By Ratna Omidvar, Executive Director of the Global Diversity Exchange
Sheryl Sandberg made waves when she told women to “Lean In.” It’s a neat two-word philosophy for what the Facebook executive wants women to pursue: the will to lead.
Pursuing diversity also takes the will to lead. It requires leadership, effort and time. Only then can we proceed from aspiration to concrete action.
Here is where the Global Diversity Exchange comes in. With thought leadership, policy innovations, research, and ideas to serve a variety of stakeholders – the public, governments, employers, institutions and communities.
A caveat. Diversity is a big word. Technically it embraces all of us because we are diverse, all different from each other. GDX will focus, at least for the first while, on the diversity that is a result of global migration.
Around the world there are 214 million people on the move. Put them all together and you have a country larger than Brazil. As it gets easier to move people, capital and ideas around the world, migration takes on new forms. Many people move to stay permanently in their country of destination, yet others come and go and come again, or stay for a short time before moving on to somewhere else. Whatever their motivation, the sheer numbers and ebb and flow of people across the globe add a dynamic, charged dimension to that movement. Diversity – some call it hyper-diversity – follows the great urbanization of the world. Today there are probably more cities that are new hands at managing migration and diversity than old ones. They are in the global north and in the global south, where the majority of the world’s migration occurs. Here diversity is the new norm.
Can diversity bring more trade, more talent, more innovation and more prosperity? We think it can. The evidence linking diversity and prosperity is strong and growing, bolstered by new voices, new research strategies and forms of collaboration, and more effective story-telling. Like them, we see diversity as an asset and not simply a demographic footnote.
We know that our task is not easy. We know for instance that simply being located in a diverse place does not always lead to utilizing diverse talent. We know that a diverse community does not necessarily translate into responsive institutions and neighborhoods. We know that a highly diverse city can also be a highly divided one. And we now know that where there is significant inequality or isolation, alienation and disengagement can follow and can lead to unrest and deplorable acts of violence.
But we also know that for every problem, there are good ideas in policy and action that can offer solutions. Whether these ideas are transformational or incremental, institutional or community-based, local or global, we are optimistic they can help shape and develop more prosperous communities.
GDX will identify, amplify, document and disseminate these links between prosperity and diversity resulting from global migration. We focus on important institutional levers and success factors that link the two concepts: employment, entrepreneurship, diversity in leadership, and – on the frontlines of integration – cities. Through thought leadership, research, and action, GDX aims to be the go-to home and space for new ideas, new instruments and strategies for how we live and work together in our hyper-diverse world
Over time, we aim to lean in to places that are most relevant and ripe for change: small and large employers, public institutions, civil society organizations, national, state and local governments, and the neighbourhoods and communities where problems and solutions often surface first.
We have hit the ground running at our new home at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, which boasts Canada’s most diverse student body. In our new home, our flagship programs are reaching new and different audiences. DiverseCity on Board, already internationally recognized, will now expand from Toronto to six other cities in Canada. Hire Immigrants, our successful interface for Canadian employers will now become global. Cities of Migration will connect drivers of social innovation to new audiences and geographies to enhance its collection of good ideas in immigrant integration. In the fall, our first book, Flight and Freedom, a compelling look at stories of escape to Canada, will hit the bookshelves.
Our formal launch will take place on May 7, 2015 in Toronto with an Inaugural Annual Lecture featuring renowned philosopher and global citizen Pico Iyer, whose theme will address the oldest and most enduring expression of our collective identity: culture.
Diversity drives prosperity, but only if we lean in.
Lean in with us.