National project to examine diversity interventions

29 November 2004

Over the past decade opportunities resulting from the drive to introduce equity and diversity to South African organisations have given rise to a plethora of consultancies in this field. But who monitors the effectiveness these interventions? And how well qualified are these consultants?

Questions like these have prompted a national research project to examine these diversity and equity interventions. This research will be conducted under the umbrella of UCT's Institute for Intercultural and Diversity Studies of Southern Africa (iNcudisa) and with funding from the South Africa Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (Sanpad).

iNcudisa is working with associates from UCT's Graduate School of Business as well as Unisa and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the only comprehensive study of this nature to date.

"We believe this project could help to set standards for diversity and equity interventions," iNcudisa's director, Associate Professor Melissa Steyn commented. The group is liaising with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in this regard.

Because it was necessary to include key stakeholders in the process, a reference group was formed to act as advisers during the research process. In October this group met in the Kramer Building to thrash out the details around a questionnaire that will be nationally administered.

The reference group includes a powerhouse of representatives in the national equity arena, including Vangeli Chiliza, executive manager of employment equity at the Department of Labour; Sebenzile Matsebula of the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons in the Presidency of South Africa; Advocate Thuli Madonsela of the Commission for Employment Equity; Commissioner Rashida Manjoo of the Commission for Gender Equality; Joy Papier, regional manager of SAQA.

The facilitator was Mikki van Zyl, a name that has appeared alongside Steyn's in various research projects and publications on institutional culture and diversity.

"The aim is 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," Steyn explained. "An important outcome of this process is the establishment of an association for diversity and equity service providers. This is part of the growing professionalisation of the field."

The research group is creating a database of service providers in diversity interventions. They are also conducting in-depth case studies across the country, in collaboration with service providers, to elicit best practice models.

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