Valuing Diversity and Differences

When people collaborate with others, no matter if they have already worked with them or they are complete strangers, you need to take into account that everyone will have different backgrounds, different cultures, different time zones, different levels of skills and very different lived experiences.

Welcome Diverse Perspectives From Your Members

Think carefully about who your stakeholders are, if they are given fair opportunities to be heard, if certain groups are less represented than others, and if you have strategy in place to ensure diversity in your community.

It is important to be mindful of the varying motivations your members will have behind joining to work on your project. For example, in the case of COVID-19 related projects, you can expect that some people will join you because they want to know what kind of data on COVID-19 exist, some will come with an intention to be part of a group while learning some skills, some will simply hang out to watch what you are doing, whereas some people will join you because they have relatives who are suffering from COVID-19 infection and they want to speed up the diagnostic process. Be prepared to welcome their diverse perspectives into your project.

People Have Different Personal Circumstances

As an individual we may think that everyone has the same working conditions as us, such as access to the tools and resources or their work setup, whereas the reality is far from that. Our colleagues even in the same city may have different living situations, caring responsibilities, medical conditions and resources available to them. Don’t assume that everyone will have equal access or capacity to participate in your project. To create equitable opportunities for everyone, create task lists with varying requirements of time and resources (like hardware, software, reference materials or internet bandwidth) so that people can choose where to contribute based on resources available to them.

Allow Access to Assumed Knowledge and Resources

Working with team members from different disciplines and backgrounds can provide a wealth of new perspectives. However, it is important to standardise which concepts all parties should be familiar with for productive collaboration. For example, replacing jargon and acronyms with clearer alternatives will make information accessible to all team members. Where some technical terminology is necessary, it can be useful to have a shared, editable definitions document. Additionally, it is important to create a supportive environment where anyone can ask for clarification without feeling looked down upon.

Additionally, provide access to resources whenever you can to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to gain a common understanding. For example, if your project idea is based on a recent peer reviewed paper that is behind the paywall, members from low income institutes who don’t hold a subscription to that journal will not be able to participate unless given access to the information discussed in that paper.

Invite Those Who Can Help You Expand Your Viewpoints

Make sure that you invite perspectives from your members who can help you maintain heterogeneity and fair distribution in leadership, methods, dataset and solutions that can be reproduced for different scenarios or across different platforms. For example, when making recommendations based on the selected dataset for health care related research, think if they will apply to different geographic conditions, such as both developed and developing countries. If not, consider what you should change, and who you can invite to help improve your project.

If crucial voices and viewpoints are missing in your project, how can you invite them in? Talk to an expert (such as clinician, epidemiologist, community lead, and communication officer) if you are not one yourself. Always remember that different stakeholders can introduce new but critical and often unexpected viewpoints and help you avoid incorrect or ineffective assumptions.