Approaches to Inclusiveness Training


There is no single approach to inclusiveness training; in fact, the different training programs that exist are probably as plentiful as the number of trainers available for hire. Many trainers integrate multiple approaches into their training curriculum. Different trainers may use different terms for the types of training that they offer. Trying to find an inclusiveness training program that matches the needs and culture of any particular company or organization can be overwhelming.

Despite this fact, most inclusiveness training approaches fall into three categories:

  • Intercultural/Valuing Differences
  • Anti-Racism
  • Prejudice Reduction

The first two approaches, Intercultural/Valuing Differences and Anti-Racism, represent the majority of training programs. It is important to emphasize, however, that these training approaches are not mutually exclusive; there are excellent training programs available that integrate all of the approaches and more.


Variables in Training Approaches

Individual, Group, and/or Systemic Level Focus
In order to understand the complex array of training approaches available, the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives for Children and Families and Ilana Shapiro developed a comprehensive guide to various training programs for racial equity and inclusion. (National Coalition Building Institute, The report identified that a major factor in the design of inclusiveness training approaches is the extent to which the training is intended to make changes at the following levels:

  • Individual level (i.e., affecting attitudes and behaviors of individuals and relationships among individuals within an organization).
  • Intergroup level (i.e., affecting attitudes, awareness and behavior among cultural groups within an organization).
  • Systemic level (i.e., affecting attitudes, awareness and behavior among individuals and groups that will lead to systemic changes in power relationships within an organization and ultimately within society).

While the report recognizes that most inclusiveness training programs include attention to all three levels, most favor one level over the other. More often than not, training programs are designed to address the individual and sometimes the intergroup level. It is less often that training programs address the systemic level. (See Bibliography: Shapiro)

Each of the three basic training approaches places an emphasis on the individual, intergroup, and/or system levels.

Focus on Similarities or Differences
Another major factor within inclusiveness training approaches is the extent to which the approaches either focus on similarities or differences among groups and individuals.

Consultants' Training Strategies Vary
If you have decided to hire a consultant to help you with inclusiveness or diversity training, you should note that race-related training can take several forms. Your organization must select a consultant who will provide the type of training that best fits your organization's needs and current state.

You may wish to survey your staff and board, formally or informally, about what types of activities and topics in the area of inclusiveness would be beneficial to your organization. Consider the current level of knowledge among your staff about inclusiveness and diversity, your organization's style, and the format of past, successful training programs that you may have had.


Intercultural/Valuing Differences Approach

Anti-Racism Approach

Prejudice Reduction Approach

Benefits and Limitations of Training Approaches

Selecting a Training Approach