Diversity is a big word. It's an emotionally and politically charged word. As a convenor of diverse perspectives, the key question to ask yourself is: Which diversity is relevant to my quest? Then be guided by your thoughts about that.
You can pack a room or a team full of visibly diverse ages and races - who are all from privileged backgrounds. You can pack a room full of White people - ranging from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. Which room is more diverse? Ask different people and you will get a different answer, depending on the lens they bring to such debates.
Which roomful of people can help you to identify the terrain that needs to be explored more? That is your lens. Which roomful of people can better enlarge everyone's view of the situation? Dare to develop your own view of the relevant mix that is missing.
The Question Canvas
One reliable way to convene an expansive conversation is to bring together people who ask questions in each of the four cardinal directions:
- In time, backwards and forwards, and
- In space, inward and outward.
People who have a strong forward orientation tend to contribute questions that offer a sense of direction.
People who put a lot of energy into the past contribute questions that help you become conscious of wisdom, of ancestry, of your conversation's context, and of the origins of the stories you are retelling (maybe without even realizing it).
People who orient outwards tend to bring questions that help clarify what is.
And those who attune strongly to inner space bring questions to heighten empathy and awareness of our own relationships to the topic.
These four directions relate to four broad archetypes in society:
- The leader or politician explores the future;
- The historian or institutional administrator explores the past;
- The scientist or philosopher explores the outer world; and
- The artist or poet explores the inner world.
The question canvas is one structured way you can think about diversity, not for diversity's sake, but for the different layers of your thinking that can be improved.
You want those layers to be revealed, because, let's face it: so many of the conflicts we are grappling with today are conflicts between these cardinal directions: conflicts between our inner selves and outer processes; conflicts between responsibility to the past and the future.
You want to make these tensions visible, so that you can explore them. You don't want to bring together the skills and allies you'd need to take the actions you are already thinking of. You want to bring together the perspectives needed to discover actions you're not thinking of yet.