Ten Tips to Diversify Elected Office

Ten Tips to Diversify Elected Office


  1. Make diversity a strategic priority

    A public commitment to diversity from the party leader and party president can help attract  new members  and potential candidates from under-represented ethnic and racial groups.  This commitment can be expressed  in ways that  emphasize the benefits  of diversity to party financing, policy development and electoral success.

  2. Formalize the party’s commitment to diversity

    Establish a Diverse Representation Committee to lead the party’s diversity efforts.  This committee should be chaired by the party’s senior leadership to demonstrate commitment to the issue.

  3. Review rules and procedures

    Review nomination rules and processes  to facilitate the candidacies of traditionally under- represented groups.  This would include how candidate nomination campaigns  are funded, conducted and voted upon.

  4. Expand the party’s network into under-represented communities

    Devote more party resources  to developing the leadership capacity of under-represented groups. Use social media, technology and local constituency offices as hubs of political education, skill-building and networking.

  5. Press for electoral reform

    Some urban  centers  have fewer seats than  their population warrants,  and this has the effect of reducing the voting power  of the immigrant and visible minority electorate.1  Addressing this vote dilution could encourage more participation among  these  communities.

    Parties should consider the potential benefits  of proportional representation because  research suggests  countries  with this system have a more diverse elected  office.

  6. Mentor new candidates

    Mentor  candidates and staff to help ensure that the sometimes unspoken rules of running for office are well understood by all party members.  This can also help transfer knowledge from incumbents to new diverse candidates.

  7. Train new political staff and volunteers

    Provide formal training opportunities for political staff and volunteers to help develop the capacity of visible minorities and  immigrants to assume leadership positions within the party. Offering formal training strengthens the skills of all staff and volunteers.

  8. Set targets for diversity

    By setting targets,  political parties can be more deliberate in seeking diverse individuals when staffing their offices, running candidates and making political appointments. For example, parties can aim to field a candidate from an under-represented group  in half of all seats vacated  by incumbents.

  9. Measure progress

    Political parties can track the diversity of their candidates and political staff through surveys. This will help parties to understand the demographics of their organization and track the progress  of their diversity efforts.

  10. Report on your results

    While goals and targets  are important, they are most meaningful when  they are transparent and progress is reported to the electorate.