By Esther Barfoot

As I have written before, I started asking myself: how do we invite more diversity into our movement? Asking myself this question, raised some tricky questions, one of them being: what diversity really means. Then I found this quote on possibly the ultimate diversity.

What do I actually mean when I say diversity? I mean we need to include more people of a variety of different colours or cultural backgrounds. But I also mean a variety of ages, sexes, sexual preference, physical conditions (healthy and people with a handicap or illness) or social class/affluency (poorer and better off). What I really want is a variety of different life experiences, so we get a more complete reflection of society in our movement and with that a better understanding of society, how we talk about topics and approach people.


Then – while I was in a tangle about the above – I started reading Collaborating with the Enemy. How to work with People You Don’t Agree with, or Like or Trust by Adam Kahane. One of the best books I have read recently, because it is so drastically optimistic. All though you might not thinks so when you read this quote from the preface, written by Peter Block, writer of Communities:

We live in a complicated time. It is a divisive and polarizing era in which we respond by constantly seeking like-mindedness.

Peter Block, preface of Collaborating with the Enemy

We have a growing number of ways to meet with people similar to ourselves. We are drawn to people with the same interests, same tastes, same politics. Every time I buy something online, I am told what other people like me also bought. And it works. As a larger society, cities are resegragating into neighborhoods of people like us. As nations, we are voting for politicians who want to keep out strangers. […] All this is why Adam’s book is important. It offers a way of thinking and action that can create what seems like an impossible future by inviting all sides of a question into one room, especially when they don’t agree with, like or trust each other.’


Bam! This quote really drives home why we need our organisations and movements to be diverse. It is just a necessity. We simply can’t afford to not do it. But Peter Block’s quote and actually the whole book does something else as wel. It really raises the bar for diversity. These words (and the book) make clear that diversity entails: working together with people with a different take on things. This might even be people you don’t agree with, nor like, nor even trust. Yes, people that you might even consider your ‘enemy’. That might be the ultimate diversity.


Because, really, don’t we already struggle sometimes when some just has a slightly different outlook and way of being than we do. But the great thing is: this book tells us how to do it. In that way, it is one of the most optimistic books I have read lately. Definitely, a must-read for the engaged and activist world citizen of 2019.