The responsibility and artistry of facilitating intersectional and inclusive conversations

Intersectionality is a way of understanding and analyzing complexity in the world, in people, and in human experiences. The events and conditions of social and political life and the self can seldom be understood as shaped by one factor. They are shaped by many factors in diverse and mutually influencing ways. When it comes to social inequality, people’s lives and the organization of power in a given society are better understood as being shaped not by a single axis of social division, be it race or gender or class, but by many axes that work together and influence each other. Intersectionality as an analytic tool gives people better access to the complexity of the world and of themselves. (Collins & Bilge, 2016, pg. 2).”

Throughout the years of our work, we’ve come to see facilitation spaces as caring containers where every expression of self is encouraged to the extent and pace of every person. Group participation which is framed by feminist principles is contained and held, while safety and care are firmly maintained and balanced throughout the interaction and conversations. We are also responsible for making the space welcoming, accessible and meaningful to all participants.

Bear in mind that the points we are sharing here are not finite, as we have been reflecting and working for the past period on developing our guidelines on facilitation that are based in our values and experience. The points and content shared here are drawn from our lessons of facilitating our online events and convenings and are drawn from our notes, modules, templates, reflections, and our bucket reading list as a source of inspiration. Building this work remains a collective work-in-progress for us.

Your position as a facilitator

There is a high level of responsibility and power that come hand in hand with being a facilitator. Your position is never neutral. The main part of your role is being responsible for keeping the conversation participatory, dynamic, inclusive, balanced and safe at all times -  while being aware of power dynamics within the group. This is not an easy task, as obviously, you will not be able to perceive all parameters on the spectrum of privileges and disadvantages for each and every one of your participants within the group.

However, you will be facilitating the group process by bearing in mind that the levels on the spectrum of privilege and oppression are different for each and every one of the participants, including yourself. Your baseline for this process is primarily to safeguard the space with all the power and the responsibility you have as a facilitator. That means that your intervention serves to maintain the boundaries that protect people’s sense of autonomy, self-expression and integrity at any point of the conversation.

Your position as a facilitator is by no means devoid of your own lived experience. Self-reflect beforehand and think about your multiple identities, advantages and disadvantages that come with them, your overall background, as well as your limitations or weak spots. If you’ve never facilitated a session and this will be your first one, it’s always good to be honest if you assess that the content shared will not be too demanding or if you feel you have the support of your fellow co-facilitator. All these points might have to be transparently addressed and acknowledged throughout the process. This is an important segment and depending on how you handle it - it can obstruct or support your facilitation process.

From our experience, it’s best to have two facilitators as your dynamic of exchange can be supportive and encouraging to those who participate less. It also contributes to more equal workload distribution, meaning that one person doesn’t have to carry the entire weight on their shoulders. Having one facilitator in general creates an impression of a “central guide”, “a leader” and can feel intimidating for some people.

Finally, try to release yourself and your group of perfection. Be willing to make mistakes, take responsibility for them and don’t hesitate to correct them throughout the process.

Facilitating inclusive and intersectional conversations

Let people know you “see” them and manage energy. Have regular check-ins about the level of energy in the room, how people are feeling. Be mindful that some content can provoke feelings of anxiety, guilt, aggression, sadness and/or remind of past/current trauma.

 

Language is a tool of reinforcing power. Use inclusive language and examples supportive of people of diverse identities, gender expressions, bodies, experiences, etc.

Read through our FTX module Intersectionality that emphasises using a both/and framing instead of either/or, that you can use for your guide in facilitating difficult conversations:

Footnotes

[1] APC. Intersectionality | FTX Platform. FTX Platform. https://en.ftx.apc.org/books/intersectionality

[2] APC.  Intersectionality and Sexuality | FTX Platform. FTX Platform.  https://en.ftx.apc.org/books/intersectionality/page/intersectionality-and-sexuality


Revision #2
Created 28 October 2021 05:52:49 by Cathy
Updated 3 November 2021 03:18:23 by Cathy