Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion - groundings for brave spaces and good conversations

18 December 2020 by Heidi Marshall

As Chair of Corndel’s Diversity and Inclusion taskforce, I am pleased to share the most recent step in Corndel’s journey to be an anti-racist organisation – Aquilla Lindo-Cozzella.

36 people across Corndel attended a virtual meeting of our Diversity and Inclusion group in December, to continue our conversation around achieving race equality. Sharing experiences of racism and white privilege can be difficult and emotive. A sensitively facilitated conversation with some structure and collectively agreed ground rules can help open up discussion, sharing and learning.

We shared some guidelines which we have been developing to help us create ‘brave spaces’ for having good conversations. Within breakout groups of around five people, we held facilitated conversations prompted by material that had been circulated ahead of time:

  1. Groundings for brave spaces and good conversations
  2. Terminology, history and considerations on racism and race equality

Our intentions for these conversations is that we continue to develop our awareness of our own identities and position; explore lived experience and understand strategies to buffer the impact of racism on targets.

Groups considered the extent of their shared understanding of some terminology and historical events. Thought was prompted: what more do we need to know? How deep do we need to go? What language is to be encouraged or discouraged.

The key is to approach conversations with self-reflection and create an environment where people feel brave enough to voice and work through initial feelings and reactions. Importantly for us, participants should leave ready to take personal action to help Corndel collectively be an anti-racist organisation.

Groundings for brave spaces and good conversations.

Welcome multiple viewpoints

  • Use ‘I’ statements to refer to your own experiences and thoughts, not those of a group you identify with, or belong to.
  • Don’t assume to know another person’s identities and experiences from their physical appearance.

Own your intentions and your impacts

  • Try to truly see and hear each other’s experiences and feelings and take responsibility for the impact of your words.

Take responsibility for your language choices

  • If using a term that might be misinterpreted/considered inappropriate give a rationale for your choice and do this sensitively.
  • Use only language relevant to the context. If the skin colour/ race/ ethnicity of the person isn’t relevant to the situation being discussed don’t use it.
  • Avoid using words or phrases that imply judgement or evaluation, even if the sentiment appears positive.
  • Use simple language and background information when necessary.

Work to recognise your privileges

  • Positionality holds that each of us has multiple social identities. These include (but are not limited to) race, class, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion and ability status, as well as all their intersections.
  • Recognise and investigate the privileges that we all have.

Take risks: Lean into discomfort

  • Sharing your experiences may encourage others to do the same and demonstrating your own vulnerability may give others an opportunity to be vulnerable.
  • We are all in a process. Challenge yourself to contribute your thoughts, even if they are not perfectly formulated.
  • Acknowledge that you and others may have moments of feeling uncomfortable and that being uncomfortable isn’t always a bad thing.

Notice and name group dynamics in the moment

  • We are all responsible for this space and need to take care of ourselves and others.
  • Be aware of how others are responding or not responding. Ask for a ‘time out’ or dialogue if needed.
  • Name the dynamic in the moment if it’s right to do so – be brave.

Actively listen and respect silence

  • Share speaking time and try to make space for those who have not yet spoken.
  • Expect, respect and work to be comfortable with silence. People may need the reflection time.

Challenge with care

  • Find ways to respectfully challenge others and be open to challenges of your own views.
  • Ask questions - to understand the experiences and thoughts of other people and the sources of disagreements.

Share the message, not the messenger

  • Respect confidentiality.
  • Personal histories that are shared in the room should remain confidential while general themes and learnings can be shared.

N.B. The concept of ‘brave space’ is taken from trauma work as outlined at www.awarela.com

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