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Mapping Capacity to Deal with Difference: Towards a Diagnostic Tool for Critical Diversity Literacy

Melissa Steyn, Scott Burnett, Nceba Ndzwayiba


South Africa today faces both increasingly radical calls for systemic change from various sectors, and apparently intransigent organisational cultures whose performance in delivering racial “transformation” and equality in the workplace has been extremely disappointing. It is argued that a different way of managing organisations is possible, but that this requires both a commitment to a new set of values, and the possession of the skills to deal with difference, which are summarised as critical diversity literacy (CDL). In order to improve CDL capacity within organisations, baseline measurements are necessary to tailor interventions and to track progress. We propose a preliminary metric based on data gathered from practical interventions, including leadership interviews in a large national organisation, that revolve around five thematic hooks: (1) society at large, (2) the organisation’s understanding of the past, (3) ideologies around change, (4) apportioning of responsibility, and (5) the conception of difference. Ways of identifying capacity (positive scripts) or lack thereof (negative scripts) are proposed and discussed as a preface to future work on deepening and refining the model.


critical diversity literacy; transformation; diversity management; measurement

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