A few years ago I was fortunate to be part of a United Nations delegation to Doha, Qatar to represent the U.S. at the Global Alliance for Cross Cultural Diversity Summit.
At that summit I learned of a grassroots campaign called “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion,” marking the annual World Day for Cultural Diversity that was launched by UNESCO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
The UN General Assembly declared May 21 to be World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
“The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live together better.”
— United Nations Resolution 57/249
By encouraging people and organizations from around the world to take concrete action to support diversity, the campaign aims to:
- Raise awareness worldwide about the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion
- Build a world community of individuals committed to support diversity with real and everyday-life gestures
- Combat polarization and stereotypes to improve understanding and cooperation among people from different cultures
The campaign uses a dedicated Facebook page that serves as a platform on which people around the world can share their experiences through posts, including photos and videos.
Once I learned of this, I took the information back to the company I was working for to start a global initiative around the event. I worked with HR and Corporate Communications to create a plan that would engage as many employees in the initiative as possible. I also enlisted our Employee Resource Groups around the world to participate.
From there on, it was locally owned and every company location was encouraged to design their own program that was country- and site-specific and would be relevant to their local employees. The ideas that flowed forth were a true example of diversity and inclusion leading to innovation.
Across the globe we had celebrations featuring Irish bag pipers, Mexican dancers, Japanese Tea Ceremonies and Tango shows. Sites hosted “Parades of Nations” in which participants wore native cultural dress and provided explanations about the outfits including their significance and any special occasions when worn. Blog platforms were created on which employees expressed why diversity and inclusion are important to them. A Hispanic employee group organized a lecture titled “Latinos and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Lunch and Learn forums were held to discuss such topics as “LGBT and Allies Partnerships,” “Disabilities Awareness,” and “Creating Inclusive Work Environments.” Attendees at the events learned more about the local Employee Resource Groups and many signed up to join.
Overall, our first full participation on the “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion” campaign was a huge success. Many new locations expressed interest to join the next year, and the ones that participated were already planning on making it even bigger and better the following year.
Breaking a concept as broad as diversity and inclusion up into digestible activities and finding something that can be relevant to an entire global workforce are keys to building and sustaining a successful diversity and inclusion initiative. The “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion” campaign is an excellent way to achieve this.