By Carina Bossu and Viviane Vladimirschi

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Latin American project comprised undertaking online interviews with twelve Latin American experts from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay and was concluded at the end of 2020. Preliminary findings were presented in November at OE Global 2020. In March 2021, we also presented preliminary findings during the monthly GO-GN webinar and invited all Latin American experts who had participated in the online interviews to attend. Preliminary findings of the DEI project in Latin America were also posted on the GO-GN official site and were translated into Portuguese and Spanish to be accessible to all. This was an important recommendation from interviewed stakeholders and most relevant data to this study will be made available in English, Portuguese and Spanish. On April 21, 2021 final findings were presented at OERxDomains21

Due to the persisting pandemic, all previously planned face-to-face activities had to be cancelled during 2021, which forced us to come up with and hold an alternative activity so as to validate the preliminary findings and to gather additional data. Thus, participants were invited to participate in a two-hour online workshop aimed at presenting preliminary findings from the interviews. This two-hour online workshop comprised focus group questions geared towards extracting more data that could better inform the GO-GN DEI guidelines for Latin America. The online workshop was held on March 19, 2021 with four participants based in Latin America, who had also participated in the online interviews. Recruitment for experts to participate in the two-hour online workshop was contingent on their previous participation in the online interviews. That is, all experts who had participated in the online interviews were invited to participate in the two-hour online workshop. This was due to the fact that it was important for us during this phase to validate preliminary findings by means of member checking and to collect additional data that would further inform GO-GN DEI guidelines for Latin America. However, out of twelve participants in the project, only four participants agreed to participate in the two-hour online workshop. Participants’ main role was to provide us with feedback and additional data so as to ensure transparent, unbiased and collaborative discussions, which substantiated final findings

Focus group discussions were intended to be a process of reflection where collaboratively as a network and as a community we think carefully about how and what we have done so far in dealing with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and the strategies that are needed to be developed include more participants in the GO-GN network from Latin America.

During the online workshop, we presented data from the preliminary findings in segments and subsequently provided discussion questions based on these findings enabling participants to validate and expand on them. Focus group discussions were structured around the following questions:

  • Discussion 1 – Defining DEI: What are your thoughts on this definition? Is there anything missing?
  • Discussion 2 – How can we reduce the barriers and increase diversity, equity and inclusion in GO-GN? 
  • Discussion 3 – Preliminary findings: What are your thoughts on these findings? Would you add anything else to these findings that you think is important?
  • Discussion 4 – Key recommendations: What are your thoughts on these recommendations? Would you add any additional recommendation?

Focus group discussions were transcribed, and the transcripts were imported into qualitative analysis software (NVivo). Data analysis comprised examining responses to the particular questions in the focus groups, and also verifying whether there were any patterns or trends across the dataset. Although a limitation to this study was the lack of coder inter-rater reliability, this shortcoming was made up by sharing preliminary findings with stakeholders. In qualitative data analysis this is also known as member checking. Thus, validity and trustworthiness of all data were ensured through triangulation of all data collected, and strategies were adopted to assess the validity of qualitative findings by using rich, thick description, member checking and peer review.

Findings from the focus groups not only validated preliminary findings from the online interviews but also brought to the surface some other important issues and recommendations. First and foremost, DEI in Latin America is impacted not only by inherent social, economic, cultural and educational factors but also by politics. This fact implies that there needs to be more awareness of these challenges by the Global North in order for strategies to be effective. Additionally, existing Latin American OE initiative and actions need to be made more visible to the Global North. More visibility is thereby fundamental for Latin America. Second, more collaboration is required to build networks of community of practice and/or research between the Global North and the Global South. Additionally, mechanisms that foster regional networks of practice and/or research need to be in place. Latin American countries may need to improve their network building skills aimed at creating more cohesive and effective communities of practice and/or research in the region and with the Global North. 

Key recommendations from participants included: 

  • raising awareness of the Global North with regards to Latin American OE initiatives in order to be more included in the global scenario; 
  • helping Latin American scholars or early career PhD students to produce papers of high quality in English; 
  • assisting in the proofreading of papers or articles; 
  • resorting to academic journals that already carry out translations of published research into English whenever possible;
  • promoting and holding theoretical discussions on OE in the regions; 
  • having GO-GN through its expertise assist Latin American countries in building more effective communities by integrating members from different countries who will then be able to disseminate good practices in building networks of practice and/or research;
  • offering of virtual spaces (i.e., discussion forums), in addition to face-to-face conferences that may not be accessible to all, as a means for networking and collaboration on the GO-GN site;
  • providing a mentoring/supervisor program for new members that are non-English speakers;
  • building capacity for mentors by means of webinars or the provision of handbooks with clear instructions;
  • forming a community of voluntary translators and proofreaders to address the language barrier issue; and 
  • having GO-GN be more present in Latin American conferences. 

This would enable GO-GN not only to disseminate its work in Latin America but also to recruit potential members. Further dissemination plans for the project are to present a final report of this study, which will be concluded in July 2021. 

Image credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay – Pixabay License