Diversity Institute: Evidence based research and social innovation
"What gets measured gets done" Diversity Institute (DI) promotes evidence to advance inclusion and accountability with its pioneering methodology, Diversity Leads. Diversity Leads tracks racialized minorities and women in leadership roles as well as media representation across sectors in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Canada and around the world.
DI has also drawn attention to the issues of intersectionality and provides research on the underrepresentation of specific populations including Somali-Canadians, homeless racialized LGBTQ youth, and Muslim women. DI not only shines a light on the problems of discrimination but also provides tools for achieving success in spite of it.
Founded in 1999 and inspired by the Montréal Massacre, DI initially focused on women in technology. In 2006 Margaret Yap joined and brought a focus on career satisfaction and advancement among racialized minorities. Diversity Leads was launched in 2011 which is a partnership of 30 organizations funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). As the team expanded so did the range of issues. The team is largely self-led and DI is an incubator providing an environment where opportunities can be identified and pursued.The Focus: Our focus is on undertaking rigorous research that informs organizational and policy change as well as to assess and define best practices. The work is directed toward improving inclusion for women, racialized minorities, immigrants and refugees, indigenous people, LGBTQ people and persons with disabilities by focusing attention on gaps in organizational practices and policies.
Making a Difference:
The methodology has been praised by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The data has been used to drive change in the appointment process for the Supreme Court of Canada and improve diversity at the Global and Mail. In addition, the Scarborough East Hospital’s Diversity Plan was developed based on the application of the Diversity Assessment Tool. Urban Alliance for Race Relations was able to look into specific challenges faced by the Somali population or homeless racialized LGBTQ youth. DI has helped incubate and jump-start innovative diversity and inclusion oriented initiatives including the Madeleine Collective, the Global Diversity Exchange, nPower, Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, Scadding Court’s Business in a Box, Suppa Masai and more.
DI has tackled ideological (social justice versus “business case”) and the theory versus practice divides in order to build partnerships between NGOs, government and the private sector. As the research shows, bringing together people from diverse background produces rewards but also has high “coordination costs” and requires “code switching.” By finding common ground it has been very effective in terms of bringing together more than “the usual suspects.”
Lack of core funding, space, and changes in personnel within the DI as well as its partner organizations have presented challenges. Juggling administrative and research roles have also placed a heavy burden on its leadership.
Vision for the Future:
Our vision is to offer a framework that can be adapted in a variety of contexts to assess and “measure” diversity in order to promote the development and implementation of concrete evidence based strategies that advance inclusion. We address issues around methods and ideologies in order to bridge the gaps between key stakeholders. Our framework –the critical ecological model – is being tested in a variety of contexts to bridge perspectives and offer a multilayered strategy to addresses societal change, organizational change as well as individual agency and choice.
In practical terms, we are working to formally expand the DI into a network including researchers, NGOs, government and private sector organizations across Canada and around the world.
We have produced actionable data that informs practice. Our projects have offered insight into the challenges and evidence based solutions for racialized minorities and Aboriginal people. About Diversity Institute – Ryerson University Ted Rogers School of Management's Diversity Institute at Ryerson University was founded in 1999 with the aim of undertaking research on diversity in the workplace to improve practices. Working with NGOs, Government, Private Sector Organizations and academics around the world, DI pioneers new approaches, develops customized strategies, programming, and tools to advance research and practice about diversity with respect to gender, race/ethnicity, Aboriginal peoples, abilities, and sexual orientation.