Eight years ago to be exact, I headed one of the biggest multiculturalism grant in Canada. Written originally as a farewell note to volunteers, supporters, partners, I tucked it away somewhere and did not send. Today, I am sharing these nuggets I have learned along the way. Here are the next 7 points as food for thought.
3. It takes time to build respect for diversity and it involves educating everyone you meet. Increase the function of education. Apply intentionality to get results.
· Respect the contribution of others
· Expand on what has been accomplished
· Collaborate and challenge
4. Push the envelope when needed. Say No to Mediocrity. Stimulate generative thinking. Create the space to innovate. A little push, a little more effort can translate to bigger impact at less cost or implication. They say it takes 3-5 meetings for people to get past the courtesies and stereotypes to create meaningful connections. Go beyond the usual song, dance, and festivals.
5. Be conscious of the power dynamics that one is not perpetuating the power imbalance that already exists in the community. Being in a position of power, a visible minority at that, it was sending different messages- it is both the message and the messenger.
6. Don’t take No! for an answer. The No is actually not now or maybe. Institutions are risks-averse by nature. They have a delayed reaction to changes in the world/environment. Learn to know how to take the first step with boldness. But know the limits of your scope too!
7. The bureaucrats, the executives and the taxpayers want the same. They want to see success. Demonstrate success early. Learn from early adapters on what sticks and what is really important. They have valuable contacts, connections, and stories to share at the tip of their fingers.
8. Develop the competence in organizations, people and networks to navigate persistent challenges on an on-going basis. When something happens, people can go past beyond their organizations to call one another for help and support.
9. Didn’t I say this before? Work towards collective impact. Big players, small players, unknown players should work together.
10.Celebrate Achievements. Keep up the good work, keep the energies up, keep the people informed all the time. Keep the loop closed.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can take a more objective view of achievements and failures. Take it with a grain of salt. Start with humility knowing that you do not know a lot of things and end with humility knowing that you still have a lot to learn about the community.
If this is something that resonates with you, let me know what you think and share your own lessons learned as an intercultural navigator for your communities.
10 Lessons learned as a Diversity Coordinator Part 1
4 Prime Benefits of a Diversified Board/Committee
A couple of years ago, wearing a hat as an intercultural actor in a municipality where it had been labelled the “murder capital” of Canada, my life was busy as bee. After three and a half years of community engagement, I wrote a few lines to reflect on my experience, lessons learned, small and big triumphs and thought I may have to put it away somewhere where other community leaders and innovators can benefit and also resonate from.
Experience is the best teacher. No amount of textbook theory can prepare you for a community engagement solving a social problem that is very complex and rarely follow a neat paradigm of solutions. With the help of staunch community leaders and brave volunteers, I completed the diversity project and generated strong positive feedback from all those people -women, children, youth, faith leaders, churches, businesses, and whole host of other important actors in the community. While we hope that there are significant sustainable outcomes from the project, one thing that was very clear from the onset, the office where the project was birthed and the people who rallied behind it were the same people working towards social cohesion and intercultural understanding until now. Not surprising, right?
Promoting and advocating for diversity and intercultural harmony calls for courage. In the midst of polarization, division, and hatred that are around us, we can take comfort that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Let us be that light.
For fellow travelers in the intercultural engagement journey, here are some of the lessons learned as a food for thought.
1. Creatively work through the systems- whether it’s the political, cultural, institutional, religious, generational, organizational, etc., including hierarchies, philosophies and other surprises. These systems are present and operating in the lives of people and communities. Navigate carefully. While it is easy to criticize and point the blame, it is beneficial to be constructive and solutions-oriented.
2. Gather support from the outside, inside, out there, in here, and all around. It is better to form weird alliances than to fight alone. Listen to everyone that has a story to tell. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. You will never know what can possibly get produced with ideas that are not censored just because it doesn’t come from the top. Maximize interconnectivity.
To be continued.............................