June 24, 2014How Diverse and Inclusive Is Your Organization?

Measuring diversity and inclusion for any given organization can look like a simple task at the outset. You count people — by race or ethnicity, by gender or sexual orientation or gender identity, by physical ability or age — and then you see how well your count aligns with the demographics of the community you serve.

The problem is that counting people does not automatically translate into people counting — or an inclusive organization where every person’s ideas and contributions are heard and respected.

According to Mitchell Hammer, Ph.D., one of the major challenges faced by nonprofits as they respond to changing demographics is “increasing the intercultural competence of this more diverse set of leaders and staff.”

Dr. Hammer, who has founded several organizations that focus on social change, writes that “building intercultural competence involves:

  • Increasing cultural self-awareness;
  • Deepening understanding of the experiences, values, perceptions and behaviors of people from diverse cultural communities; and
  • Expanding the capability to shift cultural perspective and adapt behavior to bridge across cultural difference.”

An inclusive organization is one that exhibits intercultural competence. And intercultural competence is something that can be measured — and purposefully improved.

Although there are number of assessment tools available to organizations that want to measure and improve intercultural competence, Hammer cautions that “assessment can be helpful or harmful to the mission of the nonprofit, depending on whether the assessment focus is aligned with the goals of the nonprofit and whether the assessment tool is cross-culturally valid and generalizable across a wide range of diverse communities.”

The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), an assessment tool developed by Hammer, has been used in corporate, government, nonprofit, and education settings around the world, and is widely accepted as a reliable and valid measure of intercultural competency.

The Council for Michigan Foundations (CMF) recently used the IDI as a central component of an innovative pilot program to help member foundations improve diversity and inclusion within their own organizations. Participants that included The Skillman Foundation, Michigan Nonprofit Association, and The W.K. Kellogg Foundation sent executive-led teams to participate in a year-long program to improve intercultural competence at the individual, group, and organizational levels. IDI assessments at the beginning of the program provided starting points for discussion and guided the development of a customized curriculum. A second assessment at the completion of the program measured progress at all levels.

In case studies published by CMF, participating organizations — all of which had been invited to participate because of their demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion — reported that they had been surprised by their initial IDI results, which clustered in the midrange of a five-step continuum from “Denial” to “Adaptation.”

Dr. Hammer says that surprised disappointment is not an unusual response for an organization processing the results of its first IDI assessment. “Organizations engage in assessments in order to obtain an objective, non-politicized ‘picture’ of their organization,” he explains. “Being disappointed to some extent is often a healthy response, as it reflects a ‘new understanding’ that would likely have not come about without conducting the assessment in the first place.”

CMF’s final report on the pilot confirms that this was indeed the experience. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, for example, has gone on to have all board and staff members take the IDI and work with coaches to form and pursue individual development plans for improving intercultural competence. An executive vice president with the foundation says that the IDI assessment and development model “has been very beneficial for us as a way of helping people understand themselves, where they are in their learning, and what specific goals or targets they could pursue in order to progress.”

For further reading, check out these resources:

Council of Michigan Foundations. Learning Together: The Peer Action Learning Network for Diversity and Inclusion.

Hammer, M. The Intercultural Development Inventory: A new frontier in assessment and development of intercultural competence. In M. Vande Berg, R.M. Paige, & K.H. Lou (Eds.), Student Learning Abroad (Ch. 5, pp. 115-136). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. 2012.

IDI, LLC. “Success Stories.” The Roadmap to Intercultural Competence Using the IDI. 2014.

Rosenberg, Vicki. “People Counting.” BoardSource. February 11, 2013.


Next month: Is Your Board Ready for Diversity and Inclusion?

Comments are closed.