In any profession, it can be easy to fall into the trap of telling yourself you know/have seen or can do it all, if you’ve done it long enough. As a trainer and facilitator, part of the way that I counter this is to look for places to be a participant as often as my schedule allows.
So when I had the opportunity to attend the “Inclusive Excellence Summit” at Cornell recently, I went all in. When we did introductions and they asked “why are you here?” my answer was an enthusiastic “to learn and to participate.” All of the activities and conversations, even the ones I’ve facilitated before, I completed as someone who had not. When I go in with this mindset, it allows me to be more reflective of my own work and be open to new ideas.
As a woman of color, I know all too often “diversity” and “inclusion” can often focus on people who look like me. And while I appreciate and applaud these efforts, it can end up actually narrowing that concept of “inclusion” and become almost counter-productive if we (I) am not careful.
Luckily, this summit did a good job covering a lot in a small amount of time and allowed me to think more broadly about inclusion beyond my own story and experience. One of the first things I wrote down came from when we did our group agreements, the main one being: Be BASIC.
B– Broaden your perspective.
A– Ask questions. Specifically within this group, ask yourself “who is being left out of the conversation”.
S– Struggle–and then Stick with it.
I– Intentionality is key.
C– Construct new spaces and dialogues.
Having group agreements that were purposeful and that encouraged us to think “bigger” was a great way to start things off. It also allowed me to start thinking about our own trainings and ask “how can we be more inclusive?”
One of the first things that came to mind was that during the registration process for workshops or trainings, we don’t ask if people have any special training needs. Folks sometimes let us know the day they walk in, but having to take that initiative can be intimidating for them or feel like more work, especially if they’ve just taken two trains and a bus to get to us.
Asking weeks beforehand could also allow us, the trainers, to prepare activities differently, arrange the room in a more accommodating way or just simply be more aware.
Listening to speakers with varying abilities during this summit not only made me realize things I may take for granted, but also gave me tangible solutions for addressing these things.
What do you think? What ways could we be more inclusive? What ways could your own program be more inclusive?