First Come Think Together Day of 2018: Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Diversity Collegium held our first "Come Think Together Day" on June 28, 2018, as part of our regular bi-annual meeting in Seattle, Washington. Hosted by Amazon, we invited members from the Puget Sound Region to join us for a day of dialogue and discussion on the topic, “Mitigating the Assault on DEI: Bridging Conversations and Actions.”

In an increasingly polarized world we are facing real assaults on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  Effenus Henderson, the kick-off speaker, identified three fronts of the polarizing assault: Reversity, Perversity and Adversity that coalesce to form resistance to DEI. He explained that each assault involves fears and a response to those fears.

Effenus defined Reversity as efforts to discount the idea that systemic barriers to societal inclusion actually exist. Perversity involves persuasive strategies that distort the truth and promote false narratives to provoke fear, especially about “others.” Adversity heightens the differences among societal groups based on income, opportunity and privilege, and stokes the inherent fears.

He shared an important McKinsey report that identifies four global disrupters reinforcing the assault: urbanization, technological change, global connections and the aging world.

Effenus called on DEI leaders and practitioners not to get caught up in dualities, but to invent new D&I assumptions and create new models, and he highlighted the concept of polarity thinking and offered ten polarity principles.

Following Effenus’ thought-provoking presentation, we explored another new model—that of creating bridging narratives.

This model came from Dr. john a. powell, a professor at UC Berkeley, who put it this way, “Some will insist that things have improved. And they have. Some will insist that things have gotten worse and they have. The question we must ask is: How do things get better? And equally important: What is our role in creating a new story to ensure things will?”

We asked the participants, “What if we could tell a new story that would capture all people’s imaginations—inspire their human needs for unity and opportunity?”

Although we had breakout exercises planned, the mood of the group took us to a different place. We actually worked as a large group to create a bridging conversation, so that everyone in the room felt safe, included, supported, and free to speak the truths of their experience.

We think the process of this day responded to Dr. powell’s challenge to The Collegium, when he spoke to us in November 2016, which was to work on “creating a new story,” or “bridging narratives.”

People joining us for the Come Think Together Day on June 28, 2018, represented for-profit companies, small firms and businesses, non-profit organizations, individual practitioners and social justice advocates.

Effenus Henderson is president and CEO of HenderWorks, Inc., and co-director of the local Institute for Sustainable Diversity & Inclusion.

john a. powell is a professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley where he holds the Robert D. Hass Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion, and directs the Hass Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.

Access the Resources from June 28th here.