Fault Lines: Cultural Diversity Training in the Workplace

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The Maynard Institute's innovative diversity training program teaches participants how to leverage workplace diversity into a better connection with a company's audience and increased productivity.

Despite the increasing cultural diversity in this country, most of us do not walk into the workplace with the skills to talk about diversity issues across the 'fault lines' of race, class, gender, generation and geography. At best, that means we are regularly missing opportunities to connect with our audience. At worst, it means we are making mistakes that end up embarrassing ourselves and our companies and frequently alienating our audience.

Fault Lines, a highly interactive and customizable workshop, equips participants to recognize, connect with and leverage the diversity around us, as well as to value the diverse points of view we all bring to the table.

Based on the work of acclaimed journalist Robert C. Maynard, who believed that the fault lines of race, class, gender, generation and geography are the most enduring forces shaping lives, experiences and social tension, Fault Lines teaches an appreciation for the ways in which those lines shape our perception of ourselves, others and events around us.

This multi-tiered approach makes it possible to bring more nuance and recognize that there is often more than one fault line at play in any situation. For example, when looking at a 'women's' issue, it's important to examine how race, class, generation and geography might affect it.

Because the framework emphasizes discussing often highly charged issues with the goal of understanding and not necessarily agreeing, the framework allows for honest discussion within organizations, helping the company's diversity to be reflected in its work.

Fault Lines also recognizes that we all have blind spots based on our experiences, and it serves to remind all of us to continue seeking out those with different viewpoints.


The standard half-day workshop includes an overview, a question-and-answer period and a group exercise customized to each organization.

Longer workshops use several role-playing exercises that allow participants to practice talking and working across the fault lines.

Every workshop includes the following topic areas:

The Changing Audience – reinforcing the importance of diversity

Everyone knows the demographics are changing, but what does that mean to news coverage and audience engagement? Using case studies of recent news events, Fault Lines participants will explore how one issue can be perceived using the various fault lines. This portion of the session gives journalists hands-on examples of how to use the framework to expand their coverage.

In addition, looking at a story through the fault lines framework helps participants understand how and why a limited view turns off some potential audience members, prompting them to tune out.

Who wants to be called a racist?

Sure diversity is important. But most of us did not grow up in diverse homes or live in diverse neighborhoods. Talking across the fault lines sometimes feels like we’re about to set off across terrain loaded with hidden land mines.

We get it. It’s hard to talk to people who are different. There is the fear of offending, or being offended. There are so many stumbling blocks, so many opportunities for mistakes. This session demystifies the techniques of talking across the fault lines. Participants will be given the tools to have productive discussions and become comfortable engaging with different views.

Sourcing our coverage

Because we don’t know what we don’t know, it will be impossible to include a multiplicity of views if we rely on the usual sources.

Fault Lines provides organizing principles for evaluating source lists.

Because this is a tool that we hope will bring more nuance to our coverage, we ask journalists to look at their source lists not just to be certain that they have women, for example, but to make sure those women reflect diversity generationally, racially, socio economically and geographically.

By doing this on a regular basis, journalists can be certain they have the requisite sources in their files when news breaks.

Strategies with communities

Recognizing the news organizations are strapped and that the old days of letting one reporter spend a week developing new sources and exploring new areas of our community are over, we will give participants new and creative ways of connecting with their communities.

For example, Maynard's Community Voices program, used in Oakland and Jackson, Mississippi, provides a vehicle for community members to contribute their voices to the news organization. Participants receive an overview of the program as well as some examples of how to harness those voices to meet your coverage needs.

We will also bring examples from the work the institute is doing in Philadelphia, and with the Oakland Tribune's open newsroom.

Institutional and sustainable  

To make sure this knowledge becomes embedded in the fabric of the company, and not just one more effort that will be forgotten in a few months, we recommend that these workshops serve a core group of journalists, either in one newsroom or across a company, who can help reinforce each other and remind each other of the tools learned.

Because each session can accommodate up to 50 people, we recommend that regionally we try to serve the majority of the members of a newsroom. We have found that this means everyone has the same tools and is equipped with the same language that allows them to have constructive conversations about charged issues.

In addition, a 'Train the Trainers' program is available for organizations that wish to take the training in house. Workshops are best suited to groups with between 10 and 50 participants, although accommodations can be made to work with smaller and larger group sizes.

Fault Lines, sought out by those wishing to advance their careers in journalism -- including TV executives, business people and others interested in better connecting to their audience and increasing their company's productivity -- has been taught in news organizations, journalism classes, the entertainment industry, churches, community colleges, chambers of commerce and during Black History Month.


$2,500 per workshop