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DIVERSITY: Different Perspectives on the Same Topic

By Sue Vineyard
From Megatrends & Volunteerism, Heritage Arts Publishing, 1993, pp. 121-123

It is interesting to note that the major writers of trends... .Drucker, Aburdene, Nasbitt, Popcorn, Peters, etc…see diversity from different perspectives though all agree that diversity is a major factor that will Influence what we do and how we act as individuals and organizations.

As I have mentioned several other times in this book in different contexts, Peter Drucker is speaking out about ‘tribalism’, which he sees as divisive because it focuses on what is different between people rather than what unifies them. He offers example after example of peoples such as those in Eastern Europe who are warring over sometimes ancient conflicts of original tribes.

He explains the trend as a desire to find roots and to be part of a community because bigness no longer confers much advantage. People need to define themselves, their identify and mission in terms that can be understood.

The other writers speak of diversity as a positive force that will bring varied perspectives to efforts and forge new alliances that are more In touch with grassroots needs.

Somewhere between these two perspectives is, I believe, the truth regarding diversity. Many groups will struggle to bring diversity into their ranks, making it stronger by so doing. We must, however be mindful of the negative potential of focusing only on differences, and instead, focus on the melding of diverse people to a common goal.

In this process of melding, directors of volunteer programs will need to model an openness to differences and a pattern of concentrating on commonalties rather than those differences which have nothing to do with the work required. In other words:

“If It doesn’t matter, don’t let it matter!”

If the goal is to feed homeless people in a shelter and a volunteer has a speech impairment, it doesn’t matter.

If the goal Is to help clean up the environment by clearing trash from a river bank and a volunteer appears in long, unkempt hair and ragged clothing, it doesn’t matter.

If the goal is to cuddle and comfort babies dying of AIDS and the volunteer is visually impaired, it doesn't matter.

If, on the otheer hand, the long-haired volunteer wished to serve food or the person visually impaired wanted to clear trash, these factors would indeed matter, though their "differences" could be worked around creatively to include them in serving.

In a healthy community, there are diverse people with different capabilities, challenges and backgrounds. If the volunteer administrator can keep their eye on melding these diversities into a collection of different people working toward a common goal, they have taken a giant step toward community.

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