ideologies. More often than not, he views people of color and other marginalized and minority groups as deficient instead of the institution and its oppressive systems.

I have worked with a client in the education sector in the past who implemented technology and 21st skills of the century initiative (T21). Its main goal was to increase the use of technology in the classroom and the teaching of 21st skills of the century. The primary method of measuring the success of the program was through the use of institutionally developed surveys, classroom observation and interviews. After the initiative was implemented, the school leadership declared T21 to be a success based on surveys that showed increased use of technology and education from 21st skills of the century in school. However, the other unreported story, which was contained in the teachers’ personal stories, concerned the disruption caused by the T21 initiative in classrooms. Polls and the occasional sighting, which considers people small, just weren’t designed to capture the personal stories that lie under (and are obscured by) statistics.

This is an example of seeing people as “great”. Listening to and learning conversations with the school’s teachers after their first year of attending T21 helped the organization move from the small vision (through institutional measures) to the big vision via the personal stories of the students. teachers.

Viewing teachers as big has enabled the school to see them as valuable sources of knowledge and to understand how they protect their classrooms and students, as opposed to the institutional view, which sees teachers as small and views their beliefs and beliefs. their practices as obstacles to change. By viewing the teachers as great, we sought to understand who these teachers were, who they are now and who they are in the process of becoming. In doing so, the institution began to see that it was not the teachers who were the obstacles to change, but rather the institution itself.

Conduct more meaningful assessments

As important as it is to develop goals and implement plans for your DCI initiatives, in order to understand where you are succeeding and where you need improvement, leading Evaluation.

In general, there are two types of assessment: direct and indirect. From afar, indirect evaluation is the most common. Usually, it is quantitative and carried out by means of surveys. For example, let’s say your organization has created an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for DEI. A typical proxy for the success of this GRE would be to measure participants’ attendance, level of satisfaction, and level of confidence and understanding of DCI issues. Let’s say the ERG had many participants, they were all very satisfied, and they rated themselves highly in confidence. Unfortunately, this data does not provide us with what participants may have learned, nor what knowledge and skills they may have acquired. Do they understand the many ways in which a system creates and maintains inequalities (social, economic and political) in their workplace or in their country? What would they do, for example, if they witnessed a micro-aggression against a colleague?

Less common is direct assessment in which you go beyond the self-reported satisfaction or confidence levels of the participants. Instead, you ask them to define and describe their understanding of IED and how they will apply that knowledge in their workplace. This method of evaluation is more complex and time consuming, which is also why it is less common. But it is the form of assessment that is the most tangible and visible, and it generates more compelling evidence of what people have learned and have not learned.

When it comes to evaluating, there are two key things to keep in mind:

  • Go beyond the numbers. The type of metrics typically used to measure (and report) the success of a DEIB initiative are numbers (for example, the number of women or people of color who have been hired). In some contexts, for example, where ROI is the only worrying outcome, the numbers alone can tell you everything you want to know. But when it comes to DEIB, numbers can be misleading and therefore dangerous. Behind the numbers are human stories, and if those stories are not told from the perspective of those who live them, then the numbers can be used to tell false, incomplete or misleading stories. This is yet another way to create more harm than good.
  • Use participatory narrative inquiry. On the spectrum of qualitative research, at the lowest level are open-ended survey items, where survey editors are the ones who create the questions and answer choices. They are the ones in control. But there is a way to give control to the people who live the stories behind the numbers, and that is by allowing them to share their lived experiences. This is called Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI), which is a much more meaningful way to collect, interpret, and share data. PNI is an approach in which you work with stories of lived experiences in order to make sense of complex situations. It emphasizes raw, personal stories, from a diversity of perspectives, and is performed by those who tell them. It focuses on the deep consideration of values, beliefs, feelings and perspectives through the narration and interpretation of these lived experiences. It’s a way of seeing people as “grown-ups” and it allows for better decision-making. Unlike most common qualitative approaches (i.e. surveys, focus groups, and interviews), a standard set of questions to be asked of participants is not developed. PNI don’t sum up stories, he boils them down at the top.

Make DCI a must

A common form of resistance to DCI initiatives is when people see it as a separate problem that exists outside of the work they do. In fact, the only way to achieve true diversity, equity and inclusion is to make it an imperative, a central part of everything we do.

A simple way to understand the DCI imperative is to think about technology. No one in a workplace would reasonably say, “I know technology is important, but I’m not going to use it or think about it. In today’s world, that would be considered absurd since most jobs in most organizations involve at least some degree of technology, even if it’s just the phone or email. Imagine, how long would you put up with an outage of the Internet or cell phone service? This is because technology has become embedded in everything we do. DEI must be integrated in the same way. To date, few (if any) organizations have been able to fully accomplish this, which is why of all the key principles discussed in this article, this one is the most complex and difficult, but also the most difficult. the most critical.


Michael V. Nguyen, PhD, is an educational psychologist and lecturer in the online Master of Science in Applied Psychology program at the University of Southern California.

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