Home Blog Blog Blog Diversity at the workplace makes things better.

Diversity at the workplace makes things better.


The learnings of a team working for homeless people.

In the Netherlands there are shelters for homeless people. Often those men and women are not only homeless but have a bigger problem: addiction, psychic illness or even a combination of both.. You can understand that working in these shelters is quiet challenging. Staff is easily burnt out or they even resign their jobs after a short period of work. ‘How can I keep them on board?’, was the question the manager asked me.
I organised a series of teammeetings, working with the AI principles. Every meeting was designed in the same way: In th first part of the program teammembers worked with a questionaire about a theme they had chosen themselves, like ‘how do we improve the conditions for a safe workplace?’. After 45 minutes they shared their stories and we ended each time with a personal commitment. I prepared and organised every meeting with 2 team members. After 4 of 5 meetings people mentioned how different everyone perceives the same situtation.
I was glad with that observation: in facilitating the meetings my attention was always with: is diversity in opinion, experience or view welcome in this team? Appreciating the differences, appreciating the ‘no’ as the method of Deep Democracy would say, is very important to build a safe and happy climate in a team. The result was that collegues developed more and more curiosity for the experiences of each other. The team members developed knowleddge, and the quality of their work for the homeless people improved.

What I learned from this project is: – working with the AI principles is always possible – acknowledging the ideas, experience and opionions of everyone means you have to pay attention to the small minority that doesn’t easily come up for their different voice – you need all the knowledge and experience of the whole team when you work in stressfull circumstances like in this shelter. – a humble attitude of myself as facilitator gives space to all the voices.

Karin van Kesteren

Karin van Kesteren



  1. wrote on April 10th, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Cora Reijerse

    Hi karin,
    Interesting story. It is often amazing to witness what happens when people in een team speak up en really listen to each other.
    I have a question for you: Can you give an example of learning experiences of the team? How did they actually work better?

    • wrote on April 11th, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      Karin van Kesteren

      Nice question! A nice example of how they worked better: when something was not working well, normally they asked the manager to solve it, or to set the rules again. But now they tried to find out a way of solving it themselves. Like: safety can be improved by more guards. Then you create a culture of suppression, which gives more unsafety. In their dialogues they realised they had to take more awareness about how collegues are feeling, keep in touch with eachother during the shifts, give time after awkward experiences, etc. Visiting the shelter a couple of years later I saw that many new staffmembers had joined the team. Still they kept up having dialogues as they learned in the period I facilitated them. Apparantly it is a sustainable proces, once they discovered the value of speaking up and listening.

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