Advice from an international DEI expert


Although traditionally considered a business skill, the tools of negotiation are just as important, if not more so, for those seeking to effect social change. From institutions of higher learning to community organizations, all advocates can apply the tools of negotiation to raise awareness and buy-in to the causes they feel are most needed.

Present indisputable data

Although the issues we choose to support are often deeply meaningful to us, other people may need convincing. Preparation is key to any successful trading strategy, but community advocates have a slightly different approach to take. Rather than searching for a counterpart, your time is better spent proving there is a problem that needs fixing.

Dr. James L. Moore, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer for The Ohio State University, joined negotiate anything to describe his approach and how it led to the creation of the award-winning Todd Bell National Resource Center at The Ohio State University.

“In 2000, there was a movement across the country to start thinking about men’s studies: the situation around different racial groups within the male population,” he explained. “The university recognized that when you disaggregated the data, the group that always lagged was black males.”

Expect resistance and be prepared for a response

For those passionate about advocating for vulnerable groups, it can be hard to believe that others might resist offering their support. The truth is that we should always be ready to resist. If we can anticipate some of the pushback, we can come to the table equipped with a strong response.

For Dr Moore, this meant countering claims that investing in diversity and inclusion meant reverse discrimination for those who are not minorities.

“Resistance is widespread. Even though most people are familiar with this issue, you still wonder why we are specifically focusing on this group,” he shared.

In preparation for the conversation, take the time to think through all the possible objections your interviewer might raise. This can be difficult – especially when the issue you’re advocating for seems personal. Try to make it a group effort or ask a trusted friend for their perspective on potential obstacles.

Finally, don’t forget the data. Once you identify where the resistance lies, find research to support the fact that investing in your cause is always the best opportunity for everyone.

Start with the people who get it

When looking for champions for your cause, it will be easier to start with people who are already convinced of its importance. This doesn’t mean avoiding difficult conversations with those who can resist, but rather focusing your energy on those who have both the skills and the passion.

When reviewing the long-term DEI strategy for the State of Ohio and the goals of the Todd Bell National Resource Center, Dr. Moore deployed this strategy with student engagement.

“We wanted to reward students who work very hard academically but also try to make the world a better place,” Dr Moore explained. “You don’t have to convince these students of the importance of this work.”

Don’t be afraid to do something different

From internal Ohio State conversations to external meetings with corporate partners, Dr. Moore is a firm believer that organizations need to embrace difference.

“I tried to convince my director at the time to allow us to think about certain things differently by asking the question ‘what is the role of higher education in advancing our democracy?'”

Likewise, before negotiating a $2.5 million investment deal with JP Morgan Chase, he offered the same advice to their C-Suite management.

“If you want talent and diversity, you have to do something different than what you’ve always done before.”

To learn more about Dr. James L. Moore, III or the Todd Bell National Resource Center, visit To listen to the full episode, click here.


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