Learning from ‘What makes us human?’

From the Introduction to ‘What makes us human?’

“(Appreciation means) that we finally stop putting people into categories and enjoy the discovery of each other’s strengths: city and slum dwellers, saints and sinners, straights and all the others, the protected and the vulnerable, natives and immigrants. When we categorise people, we let our preconceptions guide our attitudes and behaviours towards others. In contrast, when we enjoy the discovery of each other’s strengths we uncover the wonderful kaleidoscope of human qualities available for common action.”

In her final speech before leaving the White House, Michelle Obama focused on the strengths brought to the United States by the ‘glorious diversity’ of her country. “Our glorious diversity, our diversity as the faiths and colours and creeds, that is not a threat to who we are — it makes us who we are,” she said, after citing immigration and religious diversity as proud American traditions. “To the young people here, and the young people out there, do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don't matter, or like you don't have a place in our American story, because you do, and you have a right to be exactly who you are.”
You can find the speech at: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/michelle-obama-last-speech-23...

If this eloquence fails to convince, there are some practical consequences of diversity. At the start of James Surowiecki’s book ‘The Wisdom of Crowds—why the many are smarter than the few’, he says “Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.”

This makes sense to me, but I recently came across an interesting addition to the idea. In Tim Harford’s book ‘Messy: The power of disorder to transform our lives’ he says that when you add a diverse addition to a homogeneous group, then the research shows that the addition of the diverse element leads to improved decision making. So the same conclusion as Surowiecki. What the research goes on to show is that when you add a stranger to the group the following happens:  the addition unambiguously improves the problem-solving performance of the group; and unambiguously the group completely fails to appreciate this. They didn't like having the stranger around at all; they didn't enjoy the experience; and they also didn't understand that that problem-solving capacity had been improved. They just completely dismissed that possibility.
You can find more details at: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2016/11/tim_harford_on.html

And all of this leads to the power of the Self Assessment in the Community Life Competence Process (CLCP). Time after time we have seen how it important it is to bring as diverse a group as possible into the discussion. Geoff Parcell shows this beautifully in his description of a Self Assessment he facilitiated in Curitiba, Brazil. You can find the story here: http://constellation.helsekompetanse.no/atutor/15/content/635/
You can also find it on page 87 of his book ‘No More Consultants’

At the moment, in my country (UK), there are many voices that are saying that we need to restrain this diversity. These voices seek comfort in the world as it was and they would like it to return to that supposedly happier state. And in the extract from Michelle Obama’s speech, we hear her fear for what will happen to America when her husband ceases to be President. Yesterday, the Constellation had one of its regular board meetings. Thanks to Skype we brought together board members from Guyana, France, Kenya, Australia, the UK and India. The Constellation embraces diversity and  rejoices in it. Wherever you are and whoever you are, you are welcome to join us. 

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Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on January 18, 2017 at 2:03pm

Diversity brings different perspectives and strengths and is key factor in successful teams ( my experience!). SALT creates a safe space where everyone's voice is valued. Communities are not homogeneous but starting from what is common brings people together. Therefore for me what is human is crucial step in community life competence process.

On labels and categories- there is a blog I wrote when I got very emotional after a conference http://gendereval.ning.com/profiles/blogs/don-t-label-us

Comment by Jan Somers on January 18, 2017 at 3:37am

Great article Phil !

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