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All Means All: The Secret to Unleashing Breakthrough Perspectives in Public Decision Making

Good morning, America, get ready for another day divided. Too often, whether it’s through protesters at events or armchair quarterbacks on social media, we find ourselves speaking from what seems to be opposing value sets. And it’s not getting us anywhere.  “The more we stigmatize and demonize those who have different values,” says Gina Ross […]

Good morning, America, get ready for another day divided. Too often, whether it’s through protesters at events or armchair quarterbacks on social media, we find ourselves speaking from what seems to be opposing value sets. And it’s not getting us anywhere. 

“The more we stigmatize and demonize those who have different values,” says Gina Ross on Thrive Global, “the more we reinforce polarization and create enmity, and the less there is safety and peace for anyone.”

But regardless of whether you actively spar or sit on the sidelines, or how you slice your political bread, there is one way all sides can quell disagreements and make government work better for all of us.

The answer lies in what is called ‘informational diversity.’

Over the last few decades, businesses have realized that diverse human perspectives in decision-making actually increase profits.  Companies that have more diverse teams have 19% higher revenue, according to a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group.  And that diversity correlates with innovation.  

We have long known that different group members introduce new viewpoints, information and approaches. Research shows that having a diversity of perspectives on a team – for example, women alongside men, people of any cultural background alongside those of another – triggers higher levels of careful information processing and creativity by all in the group, which can lead to breakthroughs.  This is partly because, studies show, everyone in the group becomes more diligent, open-minded and harder working. 

But here is what is far less known, and groundbreaking.  And when workplaces take explicit steps to make everyone at the table feel part of decision-making processes, research shows better business decisions occur — up to 87 percent of the time, and two times faster.  That means it is not enough to have, for example, women or people of color present in a room.  Thoughtful facilitation that specifically includes diverse perspectives is necessary to cause decision-making breakthroughs.

“Diversity comes in many different forms. How can we be certain that we are pushing our boundaries and challenging our norms in reality and not just in name?” – Joanne Heyman, Thrive Global

And nowhere do the American people need breakthroughs more than in major policy areas like immigration, public safety, health care and education. 

Information diversity, here at your service.  First stop:  Those who crunch public data and decide how government should respond to public needs. 

Here is an example:

Young black children were undercounted at twice the rate as young nonblack children on the 2010 Census.  This largely happened because a greater percentage of black families live in poverty, rent or experience housing instability.  When families double up to survive, for example, they may be missed during Census counts.  The Urban Institute predicts this will happen again during the 2020 Census count.

“Among racial and ethnic groups, only white people are projected to be overcounted,” reports NPR about the Urban Institute projection, “while other groups are expected to see undercounts.” 

Projections show the potential for black residents to be undercounted by 3.68%, Latinos and Latinas by 3.57%, and young children under the age of five, by 6.31%.

This matters so much because some 300 federal programs base health care, education, transportation and other services on census data.  Just as occurred in 2010, those programs will not be able to serve many who are in need.  Less service for all means more problems for all, such as when health insurance or homelessness rises.

So yes, we can continue to argue politics, in between hitting the polls, and be hit daily with policy statistics that are intended entirely to advance certain political ideologies (e.g. less government).  But where reasonable minds exist, how else can America achieve breakthroughs?  Just as companies have seen jumps in innovations and productivity, thoughtful inclusion of information diversity can deliver better government. 

But how do we get from here to there?

Simply put, America needs far more inclusivity-trained statisticians and policy-makers from all backgrounds.

Kitamba and Center for American Progress create new paths forward

One such organization looking to make this happen is Kitamba, a US-based social impact consulting and products firm that partners with leaders in government, philanthropy, nonprofits and the private sector to solve complex problems facing public schools and communities.

In partnership with CUNY Macaulay Honors College and Breakthrough New York, Kitamba just launched a national program to train undergraduates, particularly those historically underrepresented in data analytics fields such as women, first generation college students and people of color, with the analytical tools to make research and government policies more effective.  The inaugural “Diversity in Analytics and Leadership” program launched in the Fall of 2019 in New York. 

The goal of the program is to help students of all backgrounds go on to analyze data and create breakthrough research and policy that includes all perspectives and represents the diversity of American communities. Students receive mentor and networking opportunities that will also help them succeed in their future careers. 

While the program is too new to know if it will be effective, studies about the inclusion of information diversity show that it may have a positive impact, and the gap is large. 

According to Forbes, for example, women hold only a quarter of data jobs. This lack of informational creativity could be preventing breakthroughs all the way from maternal health care to national security.

Another organization looking to make an impact is the Center for American Progress’ Leadership Institute. According to the Center, their program “seeks to identify, equip, and advance a new generation of policy experts from communities of color to assume responsible leadership in the development and implementation of progressive public policies.” 

Again, no matter where you live on the political spectrum, the fact that diverse team weigh-in leads to more careful thinking and creativity from all of us means that opportunities exist for creative breakthroughs in research and policy anywhere you look.

And wouldn’t that be nice.

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