A Critical Approach to Discrimination in Cultural Work

Lots is happening in Berlin’s cultural sector. A growing number of cultural institutions are responding to societal debates about diversity and equal opportunity. They want to become more accessible, break down structural barriers and become a place for the many rather than the few. The terms diversity and inclusion receive a great deal of attention, but are often understood and defined very differently. Only recently debates have started to include a definition of diversity, which critically engages discrimination, applies an intersectional lens and explicitly centers marginalized perspectives.


There is a long history of critiquing art institutions: Whether these are anti-capitalist, queer, feminist or anti-racist positions, or are critiques, articulated by the Disability Arts movement or the Black Arts Movement, they all demand equitable access to cultural institutions and adequate representation within them. Some of these demands have been advanced since the 1960s. There are also a growing number of initiatives, collectives and coalitions within the cultural sector who challenge the working conditions in art production and the exclusionary organizational structures of the cultural sector. Increasingly these groups demand that processes within institutions are diversified in ways that critically engage power and ensure the redistribution of resources within and outside of institutions.

But how do we identify and transform power structures and mechanisms of exclusion within the cultural sector while critically engaging discrimination? How can we ensure change without tokenizing marginalized cultural workers? In other words, how can we include them in meaningful ways rather than for the purpose of enhancing an institution’s image? What encompasses accessibility beyond the obligatory ramp? How can we create empowering organizational structures and spaces for marginalized employees? How can anti-discrimination be embedded within the structures of an organization in accordance with the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG)?


Initial Consultations

We offer consultations to publically funded cultural institutions in Berlin, who want to make structural, personnel and therefore also programmatic changes. Our approach is to provide diversity-focused expertise and knowledge, which critically engages discrimination. Initial consultations are offered to cultural institutions in Berlin. However, we are happy to provide consultations to cultural institutions and associations outside of Berlin if time allows.

The one-hour consultations are generally offered on Wednesdays or Thursdays between 10 am and 12 pm. Please register in advance by sending us an email. We kindly ask you to answer a few questions about your institutional concerns prior to the consultation.

Workshop on the Fundamentals of Diversity Competency

Cultural workers experience discrimination at the workplace.

Discrimination can manifest itself in different ways:

  • Interpersonally between individuals (conscious and unconscious behaviors and remarks)
  • Structurally within institutions (in the context of hiring practices, through working culture, through the organizational rules and regulation and through other ways)
  • Discursively within society (aesthetic norms, role expectations, stereotypes, othering)

How do I recognize discriminatory behavior amongst staff? What structures, institutional norms and attitudes produce (un)conscious practices of exclusion and discrimination? How do individual forms of discrimination like racism, ableism or classism work?

The aim of our workshops is to support diversity competency amongst staff. We define diversity competency as knowledge about the manifestation and impact of discrimination and privilege. Diversity competency contributes to the creation a respectful work culture.

Our target audiences are institutions who want to learn about the basics of anti-discrimination and diversity development.

We provide contacts to trainers and consultants from our network who regularly exchange on cultural work related questions and methods within the context of our Train the Trainer program. If a specific set of conditions can be met, Diversity Arts and Culture offers co-financing to institutions with very limited resources.

Introductory materials for self-study can be found in our tool box.

How Does Diversity Development Work? Trainings to Develop Strategies

We offer practical workshops about how diversity and anti-discrimination can be structurally embedded within an institution. The trainers from our network focus on a huge variety of topics: mission statements; awareness raising and diversity-focused communication; the inclusion of marginalized communities; accessibility and job applications.

The workshop are geared towards institutions which have already acquired the fundamentals of anti-discrimination work.

We provide contacts to trainers and consultants. If specific conditions are met, Diversity Arts and Culture offers co-funding to institutions with very limited resources.

You can find more materials in our toolbox.

External Consultations on Diversity-Oriented Organizational Development

An initial consultation by an organizational development expert coveys the approaches and methods of diversity-focused organizational development. Its goal is (to continue) to grow diversity within the institution as well as dismantle existing exclusionary mechanisms impacting marginalized cultural workers.

Consultations are geared towards Berlin cultural institutions who want to initiate a long-term, structural process of change and takes approximately two hours. A prerequisite for utilizing this service is the participation of managers and staff in leadership roles.

Initial consultations are led by the following external organizational development experts: Sohal Behmanesh, Songül Bitiş, Miriam Camara, Sophie B. Naini, Lena Nising, Toan Nguyen, Nurêy Özer, Anja Schütze.

You can find a basic course on diversity-focused organizational development in our toolbox.

Anti-discrimination, Affirmative Action & Good Practice in Cultural institutions

Strengthening Anti-discrimination and Creating a Complaints Office

Through roundtables and focus groups with marginalized cultural workers we know that cultural workers of Color and cultural workers with disabilities are disproportionately faced with discrimination, violence and structural barriers within organizations. How discriminatory dynamics within institutions can lead to the exclusion of marginalized employees is depicted in the diagram  “The ‘Problem’ Woman of Colour in the Workplace  created by the organization CoCo. The Equal Treatment Act (AGG) requires employers, including cultural institutions, to offer professional development training to employees, which aligns with the AGG. This applies especially to employees who manage staff. During the training the following questions are discussed: What does the AGG mean for operational practices? What does it take to set up a complaints office within an institution? What needs to be considered when setting up a complaints office and what would a confidential complaint process look like? The UN- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was implemented in 2009, requires publically funded organizations to dismantle barriers for people with disabilities, create access and thus allow for cultural participation.


Project ADA - Antidiskriminierung in der Arbeitswelt (Anti-Discrimination in the World of Work) in cooperation with Bremer Netzwerk gegen Diskriminierung (Bremen Network Against Discrimination) published a guide detailing how a complaints office in accordance with the AGG can be set up inside an institution.


The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency’s expert opinion “Beschwerdeverfahren nach § 13 AGG” (Complaints Office and Complaints Procedure According to § 13 AGG) addresses legal questions related to setting up a complaints office and procedure.


On the Alice Salomon School of Applied Sciences Berlin (ASH)’s webpage “Hilfe bei Diskriminierung?” (How to get help when facing discrimination) you can find tips on how to address and further engage anti-discrimination within your institution.


Berlin University of the Arts issued a directive to protect against (sexual) discrimination, harassment, and violence.


Hochschule für Schauspielkunst Ernst Busch (HfS) has published a directive to protect against sexual harassment, discrimination, violence and abuse of power at HfS.

The Basics of Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action is a set of measures to counter discrimination within an institution and to ensure the support of marginalized people or groups. The following recommendations and guides present information about legal frameworks. They discuss how structural discrimination can be dismantled and access to equal opportunity increased. Also, they outline what situations call for what kind of affirmative action measures and how and by whom these measures can be applied.


Diversitätsorientierte Nachwuchsförderung und Personalgewinnung im Kunst und Kulturbereich (Diversity-Oriented Promotion of Young Talent and Recruitment within the Arts and Cultural Sector). Stiftung Genshagen, KIWit 2020

A recommendation by Sophie Ali Bakhsh Naini and Lena Prabha Nising offers information on steps cultural institutions can take to ensure that their future work force reflects the diversity of the German society.


Forschung der Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes auf einen Blick: Positive Maßnahmen (Research by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency at a Glance: Affirmative Action)

The expert opinion by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency looks at the legal requirements, benefits and success factors of affirmative action.


Positive Maßnahmen? Positiv für Ihr Unternehmen! (Affirmative Action? A Positive Measure for your company!) basis & woge e.V., 2013

How do I recognize discrimination in my institution and what can I do to dismantle it? This brochure focuses on the topic of migration and introduces a broad spectrum of affirmative action measures and their specific legal contexts.


 “Positive Maßnahmen – kurz und knapp“ (Affirmative Action in a Nutshell). Heinrich Böll-Stiftung, 2011

The brochure depicts how affirmative action measures can be applied to eradicate discrimination and support disadvantaged groups: “What affirmative action measures are there outside of the quota? How can they lead to the dismantling of discrimination and more equal opportunity?”

Good practice in Cultural Institutions

Festival Theaterformen developed guidelines, which critically engage discrimination and aim to identify and dismantle structural and programmatic exclusion. This includes “the reflection of work processes within the institution as well as an analysis of an organization’s public presentation and outreach. Furthermore, the guidelines discuss responses to discrimination in festival work and a set up possible anti-racist strategies for the future.”


Sophiensæle, a production and performance venue for independent theater in Berlin, developed a series of measures to improve accessibility to their venue and programs as well as become more inclusive of artists and cultural workers with disabilities. Over the course of the last several years measures included: The obligatory ramp, early boarding and audio description for blind and visually impaired people. 


The Museum am Rothenbaum Hamburg developed institutional rules and regulations, which also address responses to discriminatory remarks and behaviors by museum visitors.

In reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement the Metropolitan Museum of Art developed an anti-racist action plan, which includes a host of measures to address racial discrimination within organizational structures and programming.

Diversity Arts Culture’s Publications, Expert opinions and Projects

Publication „Wir hatten da ein Projekt … Diversität strukturell denken“ (We Once Supported a Project ...a Structural Approach to Diversity)

The title of this publication “We Once Supported a Project …” alludes to ‘projectitis’, the reduction of diversity development to projects. Too often diversity development within the cultural sector only happens selectively and is not engaged within the structure of an institution.

This publication is an Interjection. It calls for diversity-oriented structural change. It brings together voices from cultural institutions – cultural workers and activists – who critically engage and name discriminatory structures and have developed methods to change them. After an examination of the current status quo of Berlin’s cultural sector, the publication focuses on the conditions required for successful structural diversity development within institutions.

Study „Vielfalt in Kultureinrichtungen“ (Diversity in Cultural Institutions) (2020/2021)

We commissioned the “Vielfalt Entscheidet – Diversity in Leadership“ team of Citizens For Europe to conduct basic research within Berlin’s cultural sector in order to set up our data-driven study “Diversity in Cultural Institutions”. Part of the assignment included collecting data from employees at three cultural institutions in Berlin through an online survey. The goal of the survey was to assess how diverse Berlin’s cultural institutions are as it relates to personnel.

Furthermore, we wanted to get a better understanding of the institutional climate at the respective institutions and have employees evaluate how effective diversity and equal opportunity strategies and measures are within their own work place. Additionally, CFE asked staff about needs related to consulting and diversity development e.g. processes of diversifying.

Networking, Exchange and Reflection: Creating a Space for Cultural Workers of Color in Cultural Institutions (2020)

Cultural institutions, which focus on diversity development often neglect to create empowerment spaces for marginalized cultural workers. Perspectives and spaces for exchange between cultural workers of Color in cultural institutions are still often missing. This workshop was geared towards cultural workers of Color and was led by Sohal Behmanesh und Songül Bitiş.

The empowerment compass offers more information to marginalized artists and cultural workers interested in strategies and recommendations about working in the cultural sector.

Diversity Development at Stadtmuseum Berlin and Theater an der Parkaue (2018/2019)

Over a period of two years Stadtmuseum Berlin and Theater an der Parkaue participated in a pilot project on behalf of Diversity Arts Culture and received support from organizational development experts throughout this period. An interview conducted with museum staff and organizational development experts within the context of our publication Wir hatten da ein Projekt … Diversität strukturell denken“ (We Once Supported a Project... a Structural Approach to Diversity) offers practical insights into the process. Paul Spies speaks in an interview with Natalie Bayer, Eylem Sengezer and Sandrine Micossé-Aikins, about his role as museum director throughout the process.

Doing Diversity – An International Best Practice Exchange about Diversity-Oriented Strategies and Approaches amongst Management (2018)

There are many debates about representation and diversity in the performing arts. But what strategies, institutional practices and manners of speaking does it require to create sustainable structures, which make diverse programming and a diverse workforce possible? What is the relationship between artistic quality and diversity? What role do artistic directors and managers take on in diversity processes? The two-day networking meeting in 2018 was organized in cooperation with the British Council and the Arts Council England. Hassan Mahamdallie (Arts Council England), Ben Evans (British Council) and Claire Saddelton (Arts Council England) were invited to talk about their experiences with funding practices, cultural-political steering tools and the collection of equality data. Kwame Kwei-Armah und Sue Emmas (Young Vic, London) gave practical insights into the status quo of aesthetic questions and institutional approaches.

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