Managing Diversity—Fourth in a Series of Five Articles
The previous article in this series on managing diversity and the camp industry discussed the primary challenge facing any diversification effort is organizational change. The second article in this series described the pivotal role of a leader in a change effort (and indeed if a leader is not the right person to lead a specified change effort, he or she should place somebody in charge that does have both requisite skills and motivation). The third article stressed the need for organizational evaluation and assessment prior to initiating a change effort. This current article builds upon the ideas presented in the earlier articles and offers some suggestions regarding organizational change for the ultimate goal of participant diversification. If a camp has a qualified staff person leading its diversity effort and has performed a diversity audit/assessment, the camp is now prepared to foster diversity within its programs and among staff and campers.
Internal Versus External Forces Changing demographics is but one of the many challenges confronting camps and other organizations. Other challenges include competitive pressure from other youth-serving agencies, changes in parental expectations, and technological advancements. Specific examples include changing state and federal regulations for young workers, fewer employees as a result of higher paying jobs elsewhere, and competition from other organizations that offer summer programming. Thus a camp that is intent on participant diversity will still face other external challenges that must be managed concurrently (all illustrations adapted with permission from Kilburg, R. 2000. Executive Coaching, Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association—see Figure 1).
At the same time a camp is facing external challenges, there are a myriad of internal problems that can act in tandem with external forces to create a damaging downward spiral. Some of the forces include co-worker conflict, a lack of mission clarity, weak or inadequate leadership, deviant norms, general workplace apathy, and/or a lack of skills and/or resources necessary for completion of a job. Imagine a scenario in which a camp is faced with a sudden negative outside force for which the director lacks sufficient skills, and the staff members are overloaded with work and are fighting among themselves. Will this camp be able to generate solutions and cope with the external force? A camp administration that recognizes diversity issues rank high on a list of challenges may still have other innumerable internal problems that prevent it from anymore than a mere cursory—and therefore predestined to failure—change effort. (See Figure 2.)
Figure 3 demonstrates the combination of internal and external forces that assault organizations (sometimes on a daily basis).
With such a bombardment of forces, it is no wonder that some camps fail or remain in stasis, unable to make major improvements and advancements. Fortunately, every camp has strengths. These are referred to as balancing or barrier forces (Kilburg, 2000). These can include administrative excellence, strong leadership, a positive work environment, an organizational structure that is flexible and rewards creativity, and a recognition that personal and professional well-being of staff members is of paramount importance to success. These forces counteract the internal and external forces. An illustration of the effect of barrier or balancing forces (BBFs) is seen in Figure 4.
As the illustration shows, barrier or balancing forces maintain a safety margin. Negative external forces are kept outside the core functioning of the camp while, at the same time, internal influences are counteracted by the BBFs. The more BBFs that exist, the more external and internal forces of a negative nature can be managed. Attempts to cope with external and internal forces without sufficient BBFs eventually wear on the camp and staff.
A well-received 2006 study by Linnehan, Chrobot-Mason, & Konrad asked over eight hundred diversity educators their opinions on the behaviors necessary for success with diverse demographics. Four distinct categories of behaviors were found. Each of these can be considered as BBFs for our camps. Camps that do not promulgate and practice these behaviors will never achieve success with diversity.
In addition to the BBFs mentioned earlier (e.g., strong leadership and a positive work environment), these four are the most conducive to demographic diversification. Camps that do not act inclusively, lack respect and appreciation of differences, and are unwilling to confront bias and prejudice within their own settings will never be able to cope with the ever-growing external force of diversity even if they have BBFs sufficient to deal with a host of other pressing issues. These four are the requisite BBFs that, along with other BBFs within the camp, will prepare the foundation for success with diversity. A cultural audit will indicate the strengths and weaknesses in regard to the diversity-specific BBFs.
Cultivating Diversity at Camp
After completing a cultural audit, the most common next step in diversity management is to create a more diverse workplace. It would be reassuring to believe that a camp's reputation, accreditation, and general positive environment would suffice to encourage parents to enroll their children regardless of their cultural background. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true. It is still important for prospective families to see some type of representation of their cultural group in a camp's staffing. Thus the active recruitment of employees from diverse backgrounds is typically the first intervention in a diversity agenda. More specifically, a camp may choose to actively recruit staff members from indicated demographic groups. This resembles an affirmative action intervention.
In addition to inclusive hiring, camps should adopt awareness and sensitivity trainings. It is now common custom for just about any agency and organization to mandate a cultural awareness training, particularly those in the human services fields. These trainings can last from a half-day to three entire days. Through these trainings, it is hoped that we will recognize our own personal prejudices, learn how to respond to diversity in the workplace, act inclusively, and, of paramount importance, treat others with respect.
The final tier of diversity management builds on EEOC regulations, affirmative action, and cultural awareness and sensitivity training. In the past, most diversity interventions were concerned with its legal regulation. And it is true that diversity became so intertwined with legal concerns that composition and compliance became the paramount issues befuddling organizations. Little consideration was given to the positive and negative consequences of diversity for organizational effectiveness. But in the past decade we have begun to see research into the advantages and disadvantages of diversity as discussed in this article series. Diversity can have positive and negative ramifications for organizations and the individuals that work within these environments.
Acceptance of a New Model
Diversity management as practiced in the final tier hinges on our acceptance of a new model of diversity. In short, we are looking at two organizational internal paradigm shifts introduced in earlier articles:
Cultivating Success With Identified Groups
Thus far all of our efforts at diversity have been focused inwardly in both examining and changing the organizational factors that may hinder a diversity effort while fostering BBFs associated with successful diversity. At the same time, our efforts must be directed outward to the demographic groups that are the potential new consumers of our camps.
Camp professionals firmly believe that camps really do have a positive influence, and we have both research and anecdotal evidence to support our claims. But healthful benefits by themselves do not necessarily sell a product. We can use the public health research base to assist us with clarification. The physical and mental benefits of physical exercise have been widely touted, and polls find that most Americans recognize this component of health. Still, only a minority participate in the daily amount of prescribed exercise. Thus, if we want to facilitate a relationship with diverse groups, we must approach them with the knowledge that the benefits of camps will not impress a large number of individuals enough to attend our facilities.
Public health specialists find that community interventions require four steps, each of which is applicable to maximizing diversity in our camps:
Necessary for Success
Our camps will have to undergo a multi-tiered and concomitant number of changes in order for them to be successful with increasing diversity. This article introduced the four most recognized BBFs necessary for this success. Concurrent with this is the understanding that we have to make ongoing outreach efforts with these same diverse communities to engage their interest and support.
While many camps could afford an outside "expert" to lead staff through a one-day sensitivity and awareness training, far fewer could afford the expense of this expert to lead a long-term change effort targeting diversity. And, believe me, this success is a long-term process; this article itself indicated that both internal and external changes must occur, none of which can happen quickly or as an impromptu afterthought. This series of articles has introduced readers to sufficient resources to start the process. We know what to look for in the "right" leader for the change. We have enough information to perform a preliminary cultural audit. And we understand the hierarchy of internal and external changes needed for long-term success with diversity. The next, and final, article in this series will introduce readers to the myriad number of resources available to assist administrators in their quest to create a camp that has the ability to be successful with any demographic group.
Michael Shelton, M.S., C.A.C., C.F.T., is a consultant, trainer, and the director of Camp William Penn, a camp owned by the City of Philadelphia Department of Recreation. He is the author of Coaching the Camp Coach and Secret Encounters: Addressing Sexual Behaviors in Group Settings. Shelton can be reached via his Web site: www.meshelton.com .
Originally published in the 2007 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.