Today is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development which aims to bridge the gap between cultures to achieve peace, stability and development and serves as an opportunity for us to embrace cultural diversity. The day challenges us to understand the value of differences so we can change our world positively to meaningfully include everyone.
A world where everyone is valued
By interacting with people unlike ourselves, we bring powerful improvements to our lives as we get a glimpse of a world where everyone is valued. It strengthens our self-awareness and helps us learn more about different cultural lifestyles, experiences, value systems and points of view, highlighting our own understanding of the world, allowing us to analyse where it might be flawed.
A space that has cultural diversity is inclusive and allows everyone’s opinion to be accepted, minimising fear towards differences and improving the balance of views. It helps us break down cultural barriers forcing us to confront and challenge stereotypes improving our ability to communicate about differences so we can develop mutual respect among groups.
Building culturally diverse spaces Being exposed regularly to culturally diverse environments makes it normal and opens our minds to accept diverse views, closing gaps in understanding between groups and makes us less discriminating. It helps us see our commonalities across cultures and recognise our many similarities including that we all want love, security, kindness and to be part of a community.
We need to build and maintain culturally diverse spaces at work, school and in our community so everyone feels valued, respected and safe. Simply sharing a space with people unlike ourselves is necessary for personal, intellectual and creative development and enables us to better value people based on their character and contribution, rather than judging them on culture.
Improving empathy and acceptance
Culturally diverse spaces allow us to form genuine connections across culture and meeting people of other cultures who are part of our community, humanises them to us making it harder to dislike them. We begin to empathise with individuals of other cultures, anticipate their opinions, reactions and emotions and become allies to their issues which leads us to be more accepting of their overall difference.
In fact, research suggests when we see diversity in a space, we anticipate different perspectives, so we begin to challenge ourselves without first being challenged. Cultural diversity makes us think about choices and values critically, allowing us to be open to criticism and empowering us to make decisions based on experiences unlike our own which often leads to better outcomes.
Better learning and work success
Culturally diverse environments improve our capacity to see problems from different perspectives and find new solutions, changing our hearts and minds, fueling our ability to do our best work and be our best selves. When we interact with people of different cultures acknowledging each other’s differences, we learn from their experiences and traditional wisdom of the culture which promotes creative thinking and pushes us towards innovation.
We are challenged to see outside ourselves, our experiences, our value systems and our socialisation feeling free to truly express ourselves, develop our best ideas and see possibilities outside of what has always been done. Companies who have greater cultural diversity across their workforce tend to have higher than average returns on equity, lower debt ratios, better average growth and better monetary outcome.
Bringing cultural diversity home
These are some ways you can build cultural diversity and inclusion in your community:
· Organise a virtual gathering highlighting different cultures, learning different culture’s customs, entertainment and cuisine
· Watch TEDTalks, which are short, powerful videos with impactful stories and follow-up readings
· Look up World Day for Cultural Diversity on social media to see what people are posting with the goal to understand the perspectives of others even if you don’t agree with them
· Watch documentaries for personal education and professional development
· Visit the Google Art and Culture site to explore the art of the world.
· Search virtual tours and visit the National Gallery in London or the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington
· Discuss cultural diversity with loved ones by watching a movie like Zootopia and then starting a conversation about diversity, moving past biases, understanding those different to us and how we can find value in every person
· Discuss topics like race and privilege to break down barriers and normalise ‘taboo’ topics
· Take the Project Implicit Test to identify your implicit bias. We all have an unconscious and conscious bias and learning about where these biases lie, allows you to better navigate the world and new relationships.