When it comes to hosting discussions on the profuse reality of racism, trained facilitators are the number one element that encourages these conversations to be productive. The fundamentals of facilitation for equity centered work involves knowledge on racial issues, self-awareness and group awareness, a strong sense of leadership, and other elements that we’ll be discussing in the rest of this blog post.
By training your facilitators on leading equity-centered work, you’re ensuring a productive, safe dialogue for all those involved.
What Do Facilitators Do?
Facilitators are the touchstones of forums for people to express their preferences, concerns, ideas, and opinions. They help create a space for everyone’s opinion–even if one or more are in opposition to each other–and they facilitate safe, respectful discussion of topics that are often divisive.
Facilitators offer support and create a structure for these forums, and provide:
- Rules and structure for the participants to follow
- Questions, topics, and issues for participants to dissect
- They keep track of time, ideas, and outcomes that come from a conversation
- They encourage forward momentum in the discussion
Facilitators are also responsible for mediating discussions or interactions when they become problematic. Generally, at the offset of forums facilitators will lay down rules and guidelines for behavior expectations, and when/if a participant goes outside of them, the facilitators are the ones that reel them back in. They protect participants and they help value everyone’s perspectives.
Why Are Facilitators Important for Equity Centered Work?
The discussion of equity centered work and anti-racist work is a sensitive one, full of triggers, passion, and different perspectives. Along with the above mentioned work of facilitators, these mediators are excellent at creating the kind of inclusive, non-threatening environment necessary for productive discussions on anti-racist efforts.
They allow all participants to feel safe, heard, and confident in sharing their ideas, and opinions ,without worrying about the fallout of participating in discussion of contentious topics. Fundamentally, facilitators help people directly talk about racism and then discuss practical means of addressing it.
What Are The Fundamentals of Facilitating Equity Centered Work?
Forums on anti-racism require facilitators with different skill sets. These facilitators must be educated on the issues revolving around structural racism, the difference between inclusivity and equity, cultural dominance, white privilege, white power, and intersectionality. They should have a large amount of experience facilitating these forums–an inexperienced facilitator can be disastrous in discussions on race–as well as ideas, experience, and knowledge on how to implement practices for equity-centered work.
These facilitators should also:
- Be aware of the location their discussion is taking place at–certain areas or places can carry negative connotations for different communities
- Establish clear expectations, rules and protocols at the start of a dialogue to ensure everyone feels at ease
- Model respectful, constructive behavior to set the tone, i.e. projecting curiosity, warmth, and a non-judgmental attitude
- Address disruptive behavior immediately to avoid derailing the event, ask for clarification on statements, redirect unproductive conversations, and contribute in facilitative ways
One of the most important aspects of facilitating dialogue on equity work is to establish ground rules. These ground rules are for everyone to know and follow: it sets up a structure for how to handle difficult moments, problematic actions, and how to move forward towards a conscientious, positive attitude with a clear action plan (if that’s your end goal).
These are some of the best practices for discussions where bullying or controlling behavior is likely, and participants make up a wide variety of cultural identities, political beliefs, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
When it comes to equity work, facilitators are the people who help take intentional steps to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. They’re essential for having a democratic, respectful dynamic at your equity forum. Lastly, having a facilitator that’s informed on racial issues and experienced in facilitating these types of discussion will also lead to a positive dialogue among your participants.