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The First D2K

Story and insights shared by Juan Lopez

On May 17-19 1993, thirty individuals from throughout the United States and Canada gathered for the first D2K Conference. This conference was conceived by a small group of practitioners: Kay Iwata and Carol McHuron from Pacific Resources Education Programs, Inc., Thomas Mitchell from Management Dynamics, Inc., and myself (Juan Lopez). Our vision was to create a learning community where individuals could meet and identify new paradigms in diversity language, concepts and strategies because, we believed, diversity thinking needed to evolve to the next level as a discipline.

The program introduced a simple model that looked at spirit, vision and structure to frame our theme: “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” Using Open Space Technology, which allows participants to be actively involved in building the conference agenda, we invited Spirit into our group and asked participants to identify passionate diversity issues they wanted to work on related to our theme. This set up the agenda for the next three days.

We discussed the following Diversity Dialogue topics: Accountability, Dealing with Fear, How to Develop Strategies to Deal with White Males, Diversity Facilitation Skills, How Do We Move Past Core Perceptions of Self and Others, Measuring Success, After Awareness, Games and Activities, Ethics and Behaviors, Self Interest/Roles, Burnout, Big “D” – Little “D”, Integrating Diversity Into Other Initiatives, and Chaos, Racism and Spirituality. In the sessions, participants shared stories about how and why they came to be involved in the work, how their passion for change helps them continue working in the field and what their organizational diversity challenges are. Some sessions allowed us to “let go of the baggage” we have toward people who sabotage diversity programs. Overall these sessions opened up the dialogue and forced us to envision new techniques for helping our co-workers honestly deal with diversity conflicts.


A common theme for us was the fear that people have in addressing diversity issues.  Many of us agreed that moving diversity to the next level required people to be honest, tell the truth about each other, and, of equal importance, to let go of their individual truths once they were spoken.


Diversity Insights

During the three days I had two major insights. The first came while delineating our vision once everyone had become “aware” of the need for diversity. While “going deeper” was acknowledged as an important next step, we discovered that actually sharing our personal stories helped us go deeper. Telling our stories transcended the intellect, moved directly to the heart, and began to build community. My second insight emerged while discussing the need for spirituality as a way to enhance the diversity dialogue. I shared a technique I used to keep me in an unconditional loving state when working with groups dealing with tough diversity conflicts. I mentioned that, since I didn’t expect conflicts to be eradicated in my lifetime, the technique helped me stay focused. The group challenged me. “We have to commit to eliminating racism in our lifetime.  As long as we buy into the problems as a way of life, they remain a part of our lives.”  Their words forced me to realize I had accepted the paradigm that the changes we want will take a long time.  I realized the power I gave to that way of thinking. The group began to feel it as well; the shift in consciousness was profound.  I began to feel chills, hearts began to open, and at a certain point, we simply and fundamentally agreed that “isms” will change in our lifetime because we don’t want them anymore.


The feeling was remarkable and the words liberating.  Next year our theme will be: “In our lifetime!”


Juan T. Lopez leads Amistad Associates, a management and organizational development firm which emphasizes human relations development through leadership, strategic planning, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

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