Friday, April 28, 2017

Moving for What Matters

Oppression reinvents itself and creeps its way into every facet of our human existence which means the act of devaluing of ‘others’’ lives gets harder and harder to spot if you’re not aware of our history in the US. Diversity encompasses all identities and forms of human experience including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, religion, ability status, LGBTQ identity, age, gender identity, and language. I won’t be able to tackle all identities in one post, so I will address race and LGBTQ identity.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Diversity: Were All in this Together

The Value of Diversity

Diversity and Leadership

             Globalization, societal evolution and data-based demographic trends all point towards an undeniable fact: our workplaces, schools and communities are populated by an increasingly diverse group of people. The United States’ Census Bureau tells us that “By 2044…more than half of all Americans are projected to belong to a minority group” (Colby and Ortman, p. 1), and the Department of Labor projects that women “will account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018” (Employment and Earnings, 2011). This essay will establish that the increase in diversity carries distinct benefits, but the realization of these benefits depends on policies which support inclusion, increased avenues for participation, and the proliferation of opportunity. We must reconcile the demographic reality with economic realities. Minority groups still face significant barriers to employment, despite the fact that they will comprise more than half of the U.S. population by 2044, and women must contend with an unfair and outdated wage regime. The 78 Cents Project uses data from the American Community Survey to demonstrate the extent of the wage gap. The discrepancy persists across workforce sectors: women who work in retail earn 70 cents to the average dollar earned by males in that industry, and female lawyers earn 83 cents to the dollar earned by their male counterparts (78 Cents Project). The statistics revealing the wage gap for minority women encapsulates the diversity challenge: black women are paid 64 cents, and Latina women are paid 56 cents, compared to the average dollar earned by white males (78 Cents Project). The economic implications of an increase in diversity, coupled with unfair and wage rates, are staggering. If nothing is done to address this discrepancy, we will march forward underpaying an increasingly large segment of the workforce. We must do more to include, fairly compensate, and support diverse populations, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because our economic well-being hangs in the balance.
            In Building a Case for Diversity, Gail Robinson and Kathleen Dechant posit that business leaders can view the increase in diversity as a real opportunity. Initiatives to support diversity, in their view, can be “an optimal tool for increasing their resources…and creating a conducive working atmosphere for workers” (Robinson and Dechant, p. 228). They recognize that changing demographics is an unescapable reality which effective businesses will target as an opportunity. Business growth can be achieved by embracing diversity, through “increased marketplace understanding, greater creativity, higher quality team problem-solving, improved leadership effectiveness, and better global relations” (Robinson and Dechant, p. 232). How can diversity contribute to improvements in these areas? Take problem-solving, for example: a diverse workforce contemplating a solution to a given problem can draw upon “a variety of perspectives based on a range of experiences” (Robinson and Dechant, p. 234), eventually producing a solution which is more applicable to a larger group of people.
            David Thomas and Robin Ely see the diversity question as a paradigm shift which must be explicitly dealt with. They offer the case of the public-interest law firm, Dewey & Levin, as an organization which embraced a strategy to hire, and fully incorporate, diverse workforce members to improve the quality of its work. Thomas and Ely establish eight pre-conditions for making a paradigm-shift towards an integrated, diverse workforce, and organizational culture features prominently on this list (Thomas and Ely, p. 221). Dewey & Levin’s organizational culture fit the bill, and its employees felt that “their perspectives are heard with a kind of openness and interest they have never experienced before in a work setting” (Thomas and Ely, p. 220).

            The benefits of a diverse workforce cannot be realized if minority groups’ access to education, employment and other opportunities to grow one’s human capital is restricted. Nor can they be realized if workers feel that they are just there as “window dressing”, and that their opinions and ideas are not being considered. To maximize the potential benefits of an increasingly diverse society, leaders must pursue policies which support wage equalization and incentivize diversity hiring (such as affirmative action) are crucial.


Colby, Sandra, Ortman, Jennifer. Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060. U.S. Census Bureau: March 2015. 

Cook, Khary. Employment and Earnings. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: January 2011. 

78 Cents Project Berkley, CA. 

Robinson, Gail, Dechant, Kathleen. Building A Business Case For Diversity. Academy of Management Executive, 1997.

Thomas, David, Ely, Robin. Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity. Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation: 1996.

Societal Shifts Impacting Non-Profits

Our society is an ever-changing system; the US population and its institutions are increasingly influx, and the leaders of the non-profit sector must be responsive to these changes to ensure the continued health of their organizations.

As we learned at the beginning of our course, the state, the market and the non-profit sector are becoming increasingly similar in the roles they play in our society. The state is calling upon non-profits to help with service delivery and accomplishing missions of public good. There is also a proliferation in the number of non-profits, and the competition between these organizations is mirroring the competition seen in the for-profit sector. Non-profits are providing services without the stable tax-base enjoyed by the state, or without the income level of for-profit organizations, and are depending upon donor contributions to fund their work (Dobkin Hall).

Economic shifts are also occurring. In the United States, the middle class is shrinking and wealth is being concentrated among fewer individuals in society (Temin). There are drastic changes in the age demographics of the United States, as well as increases in the racial diversity of the country (Thomas; Robinson). Members of the largest generation – the Baby Boomers – are reaching retirement age, and the younger Generations X, Y and Z are moving into the labor force (Williamson). The internet is also expanding our focus beyond local concerns, and organizations are learning how to use new technologies to reach their stakeholders.

These economic shifts, changes in racial and age demographics, and the rise of globalizing technologies pose additional challenges for the non-profit sector. Tax-incentives may have been a motivator for past non-profit contributions, but lower earning members of society have less to give and are less likely to receive the same benefits for donating to non-profits. Younger generations are suffering from the changes in the economy more than older generations (Temin). Because of their widespread use of technology, these generations may think more nationally and globally, and overlook the benefits and the needs of local non-profits. With the demographic changes in the donor base and the increased number of non-profits, we may see that a shrinking number of contributions are being divided among more and more organizations.

It is the responsibility of a non-profit's leadership to be mindful of these demographic and societal shifts to guide their organization in the increasingly strained non-profit environment. A useful tool for mindfully addressing obstacles is engaging in a SWOT analysis for the organization (United Way). Some leadership responses that may help ameliorate the shifts I have mentions above include increasing the diversity of staff, and collaborating with other non-profits to resist the additional pressures being place upon the sector.

Leaders should also be innovative about how to reach younger generations that have less to give and that are harder to reach because of the rise of the internet and the increase in globalization. In order to gain insights into these groups of potential donors, organizations should focus on increasing the racial and generational diversity of their staff, hiring younger and racially diverse staff members (Thomas, Robinson). Including diverse perspectives with staff benefits the organization’s effectiveness (Thomas). Diversity requires a long-term investment of valuing diverse perspectives, and must be treated like any other business investment (Robinson, 237-238).

In order to combat the additional pressures being place upon the sector by the state, leaders my need to create partnerships with other complementary non-profit organizations to help with the survival of both organizations. If the expectations for service delivery are increasing, non-profits should cooperate rather than compete to draw a bottom line in order to create some stability for their funding and workforce within the sector.  If a stand is not made for stability, then the expectations may become too great and the non-profit sector may buckle under the pressure.

Work Cited

Dobkin Hall P. “Historical Perspectives on Nonprofit Organizations in the United States.” The Jossey-Bass handbook of nonprofit leadership and management. John Wiley & Sons, 2016. Pg. 3-42.

Robinson, G., Dechant, K. “Building a Business for Diversity”. Understanding and Managing Diversity. Prentice Hall. Pg. 228-240.

Temin, P. 2017. “The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy.” (

Thomas D., Ely R. “Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity”. Understanding and Managing Diversity. Prentice Hall. Pg.

United Way Dane Country “Strategic Planning Process.” Provided by Leslie Ann Howard. Pg. 1-7. 

Williamson, J.B. and D.M. Watts-Roy. (2009). Aging boomers, generational equity, and framing the debate over social security.  In Boomer Bust?  Economic and Political Issues of the Graying Society, edited by Robert B. Hudson.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.  153-169.

Diversity: The Utilitarian Kaleidoscope

Why should we care?
In an increasingly stratified and globalized world, our working definition of diversity shifts alongside sociopolitical trends. While diversity has grown from a race-based term to include a kaleidoscope of identities including sex, gender, religion, nationality, income, educational attainment, and many other labels, it continues to lack definition in many ways. In understanding that the term is sociopolitical and will continue to evolve, leaders must operationalize the term in context to their work.

Jeanne McNett writes that an economic argument for diversity is one that recognizes the shifted and globalized pool of consumers. Businesses, in building relationships with consumers and other business leaders, must engage a diverse workforce because they will speak to a larger consumer base and promote creativity, particularly culturally competent creativity that businesses traditionally did not engage.

The same is true for non-profit organizations. Whether engaging potential employees or potential volunteers, diversity matters. Leadership must work with and hire more diverse individuals whom reflect the diverse communities from which they come from. These communities are often the target of non-profit work.

Further, diversity aligns with the philosophical impetus of non-profit work. If non-profits in the U.S. truly bridge the gap services offered by the government or provide greater services to “deserving” often under-recognized groups, then non-profits are engaging in ethical work. According to McNett, this ethical derivation of diversity that non-profits engage in can be categorized into three areas: deontological (faith-based), teleological (hope-based), and caring (charity) approaches to diversity either applied universally or to a particular application. Regardless of the ethical theory applied, the United States is becoming more global along all of these facets and non-profit leadership must engage the audience and constituents.

What are the implications?
As historically excluded groups begin to stratify and make up sub-groups, thus adding to diverse identities, they bring with them varying skills. This idea is mentioned by Thomas Sowell whom noted that while Japan an Switzerland haven’t been historically prosperous in natural resources, their populations have developed a broad range of human capital that promoted economic prosperity (33).

Robinson and Dechant further this examination of diversity in soft skills in citing Fortune 100s data on why human resource executive foster diversity. While laws exist to denounce discrimination and segregation like the Equal Opportunity Employment Act, these HR executives promoted diversity because it’s presence added value to the company. This included creativity and innovation, higher0quality problem solving, greater leadership, and fostering global relationships (230-35).

What can leaders do about it?

For ethical and production reasons, non-profit leaders should foster diversity within their organizations at various levels. While Robinson and Dechant identify four steps to involving diversity in an organization (236-7), I find that they are no different than any other human capital targeting program, whether it be marketing, volunteerism, etc. The main take away is that to foster diversity, one must focus on and set goals to foster diversity. No organization will just happen upon diversity.

Further, Robert Herman (Renz, 2016) notes that executives must traverse both the internal organization and external forces. This reinforces the idea that context matters. Impressions and intentions matter. Having leadership that reflects the community, stakeholders, or other parties is important, particularly when addressing issues from the four distinct organizational perspectives: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. This is starkly apparent in the case study involving the Acheen Malay Mosque Village where, despite having their cultural and historical interests in mind, the Muslim community was distrusting of the Penang Heritage Trust because their board was almost exclusively composed of Chinese-descendant Malay persons.

A Streetcar Named Collaboration

While collaborations can easily become complex, multi-faceted associations between several organizations, in its simplest form, a collaboration begins as dyadic relationship between a non-profit organization and another non-profit organization, a for-profit company, or a government agency. Typically, this dyad includes two individuals representing their organization.

Much like A Streetcar Named Desire, the role each party plays in collaboration depends on their goals and perspectives. Blanche Dubois is ruled by her philosophy and often adjusts for harsh realities by misrepresenting them or ignoring them. Non-profit organizations often fail to marriage their philosophical goals with their collaboration goals and, in failing to frame their vision for the collaboration (UnitedWay Worldwide, 2008) with fundamental process factors of success (Sharma and Missey, 1998), non-profit organizations fail to sustain collaborations. Stanley Kowalski, on the other hand, is rooted in dichotomous truths and instinct. Government agencies and for-profit companies, particularly the latter, have dichotomous 'bottom lines' that not only measure their success, but are unflinchingly rigid and often dominate the collaboration.

Here, I examine one non-profit collaboration specifically, identify the role played (Blanche vs. Stanley), and examine the success of the collaboration.

La Alianza Hispana and the Boston Dept. of Social Services (Non-Profit and Gov't Agency)
After years of criticism for lacking cultural competency and an increasing caseload, the Boston Department of Social Services (DSS) approached La Alianza Hispanaa (La Alianza, for short) with a harsh proposal: Either lose all DSS funding (which constituted a significant percentage of La Alianza's income) or accept a substantial increase in funding to provide all child protection and case management services to Latino children in Boston (a service that La Alianza had never provided before) (Varley, 1996).

Here, DSS is clearly Stanley because their goal was measurably dichotomous and their approach was rigid. For DSS, success was getting La Alianza to accept the contract (dichotomous) and their approach disallowed collaboration and often shuttered communication (rigid).

La Alianza played Blanche because while they stuck to their overall philosophy of bettering life for the Latino community in Boston, they ignored the major fault with the collaboration, which was a lack of communication and a lack of negotiation. Some of their board members verbalized their concerns that the per case funding was insufficient to cover overhead and the role they played in the Latino community would be severely compromised, but they did very little to address the stark imbalance in power dynamics. Further, La Alizanza would have been agreeing to provide a service that they had no experience in providing. While some training would have been provided by DSS, La Alianza would ultimately be shifting toward mission creep in fear of losing their funding.

This collaboration was unsuccessful for several reasons. According to Mattesich and Monsey’s Collaboration: What Makes It Work, as cited by Sharma and Missey (1998), there are nineteen factors for successful collaborations spanning six categories. Of them, sixteen went unfulfilled. Yes, the sociopolitical environment corroborated the collaboration and was an opportunity for success. The Latino community in Boston was expanding and suffering due to the crack-cocaine epidemic, which both DSS and La Alianza recognized as a moment of intervention. However, the history between DSS and the La Alianza (and the Latino community at large) was strained with no sign of reversal, flexibility and adaptability were ostensibly disallowed, resources were insufficient, and communication was poor. Further, a namely due to the lack of communication and lack or flexibility, shared-decision making was absent and the vision for the collaboration was not shared between both parties, two keys of a successful collaboration identified by the National Civic League (UnitedWay Worldwide, 2008).

Other Types of Non-Profit Collaborations
As mentioned earlier, non-profit organizations also collaborate with for-profit companies and other non-profits, but the barriers to success are no different. When City Year partnered with Tiberland to provide apparel, both parties were somewhere between Blanche and Stanley. However, when Timberland’s bottom-line was at-risk (they saw slowed growth and declining profits), they abandoned the project because their measure of success did not include/measure value from the branding association – it only included profit. This collaboration would have been more successful if Timberland had expanded their measures of success to include multiple aspects along the value creation spectrum because the associational value was complementary for both parties, especially Timberland (Austin and Seitanidi as cited by Renz, 2016).

A non-profit collaboration with another non-profit faces the same challenges, particularly when vision and philosophy aren’t shared as those flexible definitions fuel non-profit work. In the collaboration between the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and Low-Income Housing, the vision for funding allocation, political capital, and implementation was not shared between each party and the underlying philosophies clashed, resulting in an inability to communicate to the public the value added through the collaboration.

Overall, collaborations are neither sustainable nor successful when either party takes on an extreme role like Blanche or Stanley. So, avoid the dramatics, communicate, and collaborate in the decision-making. And make a checklist!