The danger of homogenaity

Photo by Daveybot on FlickrJust a quick follow up to my post on who to invite: it’s downright dangerous to have decisions made by people who all think the same.

First, their decisions won’t have the strength of multiple viewpoints.

Second, the decisions will face more opposition when they come to the larger group.

I saw this recently when the City of Ann Arbor was considering creating a greenway through the city. In good municipal fashion, they convened a greenway committee.

Who signed up to be on the greenway committee? The people who are passionate about a greenway!

Now I’m not a greenway advocate, so when I look at their decision, it doesn’t have legitimacy to me, because I don’t think it really looked at the issue in a comprehensive way.

Another example: a local Catholic parish used to have a Life Committee (or some such group). In Catholic social teaching, the sanctity of life leads the Catholic Church to oppose many things, not just abortion and euthanasia but also war, poverty, and the death penalty.

But the Life Committee just cared about abortion.

They were a faction.

And they lost legitimacy for it.

So, if you want to create a faction that will promote a narrow perspective (and there is value in this, to be sure), by all means, only seek out the hard-core fringe of people who would volunteer themselves to be on that committee.

But if you want sound and balanced decisions that will have more legitimacy in the wider community, then you have a harder task ahead. Then you need to recruit not just people who already agree with you and think like you, you have to recruit people with different perspecitves.

And then the hard work begins…

you have to respect those different perspectives.

2 thoughts on “The danger of homogenaity

  1. Ciela Freres

    Chuck, your comments about the greenway task force as an example of a group lacking diversity are whacked. Peter Pollack, Sandi Smith, Jean Carlberg, Larisa Larsen, Peter Osler were supporters/advocates of the greenway? This task force was an excellent example of “death by task force”. Three of the above mentioned were openly holstile to the greenway. Have you read the report? Do you think it is in any way a threat to the pro-concrete lobby in A2? A better example of dangereous homogeneity might be found on the board of the ICPJ where there is nary a lament for a certain unmentionable dispossessed people.

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  2. admin Post author

    I was basing this comment off something I read either on ArborUpdate or in the News about the composition of the Task Force. I should have checked it more fully.

    This brings up another lesson: in organizing, often perception is more important than reality. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, just that it is.

    I had the perception that the Greenway Task Force was homogeneous, and that perception affected my decisions.

    You have the perception that ICPJ doesn’t address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, when we do have a Common Ground for Peace in Israel and Palestine committee that does address that issue and works hard to break the logjam around that. Your perception affected your decision.

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