Designathon 2021

[ D e s i g n   f o r  D i v e r s i t y ]

What does it mean to Design for Diversity?

The use of the term "Design" is used broadly here, because all of us are designers. You designed the route you took to work just as you designed what you ate for breakfast, and those decisions were made consciously or unconsciously. That’s powerful because it means you have agency. It means you can begin to locate and re-design what may be inequitable processes in whatever you do.

DESIGN is the creation of a plan to build an object, system, or human interaction.

DIVERSITY is the presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective. Populations that have been-and remain- underrepresented among practitioners in the field and marginalized in the broader society.

EQUITY is promoting justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.

INCLUSION is an outcome to ensure those that are diverse actually feel and/or are welcomed. Inclusion outcomes are met when you, your institution, and your program are truly inviting to all. To the degree to which diverse individuals are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes and development opportunities within an organization or group.


Why is Diversity important?

The moral or social justice case asserts that each person has value to contribute, and that we must address barriers and historical factors that have led to unfair conditions for marginalized populations. For example, racial equity refers to what a genuinely non-racist society would look like, where the distribution of society’s benefits and burdens would not be skewed by race, and individuals would be no more or less likely to experience them due to the color of their skin. From a moral perspective, nonprofits are created to improve society and as such they should be diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

The economic case is based on the idea that organizations and countries that tap into diverse talent pools are stronger and more efficient. Economists see discrimination as economic inefficiency – the result of a systematic misallocation of human resources. In fact, the Center For American Progress finds that workplace discrimination against employees based on race, gender or sexual orientation costs businesses an estimated $64 billion annually. That amount represents the annual estimated cost of losing and replacing more than 2 million American workers who leave their jobs each year due to unfairness and discrimination. In this argument, organizations should become more diverse and inclusive because it makes economic sense to leverage the talent pools of different populations.

The market case states that organizations will better serve their customers if they reflect the diversity of their market base. A dramatic demographic shift is under way in the U.S., which will be majority non-white around 2043 according to the Census Bureau. In the private sector, companies such as Deloitte recognize the buying power of minority populations and highlight that diversity is critical to growing market share and bottom line. In the nonprofit sector, clients are our customers, and they want to see themselves represented in the organizations that serve them. Donors are also customers, and organizations and their clients can benefit from the resources of different groups. What’s more, organizations with diverse leadership are more likely to understand the needs of a diverse client base.

The results case is that diverse teams lead to better outputs. Scott Page, author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies, uses mathematical modeling and case studies to show how diversity leads to increased productivity. His research found that diverse groups of problem solvers outperform the groups of the best individuals at solving problems. Diverse nonprofit organizations, and the diversity of perspectives within them, will lead to better solutions to social problems.


Mixed Reality Lab
463, Nancy Randolph Davis
Stillwater, OK 74078


Phone: 405-744-9524