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Tool #1 Association for the Study and Development of Community. A planning guide for valuing diversity. Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Planning Guide
Getting Ready fro Promoting the Value of Diversity:
Issues for Consideration

This guide was produced for the Association for the Study and Development of Community.
The development of this guide was made possible by a grant from the Ford and Mott Foundations.


An Advisory Committee that comprises a diverse group of leaders and institutional representatives can be useful to advise an organization or project about ways to promote the value of diversity. These members could include staff from the organization and project. They provide the vision for what it would take for their community to value diversity. Their vision lays the groundwork for the valuing diversity project.


The purpose of this guide is to help you stimulate further thinking about:

  • Establishing the Advisory Committee;
  • Planning the process for identifying the focus of your initiative and assessing needs and challenges for valuing diversity; and
  • Determining the process for adopting and adapting promising strategies to help your community value diversity.

This guide is not intended to be a prescription for a valuing diversity project, instead it is intended to guide you in developing a process that enables members of your community to come together to develop a way for how they want to value diversity. Examples are provided to clarify each step and dilemmas that might be encountered during the planning process.


Roles and expectations

It is important to consider the role of the Advisory Committee for your project as early in the process as possible.

The Advisory Committee can have several roles:

Information access

Committee members can be used to access information on several levels, such as to obtain demographic information that has been collected by the city government; to find out about the grassroots leadership in a particular community; to engage a particular community group; and to learn more about available resources for valuing diversity in the community.

Technical assistance

Committee members can be used to assist project staff depending on their areas of expertise, such as cultural understanding, group dynamics, conflict transformation, community organizing, strategic communication, fundraising, and advocacy.


Committee members can be used as a link to additional and wider networks, such as nonprofit organizations, informal community networks, businesses, government agencies, and private funders. Committee members can also help provide access to grassroots leaders, policy makers and other potential participants.


Committee members can be used to facilitate collaboration, such as among groups that traditionally do not work together; leaders across community sectors (e.g., businesses and youth development groups); and groups that have similar missions. Committee members can also serve as facilitators during learning activities (e.g., small group discussions), help provide translation, and gain access to meeting space in the neighborhoods.

Modeling behavior

Committee members can become an example or model for cross-cultural collaboration. It represents the possibility of people from diverse backgrounds working together to use the diversity among themselves and in their community as an advantage to accomplish their goals.


Committee members can be used to advocate for funding and other supports for community issues by participating in other national or local efforts, coalitions, task forces, or steering committees.

Issues for you to consider when selecting Advisory Committee members:
  • Is the Advisory Committee representative of the groups and institutions that you would like to engage? Are leaders of the most affected groups as well as the most powerful groups invited to participate?
  • What is the level of leadership that is committed? (e.g., is the vice president of a local corporation a member or is it his/her administrative assistant)
  • Is the invited person a legitimate leader in the community (has constituency as part of an informal or formal institution) and what is his/her history of leadership (e.g., ability to maintain momentum, strong ties with government agencies and other large institutions)?
  • How does the invited person frame issues related to demographic changes and other forms of diversity (e.g., is it an asset or is it a conflict)?
  • Does the person have time to participate in the Committee and is willing to work with members from other groups?
  • Is there anyone else who should be invited regardless of the size of his/her community or organization in order to ensure inclusion of all racial and ethnic groups?
  • Have the expectations for membership been communicated clearly to Committee members (e.g., purpose, number of meetings they are expected to attend)?


Committee members can be used to influence policymakers, such as convincing county officials to establish stricter enforcement against absentee landlords


Once the role and expectations for the Advisory Committee have been defined, it is important to establish a structure that works for everyone.


The Committee can elect a chairperson. The chairperson can be communicating with the local facilitator, communicating with all the members, determining when it is necessary to meet, and/or developing meeting agendas.

Facilitation and other support

The Committee should decide what is the function of the local facilitator and staff of the grantee organization.


The members must decide on the best method and frequency of communication. A useful tool for keeping all the members informed of the project's activities is meeting minutes. The minutes not only update members that cannot attend a meeting, it also helps document the process of the project.


The Committee must agree on how decisions are made (e.g., number of votes or by consensus). Some members may not be able to attend meetings or provide feedback and they need to decide if the other members can make the decision.


The grantee organization and the Committee must determine the extent of the Committee 's authority. Can the Committee make decisions and if so, regarding which matters.

It is important to acknowledge what each Committee member brings to the table to increase their sense of ownership for the effort, equality, and adopt an assets perspective.

Subcommittees or task forces

Subcommittees or task forces can be established to divide the responsibilities of the Advisory Committee. A smaller subcommittee can dedicate more time to a particular issue or component of the project and/or provide a specific expertise. The members must then decide if a subcommittee can make independent decisions, or if the subcommittee merely gathers information to submit to the entire Advisory Committee for final decisions. A staff person or member must be assigned to coordinate the subcommittees or task forces to ensure that there is no duplication of activities and timely progress.

Process versus Action

It is not unusual to have members with different working styles-some may be more process-oriented, while others may be more task- or action-oriented. For instance, some Committee members may want to develop their own valuing diversity skills, while others may want to focus on decision making. The Committee must be clear on its role and expectations-does it come together for discussions or merely to make decisions? The best approach is a balance of both and to develop a process that leads to action.

Initially, it is critical to give the Committee members adequate time to share information about each other (e.g., how did they come to live in the community, what do they do) and about their personal vision for a community that values diversity. Their stories must be acknowledged and legitimized by the larger group.

A common language and key concepts

Coming up with a common vocabulary is one of the most important first steps. The Advisory Committee must come to a consensus on a common language for the valuing diversity work it is about to conduct. For instance, the term "cross-cultural" may be more appropriate than "multicultural" because the former implies more interaction and exchanging across cultures. Or, the term "valuing diversity" can mean relations between African Americans and European Americans (different racial groups), youth and senior citizens (different age groups), or tenants and homeowners (different socioeconomic groups). The Advisory Committee should also keep in mind the ten principles for strengthening intergroup relations and if appropriate, develop additional key concepts. Further, Committee members should not assume that the terms they use mean the same thing to everyone. The common language that the Committee develops for itself should be consistent with the language that will be used to convey the goals of the project to the neighborhoods and/or institutions targeted.

Evolving membership

The planning process must include a periodic reassessment of the Advisory Committee's membership to assess whether the Committee is comprised of the "right" people. The membership can change depending on the needs of the project and its developmental stage. A process must also be established to orient new members. New members can receive an orientation packet and/or meet with a few "older" members to get a historical perspective of the project.


With the assistance of the Advisory Committee and its members' knowledge, skills, and resources, the planning process can begin for identifying the project's focus area and considerations, assessing needs and challenges for valuing diversity, and designing the action process.



There may be neighborhoods or subsections with:

  • A history of conflict,
  • Major demographic changes,
  • Large number of immigrants,
  • Agencies and organizations lacking capacity to adequately address the needs of residents from diverse backgrounds,
  • Clear boundaries that have already been drawn, and
  • Outside actors who have intervened and had a negative or positive impact on the neighborhoods or subsections.


There may be specific institutions where residents come together and result in conflict. For instance, the project may focus on a housing development where residents are not getting along and there is no forum for addressing the tensions.

Geographic and Institutional:

The program will focus on the nonprofit and public institutions within a neighborhood that are operating independently or lacking adequate capacity to serve the needs of diverse groups.

Issues to consider for target area selection:

  • Which neighborhoods or subsections are experiencing an increase or enclaves of a particular racial or ethnic group?
  • Which institutions are most affected and are not adequately addressing the needs or tensions of their diverse constituencies?
  • Where are the opportunities for residents from diverse backgrounds to come together around an issue?
  • Where are the tensions and conflicts-on the systems level because it is traditionally a White-power structure; intergenerational because the youth are loitering on street corners and offending the elderly residents; or interracial because the Koreans have bought out the local convenience stores in a primarily African American neighborhood?
  • Is there charismatic and indigenous leadership?
  • How will the neighborhoods' leaders and residents deal with the media for wider information dissemination?


It is important to understand the demographics, tensions, and issues in the area of focus (i.e., neighborhood, subsection, and/or institution), and the challenges of conducting valuing diversity work in that area. The following questions need be answered before the appropriate strategy can be developed:

  • What are the issues shared by all residents?
  • For example, criminal activities, housing conditions, lack of alternative activities for youth, closing down of a community health center, etc.

What are the challenges of bringing residents together?
Some of the challenges may include:

  • More intensive effort (e.g., resources, leadership training, and technical assistance) required to organize the communities;
  • Tensions between established gatekeeper organizations and fledgling grassroots groups that serve particular groups, which makes collaboration or access to certain communities difficult;
  • Certain communities, particular recent immigrants have more urgent needs that must be addressed first, such as housing, food, clothing, and health;
  • Intergroup tensions exist within a larger sociopolitical context (e.g., city government, education board);
  • Incompatible civic participation practices among groups; and
  • Need for translation services in several languages.

What has been done and what is out there? What are examples of successful organization and projects and what strategies did they use that brought people together?
It is important to explore previous efforts to organize the community or address conflicts and learn from those efforts' successes and failures.

Who are the key players (individuals and institutions)?
Getting acquainted with the key players serve several purposes:

  • Ensure that you are not "stepping on someone's toes,"
  • Obtain their buy-in to lend credibility to the valuing diversity effort,
  • Gain access to their networks,
  • Learn from their intergroup relations; and
  • Build upon their knowledge and experiences.

In some cultures, a great deal of deference is given to their community leaders. Getting to know the key players who are most likely also the community leaders will demonstrate respect and cultural sensitivity.

How much does the valuing diversity project engage in power structures?

The grantee organization and Advisory Committee needs to consider this question in advance. In some neighborhoods, the intergroup tensions may be nested within a larger power structure and institutionalized racism may be prevalent. In order to strengthen intergroup relations, the valuing diversity project may have to get involved in larger institutions. This involvement can increase the visibility of the project and this may be positive or negative depending on whose perspective. This involvement can also require the grantee organization and Advisory Committee members to take sides on an issue.


There are several ways to gather information to respond to the above questions.

Strategy session

Strategy sessions can be conducted with Advisory Committee members, community leaders, and other key players to answer the above questions.

Focus groups

Focus groups can be conducted with different groups-public officials, representatives of nonprofit organizations, grassroots leaders, youth, senior citizens, or by ethnic group.

One-on-one interviews

While this method can be time consuming, it may be more effective when asking about more sensitive issues.

Archival sources

For example, census reports and community assessments.


There may be existing reports that have been previously conducted by the state, county, or local agency, and nonprofit groups. Programs are usually required to submit annual reports to their funders. Therefore, if you identified any past or current efforts that addressed the needs of residents, be sure to ask for reports that they had to submit to their funders.

Newspaper articles

Newspaper articles, especially local community newspapers are useful sources for information on conflicts and community activities. Local community newspapers also tend to publicize celebrations and ceremonies to recognize activists and leaders, and are a great resource for identifying community leaders.


The information gathered should be analyzed to identify specific themes in the following areas.

Areas of conflict

Conflicts may exist within a group (e.g., Latinos with different nationalities), between two racial groups (e.g., African Americans and European Americans), newcomers and long-time residents (e.g., African Americans and Salvadorans), institutions (e.g., police and local businesses, or established nonprofits and grassroots groups), generations (e.g., youth and senior citizens, or first generation Mexicans and second generation Mexican Americans), groups of different socioeconomic status (tenants and homeowners), groups of different religions (e.g., Muslims and Christians), or groups with different political status in their home countries (e.g., Ethiopians and Eritreans).

It is essential to remember that some cultures, particularly the Asian cultures tend to have members that are less comfortable speaking up in a large group. In this case, one-on-one interviews may be more effective. Some cultures are based on an authoritarian structure and their members are encouraged to please the authority or authoritative figure. Other cultures may have a history of oppression and are suspicious of anyone or any institution that resemble their oppressor. It is important that the Advisory Committee considers and ensures that the messenger for the valuing diversity project is a person or an institution that is perceived with trust and has credibility.

Common issues faced by residents from different backgrounds

For example, the African American and European residents may be struggling with criminal activities in their neighborhood, Latino and Vietnamese communities may both be struggling with poor housing conditions in a particularly housing development, or a lack of recreational activities for both youth and senior citizens.

Opportunities to meet challenges facing groups through funds and capacity building efforts

The information must be analyzed to see how resources (funds, technical assistance, and training activities) can be used to address challenges groups face and whether the groups have come together before on common issues. For instance, African American and Latino tenants have come together before to try and get the housing management to improve their living conditions. However, because of language barriers and lack of organization, they have been unsuccessful. There is an opportunity for the valuing diversity project to provide funds for translation services and to mediate other cultural barriers.

Existing efforts and community resources

The valuing diversity may be able to build on existing assets. There may be another initiative or coalition in the neighborhood that need additional resources to enhance its efforts.

Communication channels and outreach strategies

What are the best methods for communicating and reaching out to the communities? For example:

  • Faith institutions (mosque, temple, church)
  • Local community newspapers
  • Newsletters distributed by organizations and groups in the neighborhood
  • Spanish radio station
  • Library
  • Asian grocery stores
  • Vietnamese cable program
  • Social service agencies
  • English as A Second Language classes
  • Restaurants