On “diversity”: the perils of monoculture (part 3)

Continuing from yesterday: what kind of “diversity” are we looking for in foundations: perspective, experience, background?

I go back to the idea of inoculation: low doses of a pathogen to help you build up immunity. And immunity doesn’t necessarily mean, if I understand it correctly, that whenever the pathogen appears it’s destroyed, but rather, that its presence can be managed without danger to the host. So I think about this in terms of ideas or memes: what’s to be avoided is groupthink, and introducing low doses of ideas that are controversial to the group is a healthy form of preventative medicine, a kind of intellectual inoculation.

So if my little formula from yesterday is that part of an individual’s experience (what happened to them in the past) is how their background (where their past fits into larger social, demographic, political trends) shapes their perspective (the way they view the world, which is more mutable than experience or background), then it sounds like you want people with different perspectives, and you chances seem better of getting that when you have people with different backgrounds AND different experiences.

This doesn’t just have to be within the walls of the foundation, it makes sense to include perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds of grantee organizations, constituents, and other stakeholders. If we’re looking to avoid the perils of monoculture, a foundation should think about its full battery of intellectual immunizations. How do you make sure those are up to date, given the cast of characters (and their perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds) you currently work with? Do others need to be brought in the mix to give a booster shot?


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply