First steps on the diversity, equity and inclusion journey

There are no real shortcuts when it comes to "DEI" – but, as Carlos Barcenas writes, there are certain steps we can all take to start out strong.


Working in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, one of the most frequent questions I get is “What is something that I can do now?” or “What are some shortcuts or easy things that I can do today?”

While I would love to provide an easy-to-follow formula, I must be honest: Creating change around such issues is challenging and requires hard work. But I’m happy to share with you at least some ways you can start.

Please remember that there are no silver bullets, no answers to all things. In my experience, diversity, equity, and inclusion are simply markers in our journey.

First, let’s look at where this work happens. There are three very important areas: the individual level, the group or organization level, and, finally, the community level.

At the individual level, we must learn how diverse we are and explore how do we work or interact with differences and commonalities. At the individual level, it is all about evolving as humans, and as leaders willing to step into “uncomfortable comfortable” spaces of growth where we explore our own diversity in the diversity of others.

At the group or organizational level, it’s about equity and engagement. What groups do you belong to? What organizations do you belong to? The questions become: Are we listening from everyone in an equitable manner? Are our systems and our processes equitable? And, are they serving our stakeholders in the best way possible?

Finally, at the community level, inclusion is all about exposure. Are we creating opportunities for our community members to be exposed to people in our community? To new experiences in our community? Are we intentionally creating opportunities for people to come together and be able to experience something different, and feel comfortable engaging at a distance? Or, to jump right into a new experience?

At the individual level:

›› Commit to evolve. Read books that challenge your thinking and beliefs. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. And ask yourself, “Where do they come from?” I use a tool called Intercultural Development Inventory to help others create an individual development plan. Be curious, be teachable, and be coachable. Be a lifelong learner.

At the group/organizational level:

›› Commit to equity. Challenge the “we have always done it this way” mentality. Review your systems and processes for inequalities. Be brave to create spaces for leaders and stakeholders to have bold conversations about systemic inequalities. Host conversations, workshops, and training that support inclusive leadership.

At the community level:

›› Commit to exposure. Explore and discover the diversity in your community. Attend or organize community fairs where cultural differences can be experienced. Visit ethnic shops, restaurants and explore the history behind them.

These are just a few examples, just a few first steps. Above all, remember: Diversity, equity, and inclusion are a journey.

Carlos Barcenas of Grand Island is a speaker, coach, and facilitator focusing on intercultural leadership development and helping community leaders create a deeper connection across differences and commonalities. He has been a Nebraskan since 1994 and works with people from all over the world who now call Nebraska home.

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Cindy Huff
2 years ago

Carlos does an excellent job articulating the job we all need to be engaged in.


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