Photo: Peter Bury

A few short notes from an Open Space conversation at the IAF EME Conference #agilefac2019 in Milan. We discussed the role of facilitation in promoting diversity and inclusion:

  • How can facilitators work to balance dynamics of power and privilege in groups? 
  • What’s a facilitator’s responsibility to prevent harm? 
  • How can facilitator’s help to promote equity and inclusion? 

Diversity is important. It’s also a complex topic that humans – and facilitators – struggle with. We want our differences to become a source of shared power instead of separation, and yet we are dealing with powerful patterns, structures and systems that keep us apart.

A forest ecosystem – thriving in diversity. Photo: yashima/Flickr

I’ve included the full graphic recording of the session below. Some take-aways for me were: 

Participatory processes already help
When brainstorming strategies and tools, we realized that we already possess a wealth of possibilities to weave connections and bring in a variety of voices: Storytelling and listening, visualizing diversity across the group, making things together, working in affinity groups and other facilitated methods.

Taking a position is not optional
When power dynamics assert themselves in a group, a neutral stance only reinforces the status quo. Instead, facilitators and organizers have a responsibility to protect and amplify marginalized voices. This includes actively inviting underrepresented groups, ensuring a code of conduct for the event and encouraging voices that are missing from the conversation.

We all need to learn
Racism, sexism and other systems of oppression are deeply embedded in our society; that means no group or no individual is fully free of them. What we can do is learn how they manifest themselves, where they come from and how they affect us and others. A good first step for facilitators is to ramp up our own education – and then, slowly and safely, take the groups we work with along on the journey. 

Notes from the conversation. I meant to write ‘equity’ in the center; alas.

Some resources included below – please recommend others that were useful to you on your journey!

Diversity and inclusion in facilitation
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2 thoughts on “Diversity and inclusion in facilitation

  • 14 May 2019 at 10:20

    Deborah also recommends the book “Embracing Cultural Competency: A Roadmap for Nonprofit Capacity Builders” by Patricia St. Onge et al.

    • 14 May 2019 at 15:00

      indeed Deborah does! Thanks for the clear report, I really enjoyed our conversation and reading this brought it back.


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