Creating an inclusive environment among people from different cultural and religious backgrounds, whether it be in communities, companies, educational institutions, or anywhere
for that matter…, is a key to success! It’s also the call of the day!
Topics such as “culture” and “ethnicity”, while they were avoided like the plague only several years ago, today there’s a plethora of activities and companies working on strategies that build inclusivity across cultures. Many award programs are recognising leaders in this field, and thankfully, there is a growing momentum.
Here’s a link to a large number of articles on this topic: http://www.globaldialoguefoundation.
Integration without assimilation:
This article posits that building inclusive and peaceful societies is fundamental to achieving sustainability and prosperity. Integral to this, is to accept and maintain each individual as they are - with their original cultural identity and heritage, their own unique traditions and customs, and fostering their impact on development - be it of the company, community, society, etc. This alone will be among your guarantees for achieving the best possible results in a culturally
diverse environment. More on this later in the article.
A global movement:
For over 10 years, Global Dialogue Foundation has been working with communities, governments, the United Nations, business leaders, professional speakers, and people from all ‘walks of life’, to build inclusive societies. Its flagship project Unity in Diversity™, is known around the world for organising meetings in local communities for people from different cultures to meet and get to know each, to supporting their ongoing collaboration so that they can better understand and address specific needs in their communities, to setting up action groups. Global Dialogue Foundation serves as the nucleus of a budding global Citizens Assembly which in October 2019 is launching the United Civilizations Initiative with a HQ office in Mumbai India. The foundation’s members are currently in over 50 countries and the
leadership team represents 19 countries on 4 continents.
Most people won’t need to travel too far today, to find a community where people from diverse backgrounds live or work together. While cultural diversity brings new opportunities, it’s also fraught with challenges and dangers. Especially, where there is an absence of managed processes to support it.
Individuals and organisations often lack the tools required to support the integration of culturally diverse groups. It can be an extremely sensitive topic and especially difficult for vulnerable groups in need of assistance to meet even their ‘basic needs’.
Rest assured though; assistance is available!! There is a growing number of organisations; private and nongovernmental, consultants, etc., who can provide support through these processes.
It is my intention that you’ll find encouragement, but also that you can consider and perhaps decide on practical steps that you can implement in your work that will contribute to building
inclusive societies, whether in your country and/or around the world.
Since 2010, Global Dialogue Foundation and its partners and members have presented “Unity in Diversity” events, forums, peace gardens, and various initiatives that contribute towards
intercultural understanding and building inclusive societies.
In any country, the process may begin with a “Champion” - and that could be you, who takes responsibility for setting up an action group, i.e., a core team which determines and implements actions in their country. The start point could be a small meeting of individuals, a seminar, a forum, etc., through which the concept of “Unity in Diversity” is presented, support
garnered and people inspired to take action and contribute.
Following the initial launch, it may then be to create the policy and the first action plan, according to the needs as determined by the stakeholders. Then it may be to support the expansion of their work and promote collaboration with local businesses, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and networks. All pointed towards promoting understanding and building inclusivity among people of various cultures.
Many businesses and governments realise that they need programs that will build cultural inclusivity as inevitably, they will lead to prosperity.
In Australia, following the launch of Unity in Diversity - World Civil Society (October 2011), Global Dialogue Foundation worked with local government and members of community to establish the Whittlesea Community Leadership Network (WCLN) - a community based organisation which is managed by a volunteer Executive Committee.
The WCLN collaboration with the City of Whittlesea focussed on building leadership capacity for stronger communities, and quite successfully. At the WLCN’s 2nd annual general meeting, the keynote speaker remarked, “In my 25 years working between local government and communities, the WCLN is the best example of collaboration I’ve seen in this field”.
Upon its formation and with a mission to build grassroots leadership capacity and promote peaceful, sustainable, progressive and inclusive society, the WCLN was awarded grants of A$86k in cash and in-kind. A part-time project officer was appointed. The organisation quickly became a key platform for community groups to understand the shared common vulnerabilities and to establish an organisation that will go on to share the responsibilities of
addressing the challenges faced in the local community.
The WCLN is a copy of what was created by GDF’s Founder over 25 years ago, only with a different group of people and organisations, and developed on a much broader platform, i.e., in the City of Whittlesea in Victoria, Australia. It is based on dialogue for people to gain trust in each other and live like good neighbours. The local government acknowledged that the WCLN was serving community beyond its initial goals and provided ongoing funding, assistance with applications to state government, regular use of meeting facilities, and
more. The WCLN (citizens) and the City of Whittlesea (local government) are true collaborators.The Federal MP for the area joined WCLN as its Patron and on 2 Dec 2013, presented the successes in the Australian Parliament, as a leading example for strengthening community and pointed it to the future for Australia.
One of the first WCLN projects to gain traction was from the Women’s Sector. The Executive Committee member responsible invited women from the broader community to participate in identifying and addressing women’s needs. A Sub-committee was formed and within the year, the “Leading Women’s Health & Safety” project was launched. In phase 1, 60 women from 30 ethnic groups came together for an 8-week program about Health in the community. It went on to deliver various programs and gained financial support from UNESCO, among others, for its work with women in health and in intercultural integration.
The example of WCLN, is in the heart and soul of building peaceful, sustainable, progressive and inclusive societies, because learning to live with each other in the local community, engaging and facilitating joint-projects in a coordinated and continuous manner, is indeed how we can help prevent groups from descending into violent conflict and sustaining disharmony.
The 2nd official launch of Global Dialogue Foundation’s Unity in Diversity took place in Mumbai, India in March 2016. Hundreds of participants from civil society, academia, business and government came together to officially launch the initiative, workshop the policy and action plan, and inaugurate a peace garden. The India action group is now establishing a Unity in Diversity Companies program, which aims to support companies to better manage and leverage a culturally diverse workforce and a Unity in Diversity Campuses Programme, which is engaging students and the communities of 22 educational institutions, in actions that build peaceful and inclusive societies.
The 3rd official launch was Unity in Diversity in Serbia, in 2017, in the City Hall of Becej. It brought together a large section of society, including representatives from local and federal
government, National Minorities and Religious Communities, plus many key organisations across Serbia.
It would be prudent to highlight some of the key considerations on which Unity in Diversity was first developed over 25 years ago. Firstly, it is essential to help cultural and ethnic groups, which live in a multi‐ethnic society, to have the privilege of maintaining their identity so that it remains as heritage for future generations. An analysis is required to determine how an ethnic community is organised and structured in a given locality? Also, what are its strengths and weaknesses and what is required to fill the gaps and ensure that they can meet the needs of their community members. Then, what is required to better organise the community and establish a pathway for its progress? Above all, does it have tools for getting to know each other, which although from the same ethnic group now living in the same community, but coming from different locations in their mother country and having had problems connected with their past (perhaps political, religious, ethnic, etc.,). Unfortunately, old conflicts often come with the people to their new homeland, so this type of analysis is critical. Also, for an ethnic community to maintain their identity, without delving into the nature of past conflicts due to sensitivity. So, maintaining status-quo, but guaranteeing their autonomy and leaving conflicts to the old Country itself, with its responsible institutes – historians, archaeologists, etc., to resolve. So, the primary efforts were to create the space for the members, through various organisations formed according to their needs, to associate with each other and start dialogue. Over time, organising social events such as picnics, festivals, sporting activities.
This association and richness is not only a legacy for future generations in the new homeland, but also for the old motherland. Members of ethnic communities establish organisations which interact and trade between the new homeland and old motherland. They also provide assistance for family and friends. E.g., shipping medicine, materials for improving living conditions, financial support, etc. Most valuable, business is intensified from which everyone benefits. Remittances follow and so too does investment and an increase in collaboration between the two countries… a win-win outcome.
So how does all this actually start?
The community members in the new country organise themselves. E.g, into organisations, councils, associations, social and sporting clubs, etc. They represent youth, women, senior citizens, children via women’s groups.
Similarly, they organise sub-committees for specific tasks. Where they don’t exist, organisations are created. Where they do exist, they are developed. In this way, a particular cultural or ethnic group forms itself into a sustainable community - as a sum of all its organisations. It maintains an organisational structure at the local level and can be replicated at the regional and global levels. As ethnic communities develop this process, lasting trust is
built. It was found that conflict situations connected with historical events began to subside. Leaders saw the benefit and all moved towards this new method of organising. Following positive results, it expanded from local to the global level, with forming diaspora organisations.
The WCLN was started many years after this initial analysis. It has similar programs, but is many steps ahead. Namely, it is a body of representatives from all cultures and provides the space where leaders meet, learn about each other, about the new country, their rights and responsibilities, how the society is organised, and how they can be actively involved in mainstream society. i.e., forming leadership meetings and joint-events, etc., followed by forming a similar body at federal level and integrating through it. It is from this structure that members will form the United Civilizations, comprising citizens as leaders of community.
Progressive governments such as City of Whittle sea have identified that building strong and resilient communities requires commitment and policy that engages citizens in building interculturally inclusive societies. Regardless of how long it may take, this programme ultimately leads to creating a global inclusive society and culture of peace.
The United Civilizations Initiative HQ office in Mumbai, India, will support organisations around the world, who are working on the mission.
In Australia, the MP’s remarks in the Parliament have set the tone for the future.
In Africa, the leadership team is working on initiatives in Kenya-Unity in Diversity Camps, in Cameroon- Unity in Diversity Clubs, and starting programs in Uganda and Nigeria.
In South Asia, recently launched Unity in Diversity Companies, Unity in Diversity Campuses and a Unity in Diversity Peace Garden, offer substantial scope for development across various sectors.
In Europe, Unity in Diversity events held in Serbia offers a solid starting point for new initiatives.
In the U.S.A., Global Dialogue Foundation was recently established as a 501c3 and the team is preparing for working with communities on the east coast.