East County diversity forum aims to strengthen city of El Cajon


Building on the diversity that El Cajon has to offer was the strategy behind the East County Diversity Forum sponsored by Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors on April 4. With 45 community leaders, business owners, residents and public officials in attendance there were four main goals to this first diversity workshop. Strengthen pride of home business and community, grasp a better understanding of the needs of El Cajon’s diverse community, identify ways that the community as a whole can work more effectively together and encourage better communications between residents and businesses with community agencies and organizations.

Bob Olivieri, PSAR president said this forum is a result of the governmental affairs community and the diversity communities conducting a series of meetings with different groups and organizations discussing how people work, live and how to better serve El Cajon’s diverse population.

He said realtor Cathy Hilton put all the pieces together to bring the forum together.

“This lady worked tirelessly to bring this program together,” he said. “I’m sure that this is not the last time that we will get together like this and there will be many more of these.”

PSAR brought in an outside consultant, Dr. Sheridan Barker, Haines Centre for Strategic Management, certified strategic management professional global partner to facilitate the interactive forum. She uses the system thinking approach to create stronger coherence between strategic planning, thoughtful action and achieving desired outcomes for dynamic and forward thinking organizations.

“These goals are why you are all gathered in this room today,” said Barker. “And I have been hearing things in your introductions on finding common ground to build upon.”

Barker said in personal introductions through the crowd she saw people exchange ideas and help that enhanced the capacity for the group to make a difference.

“Often times if we do not have the conversation of how we can work together people often make assumptions on how things should work,” she said. “El Cajon is an interconnected ecological system, a living organization that happens to be people and businesses, associations and agencies. If we begin to ask how do we do this that effectively, it serves every community member. Everything has intended consequences and unattended consequences. Even your best efforts, if they are not productive and well coordinated will cause other problems with another place in the organization or another place in the community.”

Barker said her work for the day was to build a base that helps in becoming a coherent system that best serves everyone.

Divided into groups, Barker had participants have a conversation about the things in El Cajon that they were most proud of collectively and individually in the community as a whole and then to identify the gaps in the community. She said you could not fix a problem if you cannot identify it first.


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