Agents for change

Green Bay's YWCA initiates corporate diversity training

Posted on Nov 29, 2020 :: For the love
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Diversity is more than a buzzword these days. It’s become a rallying cry in politics, business, sports and beyond.

While diversity training is not a new concept, the YWCA Greater Green Bay is offering a new form of coaching — the Intercultural Development Inventory. The program aims to create solutions for the advancement of cultural competence and intercultural conflict resolution.

YWCA CEO Renita Robinson says given the climate of a global pandemic coupled with a contentious presidential election and growing racial tensions, IDI is an especially important concept. She calls IDI training, which is based on the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, the most complementary to the personality of the region. “It gets at the foundation of the kind of change necessary to do race work,” Robinson says.

IDI training is a shift from the mono-culture perspective to an intercultural perspective, “helping people understand that they’re not losing something,” says Robinson, noting people often mistakenly believe that accepting others will cost them something. “It’s fascinating because it’s disarming. We have a lot of people who are in denial or are minimizing the need for talk about other cultures.”

When the YWCA began the IDI training pre-pandemic, Robinson says about 70 people attended, but the last online webinar drew 900 viewers.

“Our Stand Against Racism participation has grown incrementally,” she says.

Other YWCA webinars using the IDI philosophy include one that addresses racial issues and another that provides people a safe place to ask questions about topics they may not be comfortable addressing aloud.

The topics promoted through IDI training are key in the region, which has seen an increase in the number of people of color. And as the 2016 Brown County Leading Indicators for Excellence (LIFE) Study showed — 30 percent of participants viewed diversity as “negative” to the community — there is definitely a need to “grow intercultural competence,” Robinson says.

“The more we share, the smarter we get about the differences,” she says.

The IDI training is popular; classes are booked solid through the end of February. The initial IDI assessment takes about 90 minutes, and it can expand from there, Robinson says. Companies and organizations have multiple contacts with a qualified administrator who then works through the issues of what comes next.

“When people have intercultural competence, there’s a move against ‘us and them;’ it’s a move toward ‘we,’” says Robinson. “It shatters the silo that makes people feel different.”

One woman who attended the training — Andrea Huggenvik — impressed Robinson so much that she hired her as a social justice program specialist for the YWCA.

“Understanding the developmental model has really helped me to better understand my relationships and communication with others,” says Huggenvik, now a qualified administrator of the IDI training. “It has totally changed the way I talk about social change and social justice.”

In a time of lockdowns and staying at home — as well as witnessing social and racial unrest in the media — Robinson says there couldn’t be a better time than now for businesses and individuals to take a closer look at the IDI program.

“People are logging in and getting information they may not have had the courage to seek before,” she says. “People don’t know what they don’t know.”

ywcagreenbay.org/events/stand-against-racism-series