Part 1: Get Ready
4. Prepare Yourself
Whether or not you engage a facilitator or consultant to support your process, as a leader you’ll be engaging individuals and groups in the work of focusing on race, equity and inclusion. In other words, you’ll be facilitating a lot of conversations. “Facilitating” simply means making it easy for people to think, learn, agree and act together. That can happen in large, highly structured meetings, informal gatherings and one-on-one conversations.
As you reach out to others, you’ll want to make sure that you’re also “doing your own work.” That means deepening your self-awareness about how race, equity and inclusion matter in your life and work, and grounding yourself in your deepest and most powerful values and practices. It also means showing up with openness and getting ready to facilitate dialogue and planning with others. No doubt you’re already on this lifelong journey. We offer some ideas to help you continue to grow.
Conversations that aim for deeper, shared understanding and solid agreements can challenge the most skilled leaders and facilitators, particularly when the subject is race, racism, equity and inclusion.
They are likely to encounter additional challenges because of the complexity of the issues and their deep
connections to individuals’ sense of personal and cultural identity, as well as the deep emotions that accompany
those experiences and collective memories.
Diving instructors must learn to function effectively at depths well below those where they will guide groups of divers. The same is true for leaders and facilitators who engage others in conversations about race, equity and inclusion. They should be experienced at going deeper than the groups they will lead. In addition to the kind of due diligence required to facilitate related conversations, consider these important aspects of your preparation:
Prepare yourself to serve
Guiding individuals and groups through conversations focused on race, equity and inclusion requires that you recognize who you are and how you can use yourself as a tool. Beyond your skills, technique and knowledge, you’ll need to draw on your own creativity, spirit and intuition. Find ways to strengthen your self-awareness about your racial identity and cultivate the qualities a collaborative learner and leader. In this section of the workbook, we offer a few thoughts about how to deepen the well from which you draw so you can support others in their journey.
Prepare for the processof the conversations
Your role as a facilitator, whether formal or informal, is to serve the highest aspirations of the people in the conversation, ensuring that everyone is able to participate and treated with respect and dignity. Talking about race and racism is challenging for many groups and individuals. You’ll need a robust set of strategies, methods and tools to design and guide the conversations. We find that creating and facilitating a well-designed process minimizes the likelihood that the experience will be unnecessarily difficult or drive participants further away from the issue. In this section of the workbook, we offer some specific guidance to prepare and facilitate the process.
Prepare for the content of the conversations
In conversations about race, equity and inclusion, you’ll likely be called upon to provide guidance on tough questions and may even need to present some content (such as definitions of terms). Even if this is not the case, you’ll need a deep understanding of the content in order to serve the group well by listening for underlying meaning, unearthing and testing assumptions, and synthesizing parts of the conversation, noticing what might be causing people to get stuck, and reflecting back to the speakers in ways that allows for deeper insight and agreement to emerge. In this section of the workbook, we offer some guidance about specific issues to learn about and some predictable dynamics to anticipate.
As mentioned in the section focused on building your team, it’s wise to consider whether you would benefit from engaging an external resource person (e.g., facilitator, trainer, or consultant) who has led race, equity and inclusion processes before. Their presence can support the overall design process and allow you and others to participate fully in specific conversations and activities along the way. External resource people can bring useful experience and information to your United Way. If you choose this route for some conversations or pieces of the work, then it’s important to find people who can understand, support and strengthen your overall goals and work well with your Race, Equity and Inclusion Strategy Team and its values.