South Dakota State University
What has been most instrumental to your progress?
Developing enclave discussion spaces: this aspect was instrumental to making progress on understanding the issue of cultural diversity, especially through including the perspectives of self-identified culturally diverse employees (CDE) in workplaces across Brookings. By convening discussions that included only people who self-identified as CDE within a particular industry, participants shared their experiences with challenges and opportunities regarding cultural diversity and community inclusion in a safe space. We relied on enclave discussion spaces for the Fall 2020 focus groups with CDE across the following large industries/employers in Brookings County: agriculture, retail/service, manufacturing, healthcare, and higher education. CDE perspectives shaped the Community Conversation Guide, which structured the public deliberation in phase two of the project where the entire community was invited. We also returned to CDE after the public deliberation to hold an enclave deliberation using that same Community Conversation Guide. In these follow-up meetings, we directly asked for CDE input on how the community could enhance inclusion.
Progress toward an innovation
We have definitely increased awareness of the importance of workplace cultural diversity and community inclusion. For example, Dr. Kuehl is now on the Visit Brookings board because the organization desired additional board members who could represent the perspective of cultural diversity and making our community more inclusive. Dr. Kuehl was also part of the city of Brookings’ economic development planning, attending two different input meetings in 2022. Dr. Molly Enz was invited to deliver a workshop on intercultural competence for the South Dakota Higher Education Association’s annual meeting in November 2022. Our grant team has created accessible documents of our community conversations during this two-year grant period, which anyone can use or access. For example, the Community Conversations Report of our findings is available online for free in both English and in Spanish. While we would not say that we achieved an innovation, we do think that the accessibility of all of our findings from the grant project will then allow other individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations to read about community-generated solutions and implement them if they so desire.
The most immediate next step is that we are going to continue to partner with BPL to hold a community intergroup dialogue series in fall 2023. Our hope is that the community intergroup dialogue program will become an annual series with increased participation of community members representing a variety of cultural identity backgrounds. We have already partnered with BPL and applied for a small discussion grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council, funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities, to improve upon the pilot intergroup dialogues program in fall 2022. Another next step is that as a result of this grant, we have more people in the community who are qualified administrators for the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). Community members are more aware of local resources regarding DEI work. For example, we will continue to contact community organizations to share information about intercultural competence and the IDI. If organizations want their employees and/or their organization to continue to acknowledge increasing workplace cultural diversity and become culturally competent, that will potentially help make Brookings more inclusive. No
One last thought
The effort associated with DEI-focused work is time consuming and emotionally difficult. As noted above, we experienced a lack of buy-in from the grant team’s own members regarding this work to enhance inclusion. As a result, it is even more challenging to see successful results. If white community members cannot personally identify with cultural diversity struggles, then it may be easier for them to disengage from this work. Motivation is key, and we struggled to get community buy-in at various phases. For example, half of the registered participants for the virtual Community Conversation public deliberation meeting were no shows; many of them attended an SDSU playoff football game instead. We continually reached out to school district administrators because they participated in the community planning meeting in April 2022 and suggested a date for the intercultural competence workshop in June 2022. However, only a few school district employees attended the workshop, and when we tried to follow up with them after the event, they never returned our multiple emails and phone calls. We cannot make people want to develop their intercultural competence or promote inclusion.