The Center for Equity and Inclusion (CEI) is a specialized consulting agency focused on advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts within organizations, education systems, and communities. Since our partnership launched in 2019, SVP Portland has been a resource and capacity building partner for CEI. In turn, CEI provides us training opportunities and consultation that help advance our equity work.
Through SVP’s partnership with CEI, I had the opportunity to attend their Facilitator Intensive training series this spring. After more than two years of remote learning and work, it was enormously refreshing to physically share space with folks from across the US in a learning environment.
Hanif Fazal, CEI Co-Founder and Managing Partner, is an incredibly skilled facilitator and the week demonstrated this in a number of ways. Each day was structured with an intention to allow for a diversity of engagement types, including mindfulness, 1:1 and small group conversations, some physical activity, as well as large group work. We also had the opportunity to collaborate in affinity groups (people with similar backgrounds or demographic factors) that created important spaces for shared learning and reflection. A surprising experience throughout the week was witnessing how, through the creation of a trusting and vulnerable space, I learned so much about my peers in such a short time. After just a few days, I knew more about some folks in the room than I ever did about many colleagues with whom I’d worked for eight years.
Overall, the training was full of important learnings. One of the most impactful for me was rediscovering the critical nature of both being in relationship with and operating within the structure of agreements in order to make progress in anti-racism work: Stay Engaged, Speak Your Truth Responsibly, Listen to Understand, Be Willing to Do Things Differently and to Experience Discomfort, Expect and Accept Non-closure, and Maintain Confidentiality. Relationships build trust, and trust opens the door to vulnerability. Vulnerability may seem like a counterintuitive quality, given how we’ve been socialized to view “professionalism” in white-normative ways that demand the projection of strength. However, it is through our shared vulnerability that we reach one another. It provides a context through which we can better understand how we each approach diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. Agreements have the potential to operate as a tool by helping people and organizations understand how to engage in conversation about DEI topics. These tools compliment one another and operate together in a remarkably powerful way.
Ultimately, we learned numerous ways to frame conversations, build relationships, and coach leaders that have far-reaching impact. I’ve already begun to implement them in my personal life and can easily see ways in which they apply to my role at SVP and in my career. A notable takeaway is the power of thoughtful, open-ended questions to drive a conversation, uncover opportunities for learning, and then facilitate the learning moments themselves. The training helped me cultivate a new way of approaching conflict, while providing numerous tools for getting curious and exploring multiple perspectives. I appreciate this personal and professional development opportunity made possible by SVP and CEI.