diversity recruitment
From: Tree Bressen (treeic.org)
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 21:45:04 -0700 (MST)
Dear Jayne,

>We have discussed this at meetings.  Everyone likes the idea of
>diversity of age, race, religion, social class and sexual
>orientation but we don't have many ideas about how to bring it
>about.  We wouldn't consider setting quotas so we are pretty much
>hoping it will just happen.

>From what i've seen, the best chances for diversity are to incorporate it
as a core value and act on it early, preferably from the beginning of a
project.  How much time do you spend in settings where everyone has a
different skin color than yours?  In order to really have an effect on
diversity issues, people who are in the "dominant" group need to take
actions such as: (a) educating themselves about their unconscious biases
and what the experiences are of people different from themselves; (b)
putting energy into working on the issues that are important to those in
the less dominant group; and (c) building genuine close relationships with
people different from themselves.

For example, i've seen heterosexual people volunteer with gay
organizations, such as the new gay/straight education networks in many
schools.  Recently here in Eugene i saw several men put a lot of positive
energy into helping at a conference called  "Against Patriarchy."  I've
seen White people get together to (un)learn about racism.  When mosques
were being threatened right after Sep. 11, local Christians and Jews stood
vigil while Muslims were inside.  Word of mouth is by far the most
important recruiting tool for forming communities--so ask yourself, who are
you talking with regularly?

It's also important to ask whether there are institutional barriers
preventing diversity at your community.  For instance, a few cohousing
communities have prioritized putting in the extra energy it takes to have
some units be more economically accessible, but most don't.  If your group
is not going to put in that kind of energy, it's probably not realistic to
expect diversity.  Similarly, if the founders already have the vision set
enough that someone else would be joining "your thing" rather than you
co-creating something with them, that's already a big barrier in place.

Hope i'm not on too much of a soapbox here, it's an issue i've spent a lot
of time thinking about, ever since i was the co-guest editor of the spring
'96 Communities magazine theme issue on "Diversity."

Best wishes,



Tree Bressen
1680 Walnut St.
Eugene, OR 97403
(541) 484-1156
tree [at] ic.org
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