Different Angles 11 – Reaching for Brave

Issue 11: August, 2020

In This Issue:

  • Reaching for Brave
  • Fall PCC Workshops: Tools for Good Meeting Facilitation and Tools for Getting Unstuck
  • Offering Coaching, Training, and Facilitation via Zoom and Mural

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A great deal of my work right now is around tooling up to deliver facilitation and training online. As I discussed in my last eNewsletter article, A Time for Transformation, I am also continuing to deepen my understanding of whiteness and systemic racism, and increasing my capacity to address issues of equity and inclusion.

It seems like a natural outflow from that work to do a short series of articles on facilitation, addressing these two challenges. This is the first in that series.

Reaching for Brave

As a facilitator, I have used the term “safe space” for years to describe what we are trying to create in meetings. It’s been the common shorthand for “creating a container where people are willing to show up, engage, speak honestly, listen for understanding, and look for creative solutions together.” But, for the last few years, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with it.

Some of that discomfort comes from my study of trauma, and the knowledge that our sense of safety is tied to so many things that are not in the present, and cannot be addressed quickly and easily with good meeting processes. That discomfort has gotten clearer and more focused as I’ve deepened my understanding of equity and inclusion, of the impact of white supremacy, the patriarchy, and other systems of privilege that underpin and continue to shape our every interaction with each other.

Through self-study and interactions with some courageous and generous people who’ve invited and sometimes challenged me to examine my own assumptions and language, I have gained clarity about several things:

  • Safety is a felt experience, a body-level thing. We can contribute to, or take away from, other people’s sense of safety, but we cannot create it for anyone but ourselves.

  • What creates that felt sense of “safety” for someone may be the opposite of what creates it for someone else (and those different someones might be in the same conversation or meeting).

  • For those of us in a position of privilege in any given situation, feeling safe cannot be the goal; for real change to happen, for us to create genuine equity and inclusion in our meetings, process and groups, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable.

About a year ago, I had tea with Jaye Cromwell. Like me, Jaye is a white woman wrestling with how to be an effective catalyst for the examination of whiteness in white-dominated groups and serious and effective efforts not at “diversity” but at the creation of equity and inclusion. She introduced me to the term “brave space.”

As soon as she said it, I could feel myself shift. Yes. This is what we need to create: room for courage.

When what we want is for people to:

  • show up as their authentic selves;

  • participate actively in an engagement process;

  • honestly share their perceptions and experiences;

  • be/become more aware of their own privilege, and of the ways in which their impacts may not match their intentions;

  • listen for understanding, even when someone’s experience challenges their understanding of the situation, the world, or their own roles;

  • lean into their discomfort in service to learning and transformation; and

  • work toward creative solutions to hard, complex, and emotionally-charged problems,

Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.

Inclusion is the act of creating involvement, environments and empowerment in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate, with equal access to opportunities and resources, embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people. Inclusive processes and practices strive to bring groups together to make decisions in collaborative, mutual, equitable ways.

The primary sources I drew on for these definitions are the University of Houston and Brandeis University.

we are asking them to be brave, not safe.

I invite you to consider framing your meetings and processes around the goal of creating brave space and see what happens. This might mean (as discussed in the original article on brave space), changing the agreements you create at the beginning of meetings. It also might mean changing your expectations of how long some discussions or processes are going to take, or what the outcomes might look like. It will certainly mean opening up to a deep level of discussion about what equity and inclusion mean — whether around race, gender, or any of the other ways in which privilege and prejudice shape our interactions.

Facilitating the Transformation of White Supremacy and Patriarchy

Photo of a diverse team piling their hands together.

If you would like support in doing this work, I’d be happy to work with you. You will find more about my facilitation and training services on this site.

I also invite you to engage with me, if you are interested, in being part of a community of practice around facilitating brave space. This will be a place where we can share our experiences, our confusions and questions, and our discoveries, so we all get better at this. I don’t know how we can best support each other in this critical work, but I want to find out.

You will find resources on whiteness and systemic racism, and a few on gender and class, on my website. That page will evolve over time, but I am hopeful it will be a useful resource, particularly for white people working to address racism.

Join the conversation

You can ask questions, share your experiences, and be part of the conversation in the comments section below.

Pass it on!

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Upcoming Workshops at PCC

Photo of a diverse discussion group.

I am doing two workshops through PCC’s continuing education division in the next few months. These will be offered online, each as three, 90-minute sessions using Zoom and Mural (one of my favorite new tools).

  • Tools for Good Meeting Facilitation on three consecutive Thursdays, October 8th, 15th and 22nd from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

  • Tools for Getting Unstuck on three Thursdays, October 29th, November 5th and November 19th from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

They are $35 each. You do need to pre-register through PCC.

For more details, please see the Workshops page on my website.

I am offering training, coaching and facilitation online

I am currently supporting organizations and individuals primarily online, using phone, Zoom, and Mural, a powerful and easy to use tool for visual collaboration.

If you would like to discuss what I could bring to your organization or team, please contact me.  You will also find an overview of my services and experience on the Services page of this website.

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© Tasha Harmon, August 2020. All rights reserved.

You are invited to share this eNewsletter with friends and colleagues. Please keep it intact, including the acknowledgements and contact information. If you’d like to reprint an article from my eNewsletter, written permission is required. Please do contact me about this if you are interested. Thank you.

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One Response to Different Angles 11 – Reaching for Brave

  1. Pingback: Tasha Harmon — New Perspectives — What We Have in Common, and Thoughts About Navigating Transitions from COVID Lockdowns in the Workplace

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