This time of massive disruption and crisis, from COVID-19’s health, social, and economic impacts to the systemic change being demanded around police violence, racism, and white supremacy has caused us to reflect on our work. Al and I have spent time thinking and talking about what to continue and improve upon, what to change, and what to say goodbye to as we unearth white culture practices and center social justice and change in our work. We identified aspects of our practice that do not reflect our values of full engagement and inclusion, honesty, humility, and joy, or collaboration.
Here are some examples of how we are working to better align our actions with our values, removing previously unrecognized practices that support white supremacy or marginalization:
Recognizing the Room
We believed we had thought through every aspect of a person’s experience during the in-person meetings we typically facilitated. As we revisited and revised our meetings to be effective online, we saw that we were relying on meeting elements that might make full participation hard for some team members. Some of these elements include:
- Hueing too closely to the agenda and working through a specific number of conversations rather than moving at the pace of the group’s discussion.
- Not spending enough time at the start of working meetings allowing the group to settle in with one another before jumping into conversations that require the head and the heart.
- Moving too quickly from reading and individual processing to group activity or discussion.
We now work through this list of questions with clients to better support meaningful participation in our online workshops. We also hope that this list of questions will improve our clients’ future meetings.
Moving from Minimization
As two white people, Al and I are privileged by the embedded racism within our social, political, and organizational systems even as we work to dismantle those oppressive systems. We thought our work was advancing social justice practices and structural changes within client organizations through our collective participatory work and how we modeled consensus-building and facilitative leadership. What we have been blind to are the ways our limited understandings of cultures and cultural dynamics were getting in the way of full and authentic discussions within our meetings.
Taking and reflecting on the IDI and the Intercultural Development Continuum has allowed Al and me to recognize and change how we overemphasize commonality and consensus in our work, minimizing or devaluing the existence and importance of differences. We are revisiting the ways we think about and structure meetings, and our role as facilitator, to create space for discussions of differences, barriers, and confusion so that clients can fully understand their internal context and organizational and team cultures and identify how to move forward together.
What are your values? As an organization, as an individual? What has this time of crisis illuminated about how you practice those values? This moment offers the opportunity for reflection and substantive change. If you feel you are not fully practicing your values, this is the time to talk with your team about what your values are and what you all want to put into practice now and for the future.