Definitions of Inclusiveness and Inclusive Organizations


Diversity describes one aspect of inclusiveness: the extent to which an organization has people from diverse backgrounds or communities involved as board members, staff, and/or volunteers.

Inclusive organizations, on the other hand, not only have diverse individuals involved but, more importantly, they are learning-centered organizations that value the perspectives and contributions of all people, and they incorporate the needs, assets, and perspectives of communities of color into the design and implementation of universal and inclusive programs. Furthermore, inclusive organizations recruit and retain diverse staff and volunteers to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the communities they serve.

Some people have tried to adapt the term "diversity" to encompass the full range of inclusiveness/diversity related issues. David Thomas and Robin Ely do so in their report on diversity published in the Harvard Business Review in 1996:

"Diversity goes beyond increasing the number of different identity-group affiliations on the payroll to recognizing that such an effort is merely the first step in managing a diverse workforce for the organization's utmost benefit. Diversity should be understood as the varied perspectives and approaches to work that members of different identity groups bring." (See Bibliography: Thomas and Ely)

Others have found that differentiating between the terms diversity and inclusiveness emphasizes that representation of diverse communities within an organization does not always lead to deeper respect for and incorporation of the needs, assets, and viewpoints of diverse communities.

The Denver Foundation materials focus on the concept of inclusiveness rather than diversity, except when diversity is used to refer to the presence of people from diverse communities within an organization's infrastructure.

Complete Defining Inclusiveness and Diversity for Your Organization.