“With Whom Should We Collaborate?” The Top 5 Questions Every College or University Should be Asking Itself (Part 4 of a 5 Part Series)

Last week, while answering the question: “Whom must we hire?” I talked about the ways organizations can revise their job announcements or admissions requirements to ensure a more diverse applicant pool.   This week I'm answering the question: “With whom must we collaborate?”


Collaborations are about reaching out to people who have some piece of the pie you do not. One of the problems that I see when working with groups on diversity and inclusion is that they want to be the sole expert. They want one or two basic trainings to be their one instance of collaboration on their trek toward a more equitable organization. They see their organization as one bad actor that can be brought into compliance by one (or slightly more than one) experience, and then the organization can move on to thinking about profits or its other goals. But what they don’t seem to understand is that all of these parts of the organization’s personality are connected. Its stance toward racial justice, gender equity, class parity, and the recognition of all people regardless of ability or age, is directly tied to the way it will fulfill its mission, and the way it will garner its profits. There is copious evidence for this, but one very good article is Daniel Victor’s “Women in Company Leadership Tied to Stronger Profits, Study Says.”

The question remains, however, how does an organization pick collaborations that will support diversity and inclusion?

Well, in part two of this series, Who Are We, Really? I wrote:

“One of the most important reasons for a Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion, however, is that it creates a real mission for the Diversity and Inclusion Office. It becomes about more than taco night. It moves the organization to the next level, up Bloom’s taxonomy from Remembering (commemorations), to Understanding (public dialogue), to Applying (policy change), to Analysis & Evaluation (policy evaluation), to Creation, where an organization is creating the standard for other organizations to model.”


In the following examples, I use Bloom’s taxonomy to show how any organization can begin to pick collaborators.


Remembering, which for an organization means commemorations, or those infamous “taco nights”:

Alright, I have been snarky about the taco night because so many organizations stop there. An “ethnic cuisine” night is the most basic nod toward diversity and inclusion, but as a way to introduce people to the idea of celebrating difference it’s a good low stakes way to begin. Consider adding some bulk, though. How about you invite Armenian restaurant owners or the Armenian historical society’s president to talk about how the cuisine and the history figure together? In this way you build in community collaborations. Since the wave of Armenian immigrants came almost 100 years ago now, how about pairing a representative from the Armenian community and a representative from a more recent immigrant community to discuss how their foods have evolved or changed with the ingredients available in the US?

Follow up with a survey asking for suggestions for next quarter’s event. Add a few questions about what issues employees might be interested in working on with respect to D & I.

So, if the African American engineers write that they would like to form a mentor group for African American interns, don’t waste time, and let them go for it!


Understanding, which for an organization means (public dialogue):

Okay, so we’ve had our “ethnic cuisine” night (which we followed up with a survey) and now we’re ready to have a series of public dialogues about Diversity and Inclusion. To be truthful, “public” means within the context of implicit bias training and diversity and inclusion training. The organization needs to collaborate with trustworthy trainers, and the employees need to establish a collaborative learning environment with each other. The Diversity and Inclusion office will have a network of trainers and facilitators to recommend. If your organization does not have a D & I office, you can always call me!


Applying, which for an organization means (policy change):

This is the part where I highly recommend creating a Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion. Very simply, the process of creating SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound) will cause you to come up with a strong list of potential community collaborators. For instance, If you have determined to increase the number of older employees, AARP  immediately comes to mind. And here is an awesome article in the Wall Street Journal all about how fortune 500 companies are creating internships for older workers. You may want to do an “executive to executive” collaboration with the head of their internship program and the head of your internship program!

Analysis and Evaluation, which for an organization means (policy evaluation):

One systematic way to ensure that employees continue collaborating with each other around issues of race, gender, class, ability, and age, is to instate a periodic revisiting of the Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion. In truth, the plan should be revisited in a low stakes fashion every year, and revised rigorously every three years. I would also recommend an outside evaluator or a consultant group go through it with a fine tooth comb every five years. The organization should work hard to find a consultant group that it can establish a long-term collaboration with.


Creation, which for an organization is creating the standard for other organizations to model:

Now it’s time to start “business to business” collaborations where you share best practices and expand toward coalitions for long-term industry or community projects. Collaborating with the city school system is one idea. For another example, two companies with related clientele, an accounting firm and a bank for instance, might collaborate to provide budgeting workshops in the surrounding community or create a coalition with a mortgage company to create a plan for homeownership in communities without access to that information. Great ideas like these one come from business to business conferences and retreats with time set aside for sharing and collaboration.

Next Week, I’ll be exploring the question, “Are we being Transparent??”

Do comment to tell me about the strategic partnerships your workplace or organization is making.


PS. I have developed a system for helping parents  (like me) of "screenagers “ who are approaching college age write a killer college admissions essay. Click HERE to get a FREE college admissions starter kit.  We. Can Do. This.






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