In 2020, hiring for diversity, equity and inclusion roles surged. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, three years later – amid recession fears – companies are cutting DEI leadership positions at a rapid and disproportionate rate, leaving practitioners to seek new ways of continuing efforts to create welcoming work environments.
Dialogue for Change, a new online certificate program from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP) delivered through eCornell, provides a fresh approach to DEI for team managers and supervisors, executives and all employees interested in building equitable cultures.
“The certificate focuses on four key development areas: human connection, social identity, intergroup communication and strategic change,” said Adi Grabiner-Keinan, executive director for academic DEI education and director of the IDP. “Our goals are to develop participants’ awareness around the four development areas and to strengthen their capacity to make meaningful change at personal, interpersonal and institutional levels.”
Together with Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education and professor in the Cornell ILR School, Grabiner-Keinan is co-author of the Dialogue for Change certificate. The duo intends for the program to help professionals promote sustainable institutional change no matter their position on the organizational chart.
In three courses – Counteracting Unconscious Bias, Dialogue Across Difference and Strategic Influence – participants learn and practice skills for intentional connection and communication, and examine ways to impact change in different spheres of influence, including within their teams and organizations. These skills, according to Grabiner-Keinan, are crucial well beyond the field of DEI.
“Skills such as active and generative listening, strategic questioning, purposeful sharing, perspective-taking, withholding judgment and questioning assumptions allow us to lead, communicate and collaborate effectively,” Grabiner-Keinan said. “They enable us to broaden our perspective, learn from a variety of people and situations, bring people together, think creatively and create meaning and vision. Unfortunately, such skills are seldom taught in schools or colleges.”
Dialogue for Change engages students in weekly live sessions. Trained IDP facilitators guide participants through practice conversations within small groups of experts and peers. Each dialogue builds on earlier coursework, enabling the cohort to use new knowledge in real time. Students who complete the program earn professional development credit hours toward human resources and project management certifications.
Each student who earns the Dialogue for Change certificate, Grabiner-Keinan says, will recognize their power to foster inclusion, connection and equity in any role. “An integral part of this program is to identify the agency and responsibility that each of us has. It’s true that leaders and supervisors have more power in institutions, but this program helps people understand that they all have power to make change interpersonally and institutionally within their workplaces.”