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Reflections from Leading DEI Conversations

Leading DEI Conversations blog post

We asked co-facilitators Kia Rivera and Victoria Verlezza to reflect on what they learned facilitating the Leading DEI Conversations Program. 

  • Learn from each other: What stood out to us about this cohort was how much we learned from each other, not only about ourselves, but overwhelmingly new ways to facilitate, new ways to share information, and new ways to model behavior for participants. One way we did this was a moment when ableist language was being used. At that moment we took the time to name the language that was being used, which was harmful and ableist. In sessions after this, we were able to come back to this learning moment and share how we as facilitators modeled behavior for moments in which participants say something harmful, allowing for participants to reflect on how techniques and learn from our modeling. 
  • Notice and name: Paying attention to power dynamics, ableist behavior, and current events is essential when building a community of trust and psychological safety.  We did this with the last cohort by allowing participants a chance to feel grounded at the beginning of each session. We would also do grounding exercises after talking about heavy topics. Finally, we had participants show up and engage in the moment just as they could because of what was happening in the world around us.
  • Recognize the power of community: Many times, only one person is doing the work of DEI within their organization. Having a community of practitioners (accidental or otherwise) to bounce ideas off of, ask the tough questions, and share thoughts and concerns, is invaluable. The feedback we received included: “it felt nice not to be alone” and, “I thought I was the only one asking these questions or having these hard conversations at work.” The power of community is vital, especially given the challenging nature of DEI at work.
  • Go with the flow: When holding space for conversations related to DEI, there’s no guarantee that it’ll always go the way we planned. Our best-laid plans may not always work, so we adjust, and a big piece of this work is trusting that process. We plan for every session and have the best intentions, but sometimes the group needs something different, so we flow with the conversation as needed, and we trust we’re doing the best for the group.
  • Practice non-judgment: No one is immune to bias, including facilitators, but we can all actively practice mitigation strategies. And as a facilitator, holding non-judgment can be hard, and it’s so important. As someone who holds space for all different kinds of people, coming from a whole host of backgrounds and experiences, it can sometimes be hard to put our own assumptions to the side, but as a facilitator, it’s imperative. We want to meet people where they are but also minimize harm for not only participants but also ourselves. This work is challenging on all of us and yet we have to leave our biases at the door. 

We’re excited to see what we’ll learn from our new cohort! If you’re interested in joining us, learn more about Leading DEI Conversations and sign up.