HISTORY OF THE NORTHWEST DIVERSITY LEARNING SERIES

 

 

In 1997, the founders, Barbara Deane, Carlos Gil and Susan Funk, were dissatisfied with the quality and quantity of information made available at national diversity conferences. Also, it was not clear to them how companies were getting a good ROI on their national conference investment.

 

This team  thought they could provide better diversity education at a local level. At the same time, they thought a local educational opportunity would be much more beneficial to the area's employers because more of their managers and employees, in addition to the diversity and HR leaders and specialists, could attend. In other words, the development of diversity competency could be expanded. And that's exactly what happened!

 

The first session of the NW Diversity Learning Series took place in July of 1998 in collaboration with a progressive group of employers in the Greater Seattle area (also known as the Puget Sound Region). The Series was offered as six bi-monthly morning workshops over a year's time. The NW Series also spawned a professional development network for the area's diversity leaders as well as an annual diversity education session for executives.

 

Barbara Deane became the primary organizer and manager of the Series in 1999 and continued for 10 successful years. In 2009, The GilDeane Group, Inc. licensed the NW Diversity Learning Series to Bill Hertan of Tri-Partners, Inc., in preparation and planning for the 2009 NW Diversity Learning Series.

 

In  2012, Archbright took over the license until the fall of 2015 when it was transferred to Barbara Deane and Effenus Henderson, Co-Founders of the Institute for Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion.

 

A LOOK BACK AT THE ANNUAL LEARNING SERIES THEMES

 

2017 Northwest Diversity Learning Series | Seizing the Courage to Have Disruptive Conversations - Imperative to Inclusion!

Diversity tensions erupted in the national discourse after the 2016 U.S. presidential election and companies and organizations were not immune to that discourse.  Instead of pretending the elephant left the room, we acknowledged that many people expressed uncertainty about diversity and inclusion, and questioned its viability.  We learned from the 2016 series that differences come with dilemmas.  It’s not easy! The premise of the 2017 Series was that one of the best ways to manage and navigate the tensions of diversity and dilemmas of inclusion is to talk about them – to have the courage to have fierce, uncomfortable conversations about differences – to disrupt the status quo. If we want employees to behave in ways that are inclusive, civil, and respectful of each other’s humanity, we must encourage them to step out of their comfort zones.  To do this, people need skills, tools, guides and practice to help them navigate the conversational terrain.  Learn more in our 2017 Annual Report.

 

2016 Northwest Diversity Learning Series | The Practice of Inclusion In Times of Disruptive Change

The 2016 Series anticipated the rise of disruptive forces during the U.S. presidential election year.  We drew on the ideas and models in a new book, Diversity at Work: The Practice of Inclusion. We believed promoting inclusion as a “practice” was a new and worthwhile concept in the approach to diversity in the workplace.  “The 2016 Series framed each workshop against the backdrop of “disruption.” Each workshop presented a critical issue, identified important disruptive forces affecting it, and provided suggested solutions (such as, processes, tools, behaviors, action plans).  The six workshop topics covered the concept of the “Practice of Inclusion and the inherent dilemmas of difference; the complexity of individual identities and how we work with them; navigating intercultural conflicts of values, beliefs and worldviews; interrupting institutional racism; building relationships amidst shifting power and privilege, and how to build social capital using the new science of networks. We published our first Annual Report that documented the success of the 2016 Series with the Sponsors and participants.

 

2015 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |  Cultures, Generations, Genders - Bridging the Divides

Cultural agility has been identified as the skillset needed to navigate successfully in multicultural contexts. Organization development studies indicate the topics of cultural differences, generational conflict, and gender biases are trending in the 21st century workplace. In response to these trends, the 2015 NW Diversity Learning Series—now in its 17th year—seeks to foster cultural agility by bridging the divides in the multicultural workplace. Six highly interactive and educational sessions will expand knowledge, build foundational skills, and cultivate transformational leadership styles in three areas: intercultural competency, generational productivity, and gender equity.

 

2014 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |  Everybody In: The Inclusive Workplace

The practice of Diversity & Inclusion reflects much of what is going on in the United States and the global workforce – it is in a state of constant evolution and change. Today inclusion is a core expectation of the emerging workforce. We, as Diversity & Inclusion educators, must emphasize them power of inclusion to help cultivate a healthier and more engaging workplace. To emphasize the inclusion of everybody is to be better prepared for that change.

 

2014 gave us the opportunity to reflect on the past, put it into context of the present, and laythe groundwork for a stronger set of D/IQ skills. With a Theme of Everybody In: The Inclusive Workplace, each 2014 session will use emerging trends, data, and practical application methodologiesto help each of our organizations prepare to meet the evolving needs of a diverse and inclusion focused workplace.

 

2013 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |  Building Diversity and Inclusion Intelligence (D/IQ) in the Workplace

The practice of Diversity & Inclusion reflects much of what is going on in the United States and the global workforce – it is in a state of constant evolution and change. Change, as we have begun to see, is a core expectation of the emerging workforce. We, as Diversity & Inclusion educators, must drive this change and remain focused on building a more inclusive, healthier, and engaging workplace. This is the essence of the shift from Diversity to Inclusion. 

 

2013 gave us the opportunity to build on the foundational topics and skills of past sessions and NWDLS years. Each 2013 session focused on a topic we and our sponsors believed was pivotal to the integrity of a successfully inclusive workplace blueprint. Presenters provided practical applications and methodologies, emerging trends, and relevant data to guide each of our organizations in laying out intelligent inclusion initiatives.

 

2012 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |  New Directions: Diversity and Inclusion Repositioning for the Future

The practice of Diversity & Inclusion reflects much of what is going on in the United States and the global workforce – it is in a state of constant evolution and change. Change, as we have begun to see, is a core expectation of the emerging workforce. We, as Diversity & Inclusion educators, must drive this change and remain focused on building a more inclusive, healthier, and engaging workplace. This is the essence of the shift from Diversity to Inclusion.

 

2012 gave us the opportunity to reflect on the past, put it into context of the present, and lay the foundation of an envisioned future that will become the norm for generations to come. With a Theme of New Directions, each 2012 Series session used emerging trends, data, and practical application methodologies to help each of our organizations prepare to meet the evolving needs of a diverse and inclusion-focused workplace.

 

2011 Northwest Diversity Learning Series | Engaging Generations at Work

The viability and vitality of our organizations lies, in part, in our ability to engage the values of all generations at work. America has entered an era characterized by the highest level of “generational diversity” in its history. It has never been more important for employers to understand what defines different generational perspectives and drives their resulting behaviors and choices.

Four years of research by Near Bridge, Inc., shows that when society is analyzed from a perspective of shared experiences, a clear and consistent set of shared values can be identified and linked to people born during specific social eras. Near Bridge segments the American population into event-based groups, called Value Populations™.

 

The 2011 NW Diversity Learning Series focused on generations using the Value Populations model developed by Near Bridge. This redefinition continues to provide the basis for expanded thinking about employee engagement, leadership, and collaboration. v Each of the six sessions focused on one Value Population (Patriots, Performers, Techticians, Believers, Transformers and Owls) and examined the core values and key elements of inclusion that impacted that Value Population.

 

2010 Northwest Diversity Learning Series | Think Diversity...Act Inclusively

The year 2010 launched a new decade and an ideal opportunity to expand our Diversity & Inclusion efforts to a new level. The diversity of thought is a dimension of diversity that impacts every other aspect of diversity. Now, more than ever, our work and personal environments are requiring us to act differently. To do that, we must add to our inclusion skill set. In our 2010 sessions, one method of doing that was to explore our thinking styles and expand our capability to “flex” into other styles — to maximize the results we wanted.

 

2009 Northwest Diversity Learning Series | A New Era of Relationships: Traveling Uncharted Paths

The title of the 2009 Series was A New Era of Relationships: Traveling Uncharted Paths. The 11th Annual Series explored six different relationship issues in the workplace. Each session focused on building effective relationships with people who are different from us, which is often times not the norm in United States based organizations. It required participants to challenge their comfort zones, travel uncharted paths, and learn new skills. 

 

2008 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Igniting Sparks of Opportunity: Leveraging the Tensions of Diversity

The title of the 2008 Series was Igniting Sparks of Opportunity: Leveraging the Tensions of Diversity. This Series explored six areas of tension in the workplace that, through knowledge and dialogue skills, may be turned into opportunities. Throughout each of the sessions, we focused on how the issue has reached the point it has now, and where the opportunities exist from there. If we can transform some of the most strident diversity tensions we face in our organizations and our society through more constructive dialogue, then we have a better chance of igniting "sparks" of opportunity, creativity and innovative thinking that both our organizations and employees strive for!

 

2007 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Life Theater About Inclusion and Engagement: Challenging and Expanding My Diversity Competency: Moving Beyond My Comfort Zone

This Series played with the metaphor of "live theater" to explore comfort and challenge involved in its six topics. The first session explored what gets in the way of inclusion; each of the succeeding five sessions focused on comfort and challenge involved in the inclusion and engagement of five population groups: people with disabilities, people of different socio-economic class levels, people who are transgender and/or bisexual, people with body modifications and women of color. Some say the theater is all about Inclusion and Engagement! 

 

2006 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Navigating Organizational Opportunities as if They Were a Subway System

The title of the eighth NW Diversity Learning Series (2006) was Building Capacity: Navigating Organizational Opportunities as if They Were a Subway System. We believed employees would find many comparisons between the metaphor of a subway system and their organization's system of opportunities. They know the system is there, it's just hard to find! The goal of this Series was to help both managers and employees figure out what keeps an organization's system of developmental opportunities hidden, then find ways to open it up so that valuable talent is retained, and not wasted or lost. Retaining talent, today, is critical to sustaining competitive advantage.

 

2005 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Architects of Inclusion: Designing the Blueprint for Competitive Advantage

The title of the seventh NW Diversity Learning Series (2005) was Architects of Inclusion: Designing the Blueprint for Competitive Advantage.  The premise of this Series was that Diversity & Inclusion contribute to organizational effectiveness and hence, competitive advantage. Using the metaphor of architecture helped us understand that inclusion has to be consciously built. The "blueprint" for our inclusion design addressed the following: how organizations and people change, how to include diverse styles (direct and indirect), how to counter micro-inequities, how to build the capacity of all employees so everyone contributes, how to build relationships across differences, and how to infuse innovation into customer satisfaction. 

 

2004 Northwest Diversity Learning Series | Personal Accountability for Diversity in a Team Context

The theme for the sixth annual NW Diversity Learning Series (2004) was Personal Accountability for Diversity & Inclusion in a Team Context. The title of this Series, Shifting Performance into High Gear: Accelerating Team Effectiveness with Personal Accountability for Diversity & Inclusion, relied on the metaphor of auto racing. Experts study auto racing because of its ability to deliver high performance teams.

The goal for the 2004 Series was to enhance team performance by ensuring that team members knew how to create inclusive climates and unleash the talent of their diverse teams! The topics included: new types of team work, on boarding new team members, partnering across differences, making decisions and solving problems, making the most of conflicts and disagreements, and unleashing innovation and creativity.

 

2003 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Becoming Diversity Champions

The fifth annual Series (2003) explored how change occurs in organizations and how Diversity Champions are the facilitators of change. The theme of change was built around a "flight" metaphor to symbolize the journey a Diversity Champion and the organization undertake. Transforming organizational culture for effective performance in the 21st century is not easy, but a Diversity Champion who is prepared and capable has a better chance of accomplishing it. The topics were: assessing the organizational change agent, the role of a diversity champion, coaching and partnering to improve diversity performance, navigating resistance and difficulties and how to find continual inspiration for leading change.

 

2002 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Dialogue on Diversity

For the fourth year (2002), the sponsoring employers decided to continue the communication focus of the third year. Instead of focusing on conflict, however, the fourth year focused on dialogue. The series began by exploring value differences and the rest of the sessions focused on dialogue related to specific diversity dimensions or issues: religious differences, sexual orientation, people with disabilities, white privilege and racism.

 

2001 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Resolving Diversity Conflicts

The third year of the Series (2001) emphasized resolving diversity conflicts; each session tackled the conflicts associated with a specific diversity topic: the generation gap, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, white male culture, and language and cultural differences.

 

2000 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Developing Intercultural Communication Skill

The second year of the Series (2000) focused on developing intercultural skills and how they applied to coaching and giving feedback, resolving conflicts, leading and leveraging multicultural teams, and serving diverse customers and clients.

 

1999 Northwest Diversity Learning Series |Foundations of Diversity Work in Organization

Progressive Northwest employers decided in early 1998 to collaborate and sponsor a two-year Diversity Learning Series in the Seattle area. The goal was to leverage diversity education inside their organizations. With the help of the Series' organizers, Cultural Diversity at Work, a journal published by The GilDeane Group, Inc., in Seattle, and The Diversity Difference, a local consulting and research firm, the first year's seminar series (1999) was launched. The first Series focused on the Foundations of Diversity Work in Organizations, some of the basic components of a diversity initiative.