Cedar Rapids: Six ways to improve relations between residents in Iowa commuities

By Kiran Sood

Source: http://www.wecreatehere.net/2014/02/27/six-ways-improve-relations-community-members-eastern-iowa/

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Ni An, a 22-year-old senior at Cornell College, is part of the area’s growing international student population. The international population is just one of many diverse groups that help make the Corridor a vibrant place. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

As part of our continued coverage of diversity, We Create Here hosted a conversation Wednesday morning among six community members who are proponents of diversity who represent Iowa communities. The group included individuals who work in diversity and inclusion every day as part of their job responsibilities and citizens who are passionate about diversity and the role it plays in making our region a better place.

In addition to our six community members, we were joined by Quinn Pettifer, We Create Here’s manager of community networks and engagement. During our conversation, Quinn took notes capturing some of the highlights of our discussion. I did, too. Here are the six greatest takeaways shared by the group that are aimed to help the entire community move forward:

– Embracing diversity starts with understanding ourselves and “our own mess”

Echoing a theme I heard recently during a course on Cultural Intelligence, the best way to increase our cultural knowledge is to know our own culture better. Before we can attempt to understand people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, we should understand our own backgrounds and what unique experiences we are bringing to the table. We should understand that each experience we go through shapes how we view situations and other people.

– We’re more alike than we think

During the more than hour-long conversation, I asked participants to find a partner to talk with whom they knew the least in order to ask each other questions. After the pair discussions, I asked the groups to report back on what struck them. Overwhelmingly, the pairs reported how much they had in common with one another. Look for opportunities to bond with others based on what you have in common. Go beyond the obvious differences, assuming there is little chance to connect.

– Listen to each other’s stories

There is power in being a good listener. We all have our own experiences and sometimes we just want to share those with others. Look for opportunities to have meaningful conversations and hear people’s perspective and stories. Create a space to have open conversations. Come in as a learner and check our own assumptions.

– Create your own magic 

Ask yourself: what diverse opportunities exist in the region? How can I add to the mix and get something started that helps celebrate diversity?

– Get involved and get engaged 

One of the major benefits of living in the Corridor is the ability to get involved and take action. Group members agree you must be a participant in the Corridor to feel connected and happy. Be a participant in your community, not just a bystander.

– Change what’s normal

The only way diversity and inclusion can become woven into the fabric of this community is by changing our definition of what’s normal. There is a major effort underway now to bring new people to the Corridor. Once they are here, are they being included in the conversation? People who are left out of the conversation typically need to be invited to the discussion and welcomed. We should continue to advocate for those who are left out and help minority groups by making connections. For example, connecting minority groups to resources they may not be aware of or have access to. Take the time to reach out and make a connection. Finally, don’t subtly dismiss someone from the conversation because they seem different.