Diversity Training Promotes Local Inclusiveness
by Colleen Keller
Many municipalities are taking a proactive approach to promoting inclusion and preventing discrimination by using diversity trainings for city staff. Diversity trainings address tensions, enhance understanding among personnel and improve service to community residents.
Diversity trainings come in a variety of styles, topic foci and modes of service delivery. Different models undertaken by municipalities provide different approaches to addressing diversity in the public sector. Additionally, trainings for city staff improve understanding of workforce and constituent diversity, expanding potential program ideas and efficiency.
The Partnership for Working Toward Inclusive Communities is made up of cities dedicated to addressing inclusion issues in their communities. These cities seek to eliminate prejudice through education about racism, personal sharing, and skills training for working in a diverse workplace. Diversity training for city staff is a crucial part of these efforts.
The City of Manitowoc, Wisc., (population: 34,053) believes that diversity is the key to a healthy community. Partnering with the University of Wisconsin, the community of Manitowoc has successfully run diversity circles to tackle issues of race and injustice through dialogue. With substantial Hmong, Hispanic and Indian populations, the City of Manitowoc is expanding its diversity circles to city staff. Mayor Kevin Crawford believes that it is valuable for city staff to have a global understanding of the community and diversity circles are the best way to achieve this goal.
In September of 2006, Mayor Joseph Reardon of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Mo., (population: 146,866) embraced the idea to begin a reading group for city employees to discuss the book, “Afraid of the Dark: What Whites and Blacks Need to Know about Each Other.” City employees and community members of Wyandotte County began meeting bi-weekly to discuss the book in an effort to spur communication and understanding between diverse groups. Constituent and Organization Department Director Marian Augustus began the discussion and states that it has helped people better interact with one another. “It is difficult to begin talking about hard things. This reading brings great discussion. People are able to share real experiences and change perceptions.” Augustus believes that it is important for city officials get to know one another and plans to continue similar racial awareness efforts with other books.
The City of Portland, Maine, (population: 64,249) has committed to promoting diversity among city staff and continues this pledge by providing diversity training for city staff every other month. The program’s goal is for employees to be able to interrupt discrimination and prevent it from arising. According to Judy Rosen, former co-leader of the Diversity Team, the program has broadened city employees’ awareness of existing cultural and ethnic differences and similarities in the workplace. Rosen believes that individuals bring forth what they have learned in their work. City staff have also volunteered to become trainers themselves, continuing the diversity trainings for new employees.
Details: To learn more about what cities are doing, please refer to the National League of Cities Inclusive Communities web site.
More information, including research, action kits, and best practices in racial awareness can be found on the Inclusive Communities Resource Guide.
Source: National League of Cities.