Our workshop, “Welcoming Difference and Diversity in our Networks,” has been through a few iterations but most recently was featured as the all day training for the annual B.C. Family Support Institute Training Weekend, which gathers resource parents (who support families of children and adults with disabilities) from all over the province for three days of training, conversations and connection before they go back to do more good work.
One of my favourite things is introducing folks in the world of disability supports to people I’ve gotten to know from other realms. Reverend Rhona Segarra is a Minister at the Unity Church of New Westminster where she has done some great stuff, and I’ve now organized a few things where she’s brought some of the tools into the community. She’s a very fun and responsive facilitation partner and was a perfect match for this sensitive topic.
I’m not even sure I can find words to describe the feeling of trust that I had when FSI approached me about facilitating this day, and worked with me to create something useful to their participants. This is a workshop I’ve wanted to host for years – in many ways I think it is the most important work we can do, and work we are well poised to do. Many of the best things I’ve done have been done with FSI I think and while I work with them a bit, I also volunteer there and all of the outside events that I am involved in give FSI members a discount. We get asked to volunteer a lot, and I love working with different groups, but having a chosen group where one volunteers means that I can develop a great reciprocal relationship that benefits us both. I talk to new facilitators and graphic facilitators about the importance of finding a group that you can believe in, who will let you test your strengths and new methods in a supportive place. A good example, in this event, was that I was able to incorporate the knowledge of the new FSI “Historian Committee” – an informal network of some of the parents who were there at the beginning of community living in B.C., who are charged with remembering and reminding us of our history. This is the best idea ever, and FSI is responsible for making it happen, as they are responsible for so many good things in our province over their long history.
This interactive day begins by looking at the history of supporting people with disabilities as one of many linked emancipatory movements. Why are we distracted by being encouraged to think of hours of service and contracts and formal relationships with governing bodies, when what we begin with is the radicalising concept that someone has been born into our families who is different, and we find ourselves in a world of “othering” that assumes lacks and gaps and problems, rather than sees our family member for the brilliant, world changing and wonderful being that they are. For many of us the surprise of a family member with a disability is transformational. We find that what we are told about people with disabilities, which we might have believed before, is not true. It is the creation of systems of vested interests that has, for the most part, little respect for the voices of families and people with disabilities. When we begin to question these systems we are led to question everything else. If X is not true, what about Y? J? B? C? D? Let’s get in touch with that passion that was part of our discovery of a new focus and a new understanding of life and our culture! Let’s use that to create a world of belonging for everyone.
Our point is that in terms of this conversation about welcoming diversity and difference, we, as the kids say, “got this.” We have so many skills to include and support people through so many situations! So how can we acknowledge who we are, what we know and what we might do to create more inclusive environments and groups? As we say in the workshop:
Learning objectives for this day were as follows:
LO: “How to support diverse families with understanding – LGBTQ, understanding Trauma, Refugee families, PTSD, Cultural Diversity/Sensitivity, Mental Health, Social Connectedness, etc.”
LO: participants will leave with new skills that will allow them to negotiate difference and be champions for diversity and inclusion
planning for diversity in our own networks
LO: participants will have an empathic understanding of how others might think and feel in situations where we are tempted to judgment and will be able to stay curious instead, using some practical scripted routines.
LO: participants will have increased confidence in their ability to connect with people from different backgrounds and belief systems
Rhona demonstrated “empathy cards” that support us to learn how to communicate better and inform our future practices as we work to break down what we are saying, hearing, thinking and feeling and create new patterns that are more empathic and functional.
As always our teaching focused on interactive methods based on adult education best practices – people made things, hosted conversations, collected ideas and shared them, and came together in various ways to get to know each other, and in this workshop, on creating and giving participants tools they could take home with them to use in their communities.
A copy of our powerpoints is here:
Links we showed people during the day:
For more information about the “circles diagram” which we use constantly, see the good folks at Inclusion Press, who have a selection of books and materials that use this.
Out of 62 participants, 28 were moved to give us feedback. 67% felt we were “fantastic” in all categories; 28% thought we were “really good.” 3% thought we were “okay.” In short, we were thrilled with the feedback on this new workshop about a range of sensitive topics!
What they said:
Some participant comments: “Really enjoyed the session – good things to think about.” “Loved all the stories shared – feeling a part of a larger group/community. Thank you!” “Thank you! I want to get to know you both and the work you do, more.” “Great session!” “Thank you!!! It was emotional and educational!” “A very interesting and deep presentation. Gender identity was so informative.” “Feels good to be in a room full of grownups for a change!” “Very powerful – I loved how inclusive it was.” “Heart You” “Thank you thank you thank you” “Yes, please! Bring to the communities in my region- Have education / collaboration opportunities wi other organizations to experience” “A fabulous day. Thank you for your expertise and knowledge, skills and commitment in this area. Lots ot think about reflect on and move forward to action.” “[many hearts]”
In other comments participants wanted more sessions like this, closer to home, and wanted to spend more time with us focused on other areas as well.