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The Diversity Collaborative

An Action-Oriented Collaborative to Address the Lack of Diversity in International School Leadership and Racism in the Sector
By Darnell Fine and Dana Watts
The Diversity Collaborative

In 2017, international education leaders gathered at the 50th annual AAIE leadership conference. Intent on challenging and lifting the standards of international education and school leadership, a handful of attendees began discussing what continues to be a problem: the lack of diversity in international school leadership. As a result of these conversations, the Diversity Collaborative (DC) was born. Over the course of the past three years, more than 600 educators from across the globe consider themselves members of the DC.

The DC meets quarterly online to engage in thought-provoking discussions to advance the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEI-J). In response to the continued underrepresentation of diversity in international school leadership and now a recognition of pervasive issues of racism in the international school community, four committees drive the DC’s strategic work: Data, Education, Advocacy, and Resources. These committees offer opportunities for educators to draw inspiration from others in the network, while becoming engaged in relevant action-oriented work:

· Data Committee: Collects data and produces and disseminates reports on leadership diversity and related DEI-J issues within international schools

· Education Committee: Organizes and promotes professional learning opportunities related to DEI-J issues and curates a list of recommended Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) speakers, consultants, and facilitators

· Advocacy Committee: Works with accreditation agencies, search firms, and other organizations to advance DEI-J issues across the international school sector

· Resources Committee: Posts and shares educational materials and tools (e.g., frameworks, videos, links, articles, etc.) for international schools interested in making progress on DEI-J issues.

Over the last few months, members of the DC’s Steering Committee also revised and reanimated the Collaborative’s original mission, vision, and commitments.

The Diversity Collaborative (DC) is committed to creating and sustaining a more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and just international school community through our focus on leadership.
We recognize that diversity without equity, inclusion, and justice is insufficient and can perpetuate ongoing harm. Therefore, we strive not only to recognize and redistribute power, but also to eradicate the systems and structures in place that cause and have caused injustice, inequity, and exclusion. We aspire to see the leadership of international schools reflect the global majority.
Realizing our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, the Diversity Collaborative wholeheartedly challenges all leaders, international schools, and associated organizations to address the absence of diverse leadership in formal leadership positions. Concurrently, we acknowledge that anyone in a school can demonstrate leadership by serving as an agent of change.

The Diversity Collaborative (DC) conducts research on the leadership pipeline and recruitment practices, provides leadership development, and advocates for international school communities to (1) critically reflect on diversity or the lack thereof, (2) develop equity-minded stakeholders, (3) promote inclusive environments, and (4) serve as social justice activists.

The first online Zoom DC meeting for the 2020-21 school year offered a workshop on Implicit Bias led by international educator Darnell Fine. Focusing on micro-aggressions as an outgrowth of implicit bias and strategies to reduce bias, attendees actively participated in the workshop by posting in the chat and sharing with participants answers to some of the following thought-provoking questions:

· What do you want your role to be in this workshop? Reflector (reflect on your own bias), theorist (explore research on bias), activist (receive anti-bias strategies), or pragmatist (relate bias to curriculum/work).
· How do mental scaffolds work? A short exercise vividly demonstrated how mental scaffolds help us categorize and retrieve information. They are not fixed but adapted in response to new experiences. Bias also draws on schema, the mental shortcuts we use to categorize information.
· What are common examples of microaggressions (subtle messages that reinforce bias)? What messages are these microaggressions sending? Alien in own land, e.g. Where are you from? You speak good English. Ascription of Intelligence, e.g. You are so articulate. Color Blindness, e.g. When I look at you, I don’t see color. Criminality – assumption of criminal status, e.g. A store owner following a customer of color around the store. Denial of individual racism, e.g. I am not racist. I have several Black friends. Myth of meritocracy, e.g. Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.

As the DC builds out resources, we want to ensure that such material responds to our international school community's questions and self-identified needs. An online monthly newsletter is now available that features upcoming professional learning opportunities led by educational organizations around the world and a list of international DEI-J consultants and facilitators for interested schools. The September issue of the resource’s newsletter can be found here. We strive to update our resources monthly and will continue to share it with the DC community.

International educators around the world are encouraged to become involved in a number of new initiatives. You can do so by joining the Diversity Collaborative here and connecting with the DC community  on these social media platforms:

Facebook Group:

LinkedIn Group:

Twitter: @DivCollab

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