Ethnicity and Power

One comment on my post about messy realities was that the role of ethnicity might be crucial to understand the power mix within and between institutions. While thinking about different (methodological) ways of including ethnicity into Net-Maps while drawing them (for example using differently colored post-its), I suddenly think of an old post of mine with the title “Words can kill” about the risks of using a method that makes realities explicit when working in tense situations.

That post was written as a reaction to discussing the use of Net-Map in violent conflicts. However, what made me think of it again was a simple thought experiment of drawing an ethnically explicit Net-Map within a peaceful international organisation. Imagine sitting down with staff on different levels in any international organisation that you know and drawing a network map of: Who are the most influential actors within your organisation? What are their roles and linkages? Who is how influential?

And after all the drawing has taken place, you add markers for ethnicity, nationality and gender. Compare the results with the general composition of your organisation’s staff in these three categories and with your mission statement about equality etc. If this leads you to thinking that you need to change something, make your strategies and come back in 3, 5, 10 years time to do the same exercise in your (hopefully) changed organisation to see how far you have come…

A word of warning though: I would be very hesitant to facilitate this in an organisation that I work in and want to continue working in. This is the kind of stuff, where an external facilitator who can take all the blame and ask all the nasty questions comes in very handy.

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