How can We Promote Collaborative Learning in a Divisive Social Climate?

Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads. On one hand, many in our field constantly stress the importance of inclusion as a catalyst for innovation in the form of free and empowered exchange of ideas. On the other side, many of us also go online and see a world that can’t seem to find synergy regarding anything, from mask-wearing to racial equality and much… MUCH more. So how do we possibly build a collaborative learning environment in such a divisive social climate?

While, depending on the day, our social climate may seem more divisive than ever, it’s times like this that we must continue to welcome collaboration and dialogue even if it may be painful at times. That said, it is also critical that we return to having conversations that nurture progress even in the presence of disagreement.

So how do we harness the balance between divisiveness and ‘toxic positivity’ (or denial of our situation)? Here are some guiding principles we should employ more than ever when having these conversations with friends, families, coworkers, and even the average internet troll.

SOME RESOURCESEbooks Virtual Workplace Checklist Inclusive Leadership Development PlanWebinars


The ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes has always been important, but it becomes increasingly necessary in a climate that is significantly fueled by negativity and fear. The pandemic has provided most of us one thing in common during these times: shared trauma. While this trauma is experienced in significantly varying degrees by different people, it provides a catalyst for empathy in actionable collaboration that can transcend past conversation.

Empathy helps us achieve a balanced dialogue that drives progress. It requires the acknowledgment of something negative (avoiding toxic positivity), and it also requires a human connection that mitigates divisiveness.


With the ability to understand and learn from the perspective and suffering of others, we can now be compelled to act. Compassion is what drives social progress and business innovation. We live in a unique time where business and social justice/awareness continue to intersect more every day presenting a real opportunity for businesses to potentially pioneer change and learning through collaboration in their own way.


Despite the seemingly never-ending cycle of doom and gloom, we need to understand that it is our collective differences and challenges that make us stronger. The ability to harness empathy and compassion is rooted in our ability to forge genuine and powerful relationships with others. Listening intently, demonstrating respect, and establishing trust are components of inclusion and are vital in work environments these days. By forging inclusive relationships, we strengthen our collective sense of belonging and comradery resulting in happier, and even healthier, workplaces.

Parting Questions

What practices have you used to facilitate or participate in a productive conversation that provided value amidst disagreement?

How can businesses help employees build soft skills that help foster conversations and build relationships and collaboration in order to drive business innovation and social change?

Did we leave anything out?

RESOURCESEbooks |Virtual Workplace Checklist|Inclusive Leadership Development Plan|Webinars | Podcasts