Innovation around building a diverse talent pipeline – an interview

Dan Gonzalez, co-founder of District C

As a diversity consultant, I frequently talk to clients about the importance of diversity recruiting. And with the shrinking talented labor pool along with its increasing diversity, companies and organizations need to start early to build a more diverse talent pipeline. I recently met a fascinating young man, Dan Gonzalez, Co-Founder of “District C”, a nonprofit working to build the diverse talent pipeline of the future, starting with high school students.

Here is my interview with Dan:

Stan: Could you tell me more about your organization and exactly what your mission is?

Dan: I’ll start far afield with a few basketball stats, but I promise to bring it back to District C! In the 1983-1984 season, NBA teams averaged just over 2 3-point shot attempts per game. This past season, they averaged 32 3-point attempts per game ( Wow… the game has changed! It’s no surprise that youth players across the world are preparing for a new style of play dominated by the 3-point shot. Because if you aspire to a career as a competitive basketball player, being a 2-point player just won’t cut it anymore.

Work is changing, too. Employers are increasingly looking for a different kind of talent. They need people who appreciate diversity for the power it brings to a team. People who know how to leverage the diverse strengths and perspectives of others. People who know how to tackle complex, novel problems. This is the 3-point player of the modern economy.

Yet just 11% of business leaders strongly agree that recent college graduates are prepared for today’s work (Gallup, 2018). That’s a problem. We can’t keep preparing 2-point players for a 3-point labor market. In short, District C prepares 3-point players. We teach high school students how to work in diverse teams to solve complex problems.

District C’s programs help high students learn how to work productively on diverse teams.

Stan: What kind of programs do you offer, and who is your target audience?

Dan: We have two programs. Our #FirstInTalent Accelerator teaches the next generation of early talent (high school students) how to work in diverse teams to solve complex problems. In teams of four (four students from four different schools), students work to solve real problems for real businesses. When recruiting students, we work hard to reach every corner of the region and every kind of school imaginable so that we can build teams with students who bring different backgrounds and strengths to the work. After all, you can’t teach students how to leverage the diverse strengths of others unless you put them in truly diverse teams.

And through our Coaching Institute, we train educators and schools to adopt our learning model back in their school communities.
We have reached over 400 students and 40 educators since our founding in early 2017. Through our #FirstInTalent movement, we aim to put the Triangle, North Carolina region on the map as a national leader in diverse talent development.

Stan: On a personal level, what inspired you to start District C?

Dan: The world has lots of problems to solve and opportunities to seize. As educators, we need to do better at preparing our next generation of talent with the tools they need to solve these problems and seize these opportunities. If we don’t, these students will struggle to find fulfilling careers that pay a living wage, and our companies and institutions will struggle to find the talent they need to sustain and grow their organizations.

Stan: Not only is your work interesting, but I am intrigued by your organization’s name. What is behind the name / meaning of the name “District C?”

Dan: The “C” stands for collective. The main focus of our learning model is teaching individuals how to leverage the power of a diverse collective to produce ideas and solutions bigger and better than any one person could generate on their own. District C strives to bring students together from all over the region… students who bring different backgrounds, experiences, and strengths. Our hope is that our students leave the program with the mindsets and tools needed to appreciate and leverage the power of difference.

Stan: How can businesses and the community support your important work?

Dan: Thanks for asking! Two ways that businesses can support District C: (1) provide a real business problem for our teams of students to solve, (2) become a #FirstInTalent Member Organization, and receive all of the benefits of membership, by making a financial contribution.

Stan: Thank you for sharing a little about your organization and its work. I wish you the best with your critical mission in today’s world. So how can people find more information about District C?

Dan: Website:
Twitter: @DistrictC17
Instagram: @DistrictC17

Opening Up Communications Channels Through the Performing Arts

A poster depicting the JTP’s 2019 – 2020 season.

In the past, I have published a number of blogs about how the performing arts can help transport people from their daily lives to gain a better understanding of social issues and diversity. One of the organizations leading this work in my community is The Justice Theater Project (link to my introductory blog about the JTP.)

I am pleased to share that my business, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer is supporting the Justice Theater Project by placing a full page ad in the 2019 – 2020 season program book. In addition, I serve on the JTP’s Community Engagement Committee which helps line up educational speakers and schedule area non-profits to present their organizations at the shows.

This season’s 2019 – 2020 theme is “From Monologue to Dialogue – Open Communication Opening Minds.” This theme was chosen as we head into our next Presidential election cycle at a time when the USA is facing unprecedented division along the lines of political parties, race, gender and socioeconomic status. This year’s productions demonstrate how characters falter when their minds are closed and how they rise when they approach difficult topics with open dialogue.

The season’s first production runs on the weekends from September 13 – 29, “Inherit the Wind.” This play is a dramatization of the true “Trial of the Century” when a schoolteacher is thrown into jail for teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Revisiting this trial is quite timely in today’s world when an increasing number of people are proclaiming science (such as global warming, human pollution and impact on the environment, etc.) as “fake news.” Link to the full list of 2019 – 2020 productions.

Vanessa Woods, Author of Bonobo Handshake, will be our pre-show speaker on September 28th.

At the September 28th show, I will be introducing that night’s educational speaker, Vanessa Woods speaking on “Survival of the Friendliest: Evolution and What it Means Today.” Vanessa Woods, NYT Bestselling Author of The Genius of Dogs and Bonobo Handshake, is a most fascinating speaker and often shares about her research with the Bonobo apes of the Congo. At the September 29th afternoon show, I will spotlighting Other Sheep, a non profit of which I am the board chair, that provides resources to religious leaders in third world countries to promote acceptance of LGBTQ people.

Later in the season, I plan to deliver a short educational workshop prior to one of the shows on the complexities of effective communications in an increasing complex diverse world.

Please consider ways you or your business can support the work of the Justice Theater Project. Become a season subscriber or a sponsor. Details on the JTP website. And if you are one of my blog readers from outside the area, perhaps see if there is a similar theater company in your community, or perhaps consider starting one!