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How using actors can help drive diversity performance gains

September 2009 Diversity and Inclusion Best Practice


How using actors can help drive diversity performance gains


We’re in the midst of writing up 30 best practice diversity and inclusion (D&I) case studies for publication. These are real D&I success stories from well-known companies. I have been interested in how many have pursued D&I from the perspective of inclusion of all types of difference in their own organisations. This is different to working on bettering the workplace for the 6 conventional diversity strands, i.e. age, disability, ethnicity and race, faith, gender, sexual orientation. The organisations in the case studies aspire to transforming their cultures to embrace all differences to enhance performance, closeness to customers and creativity.


Much has been said in these best practices about the importance of using culture change methodology to obtain the profit generation and efficiency gains possible from D&I. This time I want to describe how to do this by using actors to raise employee awareness of what inclusive behaviour look like and how to practise it. With actors, it is also possible to illustrate the negative impact of inappropriate behaviours that result in others feeling excluded. Led by a skilled facilitator, IDC uses 2 actors to play out short 7, or 8, minute scenarios depicting inclusion, and exclusion, situations that arise in the workplace. Each scenario is followed by different interactive exercises involving dialogue between the participants and the actors who remain in character. The situations have been researched by IDC’s theatre producer conducting short interviews with a small sample, usually around 12, of the client’s employees. This enables him to script scenarios authentic to the client’s workplace and culture and which, therefore, resonate with workshop participants. This use of theatre is transformational because it offers participants: clear pictures of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour; an opportunity to rehearse new behaviour via the interactive dialogue with the characters; a combination of both intellectual and emotional impact.


Many diversity theatre providers use 4 - 6 actors, which can be costly and this is why IDC has developed effective means of illustrating situations with only 2 actors. We  also use several short scenarios in workshops rather than 1, or 2, long scenarios; because we have found we achieve better dialogue and learning in this way. Finally, all IDC’s actors, as well as being fully qualified, are trained in diversity facilitation. Our use of this approach enabled one of our clients to be a finalist in this year’s UK Opportunity Now awards and it is an entry in the 2009 World Diversity Leadership Summit at the IMF in Washington DC this month.   


Dr Ian Dodds,


29 Aug 09

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