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the deisa project

DEISA (Diversity and Equity Interventions in South Africa)

Though projects that aim to build a multicultural society with our rich diversity are well underway, on the ground, South African society is a long way from reflecting this. Deep social divisions persist within a context of conflict, political upheaval and poverty, while the diversity of the people remains largely untapped as a resource, and is often seen a source of difficulty. While the media highlight race-motivated killings and the sexual abuse of children, important daily events continue to reinforce division and discrimination. The silent, entrenched practices within organisations maintain hidden barriers to equity, and unless they are addressed real social transformation cannot take place.

Increasingly diversity is being recognised as a human rights issue, as stated in documents such as the Declaration of the World conference against Racism, held in 2001 (United Nations, 2001). With the pressures of globalisation and rapidly changing demographics within national states, diversity studies is becoming an area of academic priority. There is an enormous thrust to theorise questions of diversity, co-existence and identity, on which sound progressive policy and practice can be formulated. The research project locates diversity and equity interventions as crucially linked to understanding power dynamics within organisations.

Coming from a position of Critical Multiculturalism of Giroux (1997) and Goldberg (1994), the research declares its social agenda as:

  • departs from a profound commitment to the values of democracy, social justice, equity and empowerment;
  • recognises that the incorporation of people that have been marginalised should not involve a process of assimilation, but a transformation of the cultural milieu in order to bring about new social meanings and representations;
  • rejects essentialised notions of identity, naturalised notions of race, gender etc, and discourses which reify homogeneity;
  • stresses that identity and difference are constructed within specific historical, cultural and power relations.

Overall aim and research objective

Main research question
What is the nature/rigour of the equity/diversity interventions taking place in South African organisations, and is there a need to set standards/guidelines for this work in South African organisations?

Overall aim
To establish the nature and perceived efficacy of the diversity interventions taking place in South African organisations, as well as the orientation and approach of these interventions, and to theorise guidelines for best practice strategies on the basis of the findings.

Current situation
A database of South African service providers in diversity, transformation and equity management has been established.

Research is being concluded in three major centres to attempt to identify some best practice strategies in the area.

An association of diversity providers is in the process of being established. One of its goals is, on the basis of the above, to formulate recommendations for possible registration with SAQA, which could inform training qualifications with SAQA and SETAs.

Future tasks
The outcomes of this research forms the basis for a proposal on materials production which involves a process of further in-depth theorisation leading to the development of methodological models for diversity interventions. Practical resources such as train-the-trainer materials, suggested readings, a CD-ROM, and manuals will be developed.

Giroux, H. A. (1997a). Racial politics and the pedagogy of whiteness. In M. Hill (Ed.), Whiteness: A critical reader. New York: New York University Press.
Giroux, H. A. (1997). Rewriting the discourse of racial identity: Towards a pedagogy and
politics of whiteness. Harvard Educational Review, 67(2), 285-320.
Goldberg, D. T. (Ed.). (1994). Multiculturalism: A critical reader. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

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