Stepping Up To Diversity I wrote in the last edition of Spearhead (Autumn 2013) about diversity and my journey into it. I talked how on my Adventure weekend, the ManKind Project had accepted me and my differences. The ManKind Project "walked the talk" for me. It was incredibly healing.
I know that many men come to the weekend feeling different or outside the mainstream. For me, The ManKind Project (MKP) does a good job at accepting and integrating all men, but as we say, "the journey continues", and there is more to do.
There is an increasing awareness in the UK about being "politically correct", sensitive to diversity and inclusive of minorities.
Last year the MKP UK & Ireland Council acknowledged that we live in an increasingly diverse country but our MKP community does not reflect this. We are pretty middle class, middle age and white. We could go on like this, but is this how we really want to be? The answer for us was "no".
We are also aware that diversity gets a high profile in other MKP communities and the UK wants to be in step with this.
So in order to do something about this, the Council took the decision to facilitate regular diversity training so that all men who staff 10 or more weekends have completed a recognised diversity training. The aim is to get even better at accepting and integrating men who are further outside of the mainstream who come to Adventure weekends, NWTAs (or the New Warrior Training Adventure, as it used to be known...).
NCBI (the National Coalition Building Institute) was asked to provide the training. It has a solid track record in the provision of diversity training and has received national awards for its work. In addition to this, several MKP men have attended NCBI training and highly recommend it.
Video on Diversity by the National Coalition Building Institute in the USA
MKP UK & Ireland has put on its own diversity training in the past (September 2011) so the decision was taken to keep the momentum going.
In January this year NCBI delivered a Diversity Awareness Training day for MKP UK & Ireland (and others). More about this later.
But what’s in it for me - or you? Why should I - or you - sign up for the diversity training?
Personally I can feel pretty politically correct and holier than many - but if I'm honest, I too have difficulties accepting some differences. For me diversity work is ongoing work (like the rest of the work I do in MKP).
For me diversity work is about stretching my capacity to understand and tolerate difference and in this regard it helps me in my day-to-day relationships. I want to learn more about sitting with the discomfort of difference and not shutting down when I experience it.
I am aware that my unconscious prejudices can trip me up. So diversity work is about helping me expose and deal with my shadows about these issues. As a respected MKP brother of mine says "we all have them". I didn’t realise how much I needed to respect diversity until I was challenged on it.
Raising awareness about diversity and helping men sit with difference is one part of the strategy to increase the diversity within our MKP community. There is more work to do to increase the diversity of our community. This is just the start.
On 25 January NCBI ran a Diversity Awareness Training Day for MKP UK. We had 18 participants comprising 7 women and 11 men with two presenters from NCBI: Royston (a black man) and Wendy (a white woman). Nine participants were booked through MKP. Royston brought another nine. Of the 18 participants there were three black men, four gay men, one lesbian, four people over 60, two under 25, two mixed race. This was truly a diverse mix and an experiential way to learn about diversity.
Some of the feedback received:
"Understanding others' differences but also similarities."
"Making interventions - how to question, hear more and let the hurt unravel."
"Not giving an opinion/judgment and stepping back."
"The importance of identifying my own first thoughts, hidden prejudices."
"To spend time asking people to tell me their story."
"To focus on the person and not the comment they are making."
"To listen and not fix. Make more 'mistakes'."
"Ask 'why do we say things like that?'"
"Silence is still consent."
MKP UK & Ireland will be working with NCBI to deliver more training later in the year. We invite you to step up to diversity.