Diversity Dynamics: Activating the Potential of Diversity in Trainings

Diversity Dynamics: Activating the Potential of Diversity in Trainings
The handbook empowers facilitators to develop diversity in their work with groups in every field of non-formal education. We think, that diversity is becoming a more and more relevant topic- not only in youth education.

Ed.: Heike Fahrun, Nils-Eyk Zimmermann, Eliza Skowron

Contributors: Maria Prahl, Elke Heublein, Teona Dalakishvili, Marta Gawinek-Dagargulia, Farriba Schulz, Susanne Kitlinski, Elzbieta Kosek, Maia Melikidze, and Michael Teffel.

MitOst Editions 2014

English: out of stock

Orders: geschaeftsstelle(at)mitost.org
Contact: zimmermann(at)mitost.org

© MitOst Editions 2014

Normative dimension

Anyone who believes that a vibrant civil society depends on individuals’ involvement must take into account that this may only be legitimized and actualized if

  • every individual has the same rights to articulate themselves and be involved;
  • there is equality in chances for articulation and involvement.

In our daily life and work, we all face the scarcity of these conditions. We work against structural discrimination and under-representation of marginalized groups. We foster those who have not yet developed the capacities to become involved. Many of these problems are strongly connected to habit and education – which means we have the ability to change them.

We also encourage those people who have already developed these capacities to become advocates. Because when more civil, open-minded actors become subjects of oppression, we have to discuss, reflect on, and defend the normative dimensions of our work. More and more often we hear questions such as: “Why should I fight for equality opportunities, when it is against my private interests and soon I could be the one suffering from them?”, “Why is diversity a good thing in the first place?”.

Humanity needs spaces that promote the freedom to develop and to disseminate. As facilitators, we should always guarantee that our trainings create such spaces for people.

Inclusive Educational approaches in contrast to exclusion, separation, and integration.

Utilitarian Dimension – Diversity Leads to Enrichment

Diversity is also an important topic in organizations such as companies, state institutions, or NGOs, whether due to increased mobility between countries based on global cooperation on various levels or due to the fact that old management models only strengthen exclusion of talents, which is even less acceptable in times of demographic change. There are many studies examining diverse teams in different constellations and different contexts.

Managing Diversity

Some studies show that diversity is a good thing, beneficial, leading to greater creativity and innovation. Others, however, show that it leads to more conflict and chaos. We can summarize the results of these studies in the following image: Compared to a team with more identical (homogeneous) groups, more diverse (heterogeneous) groups’ performance in creative tasks will tend to be broader on both ends of the scale; they have the potential to either underperform (below average) or out-perform (above average). Heterogeneous groups will always be known for performing much better or much worse than average. Homogeneous groups, in contrast, will basically remain at the same average performance level at all times. So is diversity good or not? Who is right?

Performance of groups related to their internal diversity

Both sides are: greater  diversity leads to greater creativity… but only when it is managed well. It is not enough to collect a diverse group of people, put them onto a team together, close the door, and wait for great results. To adjust for this, quota regulations, codes of conduct, or mentoring programs on diversity are implemented in the working sphere more and more frequently. Implementing a culture of diversity in a working environment can lead to a competitive advantage.

One might be skeptical as to whether this is enough to cause a cultural shift and many people argue against reasoning on a normative level. But facilitators or activists who incorporate diversity-aware behavior have an advantage in communication, management, and collaboration. Therefore, we should also implement a culture of diversity within trainings on topics not directly related to diversity, such as project management, leadership skills, or analytical competence.

In addition, in our field of work diversity is almost always a relevant issue in our training groups, so we should increase awareness of it in order to benefit from it.

Let’s develop diversity!

Diversity awareness is a key issue, especially for facilitators. There is a Polish saying that says, “The first part of the fish to rot is the head.” When you want to change or improve something, you have to start with the top. Many studies on diversity management show that leaders’ attitudes play a crucial role in the successful implementation of a culture of diversity in their working environment.

We assume that facilitators in a seminar can have similar indirect influences on the group. Therefore, we will start with a chapter that focuses on a diversity facilitator’s attitude. The challenges in fulfilling this role responsibly lie on a variety of levels. First we have to understand and question our own habits and culture. Then we have to realize and interpret our team’s habits and cultures as well as those of our participants. Finally, we have to consider and reflect on societal structures that impede or slow down processes of change towards equality and participation.

This is the moment our work begins. Let’s discuss identities and beliefs. Listen to other perspectives and be surprised that things can be seen in a totally different way.  Let’s try to understand the mechanisms and structures through which discrimination and exclusion work: in civil society, on economical levels, but also in our direct surroundings, our own organizations, or the seminar group.

Let’s incorporate diversity consciousness into our seminars, projects, and civil involvement. Let’s develop attitudes that embrace diversity and find best-practice mechanisms as well as new structures of collaboration that allow us to meet one another eye-to-eye.


Heike Fahrun is a freelance trainer in youth and adult education, working primarily in the international field. Her focus is on project management in the non profit-sector, train-the-trainer, and intercultural/diversity learning.

Eliza Skowron is a co-founder of Working Between Cultures and a trainer. She works with diverse groups across the globe mainly on the topics of Intercultural Competence with an Anti-Bias Approach and Constructive Communication.

Nils-Eyk Zimmermann is a program manager at the MitOst Association. He coordinates programs in the field of active citizenship and is an expert in civil society and non-formal learning.

ISBN: 978-3-944012-02-5
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Динаміка різноманіття

ISBN: 978-3-944012-11-7
Nominal charge: 15,00 €
For members: 10,00 €

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What's inside:

• Facilitator’s attitude and self-reflection
• Diversity ABC
• Diversity and Me
• The Group and Me
• Society and Me