How will a focus on diversity make foreign aid work better?

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International development is a series of calculated risks and planned change processes that adapt effective approaches to new country contexts, eventually to change the world for the better.

As in any industry, organizations carrying out international development work want to attract the most qualified people, align resources to best support them, and unleash their full potential. By creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces, it encourages staff to tap into their unique skills, adapt to changing priorities, and identify and innovate new approaches to solve the world's toughest challenges.

Take a moment to check in with yourself:

  • Is my organization and/or team truly inclusive? How do I know?
  • How are we recognizing diversity as an asset to our work?
  • Do I feel welcomed as a [insert gender, race, religion, or other identifying characteristic] at work?
  • What steps is my organization taking to promote gender, racial, and religious equity in my workplace in headquarters, as well as in cooperating country offices? 

We know that unconscious bias is naturally present at every stage of implementing the work that we do, and can blind us to important realities that impede progress. By openly addressing the biases that do occur, it creates conditions for responsible risk-taking and decision-making. In this environment, aid workers can use their full capacities to do their jobs better.

So what do we do about it?

At Quantum Impact, we aim to shift the conversation about diversity in the development industry to a positive, assets-based one. We think that by collecting stories and statistics, sparking dialogue, and highlighting the impact of meaningful diversity and inclusion in our industry, we can help create conditions for organization leaders and staff to make improvements in the way women and minorities are engaged.

Quantum Impact is spearheading this initiative because we believe that, if development practitioners are to promote values of equality and equity in which all people deserve a seat at the table, these same values need to be reflected inside our workplaces.

Despite some progress, women and minorities are not equally represented in positions of authority within our field - either in global headquarters or cooperating country contexts - and they face barriers to hiring and retention. To date, The full scope of the issue isn’t known.  Little data - quantitative or qualitative - has been gathered to look at how diversity and inclusion within the international development workforce contributes to positive work environments and to development outcomes. But we do know from other industries that increased diversity is linked to stronger performance, and inclusive workplaces empower staff to bring their ideas and full agency to the work that they do.

This is why Quantum Impact seeks to build a foundation of information that leaders and staff can use to advance conversations about the assets of a diverse workforce, grow awareness about biases that influence the way we do our work, and have courageous conversations about what we're learning in the process.

Will you join the conversation?

There are multiple ways that you can engage with Quantum Impact's Diversity in Development Initiative. Right nowwe are seeking expressions of interest from women (including women of any race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or ability) who would like to contribute stories of how they have faced and overcome adversity  in the international development industry. By completing our survey, you can help by telling us about the type of diversity and inclusion information you are interested in receiving, and how you want to receive it. And please do not hesitate to reach out to us at contact@quantumimpact.org with questions and comments.

Please note, this blog was originally published on February 28, 2017 at DevAction.com.

DiversitySarah Grausz