Facilitating with Equity in Mind

by Augusto Cuginotti

If you treat things equally today you might be reproducing our history of inequity.

Last week I joined others from the Art of Hosting community to explore how our personal and collective identities are present as a source of privilege and diferences of power.

How much this power and privilege dynamics play a role when we are hosting a group?

I see our community really focused on facilitating participation and coming from a story of Dialogic practices, but until now it seems that dynamics of power and politics were never really central to the conversation.

What are personal and collective identities and how role do they play in group work?

Identities are the groups we are associated with by conventions of society or by personal choice such as black/white, man/woman, gay/straight, etc.

In this gathering we’ve challenged the assumption that our dialogical practices, while setting up structures for equal participation, would automatically set up a space of horizontality and equality.

We came to challenge this assumption by looking at the fundamental difference between equity and equality.

When we look at people sitting in a circle and assume everyone stands in equal grounds we may be blindly reproducing some of the power dynamics running under the surface.

In fact some people, based on their identities, hold more privilege than others. Being equal, in this case, supports the status quo of inequity in our groups, systems and society.

We didn’t have to go far to attest that as most of the time some identities are not even in the circle or are underrepresented. And even if they are present, the lack of acknowledgement on how a membership in an identity group can set one to start a conversation in an unprivileged position or feeling the space is unsafe by default.

To be aware of these dynamics are a huge step for whoever is hosting or facilitating. Of course there is more – how can we better host taking into account this reality?

This is work to be done in relationship with others. This makes hosting spaces for others a fundamental lever to change inequity. To to that better, here is what came to me as key.

We can host more consciously by

  1. First and foremost, work in our own identities and how they impact us. Specially for the privileged who were granted and exercise power unconsciously. That is very likely if you fall into any of the groups: man, white, heterosexual, among others which are considered the norm or hold unearned privileges in current society.
  2. Join conversations with other people – practitioners in your field or not – about what it means to live as a member of a power up or power down group.
  3. Host/Facilitate in partnership with colleagues holding other identity memberships and being aware together of the underlying dynamics that might be at play when we gather.
  4. Bring that topic to the table as often as you find appropriate when you see those dynamics playing as either a member or facilitator in a group.

What else would you add?

This is a core conversation to the practice of creating and hosting spaces for conversations that matter. How can exercise this for a more conscious hosting practice?