Clocktower at Night

Table of Contents







Contact Us



Volume 2, Number 3, May 2002

Slouching Towards Inclusion (page 2 of 3)


A conflict resolution project staff met its goal of ethnic diversity. Some were "credentialed" and others were more informally educated; some were connected to the community and the streets, while others were connected to money, power, and knowledge institutions. Three problems were apparent immediately. 1. People brought very different perceptions, work styles, and experiences to the implementation of projects and programs. 2. There was the problem of power imbalance -- the white folks had most of the CR tools, computer expertise, and training experience. 3. People who were new to CR tools and processes simply could not afford to pay for expensive training and could not afford to "intern" without getting paid.

What Could Have Happened: These tools could have stayed in the hands of the dominant culture staff who'd remain lead trainers while people of color would not move beyond assisting the white folks. Over time, resentment and distrust would increase dramatically.

What Did Happen: Experienced practitioners teamed with people who were long on community experience but short on formal training in conflict resolution. Everyone was paid the same salary. New staff practiced and refined their facilitation and conflict resolution training tools, both "on the job" and through rehearsal and video-feedback, and they identified key program development tasks that they wanted to learn. Everyone learned how to use computers. Two project staff who were new to this work now integrate conflict resolution practices into programs and services that they provide through other organizations.

Rule of Thumb #2: Name the power imbalances that exist and discuss how people feel about them. Make time to decide together how to close visible and invisible power gaps. Ensure that the organization validates different knowledge bases, approaches, and methodologies.

Rule of Thumb #3: Figure out some "creative financing" so that new staff can be paid as they learn "on the job." This is an essential step in diversifying a staff. It may involve some personal financial sacrifice; for example, experienced trainers can agree to be paid less or not at all on some projects so that interns can be paid. An organization may also agree to turn down projects or grants which don't include funds for internal staff development and mentoring.

Rule of Thumb #4: Block out time to explore differences in how staff members communicate and work. New staff members know you're serious if "getting to know you" time is paid time. Encourage people to share their idiosyncrasies, concerns, preferences around language, "buzz words," learning and work styles, and assessment and feedback. Ask people to: a) identify the strengths and resources that each individual brings to the group; b) discuss aspects of the work that are easy and fun as well as the parts that are scary or a drag; c) identify the tools and processes that each person wants to improve or refine as well as the kinds of support that will help them become more effective in these areas. In other words, model in your organization the process that you seek to model in your training.


A small full-time national office staff of a professional development and training organization is white, middle class, and almost exclusively from one region of the country.

What Could Have Happened: The organization could continue to lack diversity at all levels.

What Did Happen: The organization has recruited a diverse board of directors across regions and ethnic groups. More importantly, the organization includes many part-time training associates who represent a more accurate picture of the nation's diversity.

Rule of Thumb #5:
Develop a cadre of trainers who have other part-time and full-time jobs. You can't always hire the people you'd like to work with on a full-time basis. But you can create a network of associates who work three or four times a year. Part-time staff can strengthen an organization in other ways. When you recruit people from outside of the field of conflict resolution, you add "outsider" perspectives that can keep a vision from getting stale or too precious. Furthermore, you build the capacity for future collaborations across diverse constituencies.


Extension grants utilize university expertise and resources in community efforts to address local problems. In one case, university extension staff developed a leadership/conflict resolution/violence prevention project involving young people from four public housing projects. Full-time university faculty, who are overwhelmingly white and male, must participate in the implementation of extension grant projects.

What Could Have Happened:
University faculty, who may not be comfortable in the "trenches," could have presented a program that was too "talky," failing to capture the attention and interest of young people.

What Did Happen: This extension grant was specifically written with the requirement that local community organizers and practitioners were project partners.

Rule of Thumb #6: Search out university faculty or grant sponsors who are willing to be allies with community people. Identify community people as partners in grants, allocating sufficient funds to pay them. You might also agree not to participate in grants unless community people, teachers, or service providers are involved in the development and implementation of the project.

Previous Page Next Page
To top of page

Page last updated 11/27/2005

A project of Campus Conflict Resolution Resources.
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo project.

Correspondence to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.

Please send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.

© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU, All rights reserved.