In today’s increasingly global marketplace, the business case for diversity and inclusion has been borne out – improved work force quality and morale, better responsiveness to the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base, better problem solving, and higher degrees of innovation/new business opportunity pursuits. Many organizations within Colorado Springs (especially large companies, government organizations and academia) have already recognized the benefits of a diverse workplace. They have moved well beyond traditional compliance-oriented measures and have established organizational climates and cultures that respect all employees and allow them to maximize their individual and the organizations’ potential. At the same time, Colorado Springs has benefited from the efforts of several nonprofit organizations that work diligently to help educate, mobilize and promote diversity and inclusion within our community. The efforts of these “thousand points of light” have done much to support the diversity communities they represent as well of the helping the broader Colorado Springs citizenry develop an appreciation for the diversity represented in our community.
While all these aforementioned efforts are highly laudable and clearly moving in the right direction, more is needed. To allow Colorado Springs to compete effectively on a global scale, we must be able to attract and retain the best talent in an increasingly competitive labor market. We must also stanch the disturbing flow of our young adult work force away from Colorado Springs. As has been pointed by distinguished author Richard Florida in his book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” diversity, openness, inclusion and tolerance are all critical ingredients for communities that want to attract the creative workers that his theory offers will then attract and grow the companies that hire them. In this regard, the image – and to a certain extent, the reality – of Colorado Springs falls short of where we need to be. We are not seen as the welcome, inclusive place for diverse populations that we need and are trying to become. The burden of changing this image and reality does not fall on any one group alone. The business community is clearly a major stakeholder as the inability to attract the best talent can threaten our continued economic development. But other organizations that help to shape the fabric of our community – the mayor’s office and City Council, local government entities, our schools and our nonprofits all play a role as well.
Recognizing this challenge, a cross-section of diversity-minded leaders from across the public, private, nonprofit and education sectors of our community held a series of discussions in early 2005. In those discussions, a variety of perspectives about the current and desired states of diversity and inclusion in Colorado Springs were examined, and the diversity agendas being pursued by each of the organizations were reviewed. The goal was to see if there was enough synergy of outlooks and purposes to warrant further collaboration – could the “whole” of a collaborative approach to diversity and inclusion in our community be more than the sum of our individual efforts. The Colorado Springs Diversity Forum was born of those discussions and today it is made up of nearly 30 organizations from across the community as well as a number of concerned residents. The mission of the forum is to “create opportunity for our citizens to appreciate the rich diversity in our community and to communicate that appreciation to those inside and outside our community.” We chose to organize as a “forum” to facilitate collaboration between the myriad of organizations already engaged in diversity activities. At the same time, this structure also allowed us to apply the collective resources and expertise of our individual members to initiatives that are larger or more complex than any individual organization can accommodate. The Diversity Forum is currently providing leadership in two significant activities – the first: to develop a Diversity Toolkit to provide to businesses in Colorado Springs that wish to establish their own diversity programs, and the second: to host a multi-cultural fair in late-summer that highlights the diverse groups within Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Springs Diversity Forum is off to a great start, but we need your help and participation. This is our community and we all have a stake in our future direction. To learn more, visit our portal at www.cospdiversityforum.org. There you will find more information not only about the Diversity Forum, but also links to a number of other organizations actively engaged in diversity within our community.
Glenn Bruels, is former senior vice president of Booz Allan Hamilton, where he was responsible for growing space and Air Force programs in the western United States. He is also co-chairman of the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum.