Inclusive Facilitation – Episode 3

In this episode, Beth and guest Susana Guardado of Bright Light Ideas talk about how facilitators can create inclusive learning spaces and experiences in which people feel valued, respected, and accepted.

They also explore:

  • Listening to learners to be able to meaningfully engage them
  • Learning from feedback to continue to grow as facilitators
  • Designing learner-centred sessions
  • Using techniques of visual thinking and visual facilitation to support people’s experiences and learning

Engage with Susana Guardado, Bright Light ideas

Other Links from the Episode

Connect with Beth

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Podcast cover art by Emily Johnston of Artio Design Co.
Podcast production services by Mary Chan of Organized Sound Productions

Show Transcript

[Upbeat music playing]

[Show intro]
Beth
Welcome to Facilitating on Purpose, where we explore ideas together about designing and facilitating learning. Join me to get inspired on your journey to becoming and being a great facilitator wherever you work. I’m your host, Beth Cougler Blom.

[Episode intro]
Beth
Hey, thank you so much for being here. This is Episode 3, and I am Beth, your host. I am really excited about today’s episode because you know what? It is our first guest episode on Facilitating on Purpose. Our topic today is something that I think is one of the most important topics in the world of facilitating learning today. Facilitation of any kind, really. And that is inclusive facilitation. How do we design and facilitate so that we welcome and include all learners in our learning spaces, no matter who they are. And especially so they don’t have to come up to us during or after and say, you know what, hey, what you’re doing doesn’t work for me – although we welcome that as well! So, inclusive facilitation is everything we can do to welcome and include and value whoever we’ve got in our learning spaces, whether we’re face to face or online or wherever the setting is that we’re bringing a group together. Thinking about inclusive facilitation is also being a reflective facilitator because we can’t welcome learners into our learning spaces without figuring out who we are, and what are some of the privileges and some of the values that we hold as facilitators. Thinking about how we continue to grow our own skills and knowledge and learning in the world, really, in terms of our own culture and the cultures of others and how we work together and collaborate in a learning space. Today’s guest is Susana Guardado of Bright Light Ideas. Susana and I have known each other for several years, we’ve co-facilitated together a number of times, and one of the things I think that Susana really brings to the table is this conscientious and heartfelt approach to making sure that she’s welcoming all learners. And I’ve seen that in my work with her and I’ve learned alongside her and from her in this particular topic. So I thought, hey, first guest? Let’s bring Susana to you and hear what she has to say. Enjoy the show.

Beth Cougler Blom
Well, Susana, thank you so much for being here. I’m really looking forward to this conversation about being inclusive as facilitators. Welcome.

Susana Guardado
Thank you, Beth. I’m really looking forward to our conversation as well today.

Beth Cougler Blom
I thought we could start with what does it mean when we say we’re going to be inclusive facilitators? Do you have early thoughts on, you know, how do we even explain what this thing is that we’re trying to talk about. What is inclusive facilitation to you?

Susana
I really thought about the term ‘inclusive’ when I was kind of preparing for the podcast, Beth, because I almost feel that inclusive is such a, in some ways, it’s an internal personal experience. And I think you and I have talked about this in the past that maybe we think we’re creating an exclusive experience and then perhaps we have no guarantee of knowing how that person experienced the session or interaction, right. But really, to me, creating inclusive spaces means creating spaces where people feel comfortable and confident to really be themselves, where they feel valued, accepted and respected, and where they’re able to really contribute and have a voice in the conversation that’s taking place. And I think our role as facilitators is to create that inclusive container where those things can happen, right?

Beth
Absolutely. Yeah. And I like what you said about it being kind of a personal or individual thing because I know myself, as a facilitator, there are things that I like to do that I know participants don’t like to do, and probably vice versa, right? And so we can really get into a trap of, if we just design what we want, it really isn’t going to be inclusive for all, is it?

Susana
Absolutely, yeah, that’s a really great point, right? Because we each bring our our different perspectives and our different ways of being in the world.

Beth
Absolutely. Yeah. So why is it so important to do this? And to kind of keep this at the top of our mind, as we grow in our facilitation journeys? Why should we be inclusive facilitators?

Susana
[Laughs] You know, I think that facilitators are really role models in how we can have really meaningful genuine conversations and how we can create those spaces. You know, I think we’ve both been in meetings where it’s clear that some voices aren’t being heard. And I think the gift that facilitators bring is to create processes and containers where that doesn’t happen, right, we’re creating open spaces. And for me, it’s been important to really develop and learn these skills, because for most of my facilitator experience, I was really working with participants whose voices had often been silenced due to social inequities, right? And where I really needed to work at my best to call people in and include people, right, and it was really my responsibility to create positive group experiences, and particularly positive learning experiences. And I really believe that unless you’re feeling safe and valued, it’s really hard to learn in a group setting.

Beth
Yeah there was a noticing, I guess, that you either were born with and kind of always had as a person and then as a facilitator, or was it something that you just grew in your skills of noticing along the way, when people were or weren’t being included?

Susana
Good thing, I have to look back into my, my formative years and my journey. When we tap into our own lived experience of when we weren’t included, when I tap into my own experience as a as a woman, as a woman of colour, as an immigrant in the Canadian field, and also my own journey as a youth worker, working with youth that often were the society just marginalized and pushed to the side because they didn’t fit in, right. So I saw their experience and, you know, made a commitment to go so how do I create experiences where they are valued and in a genuine way? We’re not just saying that you’re valued, but we’re actually are valuing and respecting your voice. And I really have to give credit to some of my mentors in my youth worker years who were so passionate and committed to meaningful youth voice. And I think really, that’s where a lot of my, my foundation to create inclusive spaces comes from, right that, you know, don’t go into token youth voice, go into really meaningful and real youth voice. So when I think that helped me develop some of those skills that I now bring to my facilitation.

Beth
I love that and I think we’ve talked before about how some people can really discount that youth actually know anything about you know, or not know something about something, but you’re saying that you really picked up skills and knowledge from your time in youth work. And can you tell me more about what that looked like? How did you learn, especially in those roles that you had as a youth worker, about facilitation?

Susana
I think one of the gifts that youth have given me is they call me out on my stuff, right? So if I was saying I was meaningfully engaging them and they’re like, no, you’re not. [Laughs] They’re very good at calling people out when you’re not really walking your talk. And I thank every youth that came along my way and kind of taught me that, right? And really gave me that feedback and taught me how to do it differently, right? One of the things is just, you know, to be able to really listen and also, I think, to be able to look at different ways in which youth participate and engage. It’s not only about, you know, you and I tend to both be very outspoken and extroverts and, you know, someone asked the questions, I have an answer, right. But for those people that you know, take a little bit longer to process or really think deeply, something I need to do more is just think deeply before you answer or express themselves in different ways, right. And, you know, to those youth have said, hey, I have something to say too, but I say it in different ways. So to be able to create those spaces where the participants in your sessions, who might all express themselves in different ways, or take information in in different ways, have that opportunity,

Beth
And what a powerful thing as a youth to realize, Oh, I’m in a space where I am being heard. And the way I am in the world is being valued. To have that and to be able to teach the facilitator about how to do that, how to keep welcoming them, and including them as you work with them.

Susana
And I think that’s something that I’ve enjoyed about when you and I co facilitate, Beth, is, you know, we take participant feedback really seriously, right? Like when we invite people to fill out feedback forms and evaluation forms, we look at it, we’re like, oh, how can we do it better next time? Or oh, that’s interesting that that’s how it landed, right? So I really value that reflective practice.

Beth
It’s true. I’ve had clients where we’ll, you know, have the feedback form, right? And they go, oh, we actually don’t usually ask for feedback. And it’s always a little sadness right in my heart and try to get people to integrate that kind of thing. Because if we don’t ask for feedback, we’ll never pull out those things, will we, from the participants who can actually teach us things? So what do you say for the person that doesn’t want to ask for feedback? I mean, what benefits have you received from making sure that’s part of your practice?

Susana
Oh, my goodness, so much benefits. The gift of feedback is it can be really positive. You know, like, I’ve received positive feedback that I’m like, okay, I’m going to keep doing this, right. I’m going to, like, you know, I like playing music, I’m going to keep playing music, because people seem to like that, or I’m going to keep welcoming people in as they walk into the space, because that seemed to land really well, right. So if you don’t ask for feedback, you won’t even know what landed well. And in regards to my growth, I remember clearly one incidence where someone really challenged the question that I was asking, right. And we had this incredible conversation about what was coming up for them in regards to this question. And I learned so much about the power of words in that particular context. And I was able to work with her to create a more powerful question that then I used in my future sessions. You know, and she said that having that conversation helped her to clarify what her resistance was as well. And to actually work with a facilitator that really took her feedback seriously, and created a better question, gave her a lot more faith in facilitators as well. And you know, so we both learned along the way, right. So I think you miss a lot. And I think if we’re scared of knowing, and learning from our participants, we miss a really meaningful opportunity for real engagement. Especially when a lot of what I facilitate is about creating meaningful conversation and creating safer spaces, and trauma-informed facilitation, then I really have to walk that talk. Because if I’m not open to that feedback, and to my continuing growth, then I’m not being genuine in those spaces.

Beth
Yes. It’s the challenge of and the courage of kind of holding a mirror up to ourselves with our participants help or something isn’t? Going okay, we realize we’re human beings here at the front of the room, and we probably aren’t doing everything 100% perfectly, and there’s no way we can. Just to sit with that and recognize that that’s a thing, isn’t it?

Susana
That is and that, you know, the the facilitator journey, at least for me, it’s I don’t think I’ll ever learn everything. You know, I’m always learning, right? To be able to be human in front of our participants means that they get to be human too.

Beth
You invite that, you’re modeling that kind of authenticity and genuineness. Is that a word? I think so.[Laughs]

Susana
We can make it a word. [Laughs]

Beth
We’ll make it a word. Yeah, so if you don’t show up like that, you won’t see that in them either.

Susana
For sure.

Beth
What would you say about being humble as a facilitator, then?

Susana
[Laughs] It’s a real balance, because along with being human and showing your flaws, you also want to balance it with showing a level of expertise in holding containers. Because I also believe that in order to create safer containers and safer spaces, we need to be able to say to participants, I can hold this space. If we go deep, if things start to get a little wobbyl, I can hold this for all of us, right? Which means that you need to have a certain level of confidence and really grounded in yourself. And with that comes the humility of knowing that you might not always get it right, that there is someone out there to teach you more, often and most likely in the shape of one of your participants, right? And that what you’ve designed might or might not land the way you thought it was gonna land.

Beth
There’s such a both and or two truths thing about that. That to be confident, but also to be, have humility that you might not have it right.

Susana
Yeah.

Beth
And if that’s okay, you’re doing your best, you know, to kind of get it right. But you’re open to people telling you that, no, it’s not working for me.

Susana
It’s not working. Yeah. And I think of that as a extrovert or friendly person, I’m like, let’s do all the group stuff! [Laughs] Because I love that right. But that doesn’t land with everybody, right? So again, creating a real spectrum and diversity of ways of engaging, so you’re not just tapping into the really extroverted social people, or the people that really just need space and quietness.

Beth
Yeah, I think you’re right. And you mentioned, we’re both kind of those people that we would want to be the first to jump in and we have to hold ourselves back and be aware of that. Not assume that everybody’s the same way. Actually, just yesterday somebody said something like, but everybody loves breakout rooms, don’t they? I said, no, not everybody loves breakout rooms. I love breakout rooms because I can just get one on one with a person and blah, blah, blah, you know, just talk and have at it. But, you know, that’s one example of someone assumed that everybody did. And I had had direct feedback to the contrary earlier that, you know, not everybody loves it. So yeah.

Susana
Yeah and I was thinking too, that all the different ways in which we can create that, right, because one thing is about creating those groups, but even like, the visuals, like you know, the PowerPoints, right? Like, even the tools that you’re using, right, like to make sure that there’s multiple tools, right, and that you’re really not seeing everything through my lens. And I think that’s where like design thinking and the user experience, philosophy and foundations really works, right? Because you’re really inviting people or inviting myself to go, hey, what would it be as a participant to sit through this activity, right? Or what would it be as a participant to sit through what I have mapped out, right. And I think that creates that empathy of looking at something through someone else’s eyes before you actually go ahead and implement it.

Beth
Definitely. And I think it’s something that people probably should do more than they do is really situate themselves in their participants’ or their learners’ shoes and kind of look at that, whatever it is, hey, the activity or, you know, the little content piece or the something from their perspectives. And then they’ve got a diverse group. And so what are all the different perspectives in there? It’s a really challenging thing. But I know you and I think a lot about intentionality and planning. So tell me how that relates. You know, what kind of preparation do you do so that you can really put yourself in your learners’ shoes?

Susana
I think, for me, one of the things I consider really is what kind of experience do I want people to have when they go through this session, right? Because I know we have the learning outcomes or the objectives of the session. But to me, it’s also well, what’s the experience that I’m hoping that people will go through when they’re in a session, right? How do I want them to feel as they move through what I’ve prepared for the session? And I always have that in the back of my mind as I’m going through the process, right? And again, really focusing on how do you open up a session? How do you welcome people into the space. As people are walking in, whether it’s in Zoom, or whether it’s in a physical space as as people are walking into welcome them individually. You know, there’s been several Zoom sessions that I’ve been a participant in, where I walk in, and we’re just waiting, I don’t even know who the presenter is. And it really, I think, takes so little to welcome people in, start asking questions, break the ice right away, right. And I know one of the things you and I both like to do is to the session before the session where we have an activity for people to do if they don’t want to talk. But I think that’s your way of seeing in a physical or virtual space, hi, I see you welcome, right. And you start making that connection right away, which really lays a beautiful foundation for then moving on to the conversation that you are hoping to have during the session.

Beth
I’ve seen you do that really skillfully and kindly. You know, there’s a warmth, I think that you exude. It’s not something that, how can I say this? You know, it’s optional, isn’t it? Like we’re not forcing people to engage with us as they walk in the room, but we’re kind of opening up the options for, you know, for what they may or may not want to do with us. But there’s like a tone setting about it too. I think it’s one of your skills, I think to be able to start a session that way, comfortably in a welcoming manner.

Susana
Thank you Beth. That means a lot. And I tried to because I always, again, put yourself in those shoes. How would you like to be welcomed and then kind of go from there?

Beth
Yeah, there’s that awkwardness of [Susana: Yeah!] nobody knows what to do. And we’ve seen that in the face to face room too. I’ve been that person you walk in, and you’re kind of looking around and you’re wondering where to sit. And how can we help people get over that and feel like, no, you belong. You belong here. I had a session recently, somebody talked a lot about belonging. And I thought it was such a good word for facilitation.

Susana
Yes. Yeah. Like they did like you belong here. And by welcoming them in you’re, you’re reinforcing that. That might be, depending on that person’s way that they engage, that might be the only time they speak is when you welcome them in, ask them their name, individually, a one on one, right? So it’s just so great and to be able to find some commonalities, like what brought them there, you know, like, what is it that they’re they’re connecting to in regards to your session, right?

Beth
The piece you said about, you know, I see you or being seen, you want your participants to be seen. It’s so powerful, isn’t it?

Susana
I think so. And I think that’s our it’s one of our responsibilities as a facilitator, right to set that tone, to set that those parameters in how we’re going to engage.

Beth
How do we ensure that the people who need to be in the room are there? I mean, this is maybe more of a group process facilitation type of thing and we’re, you know, ostensibly talking about facilitating learning. But either way, there’s an inviting in piece that I’m wondering if you think about. How do you how do you invite people into the entire workshop experience and make sure that they’re there and are welcomed even before they sign up? Like, how do they know that, they’re welcome?

Susana
Yeah. And that’s, that’s really tricky because often, you know, especially when I’m doing a session for a client, that part isn’t mine. So that one’s really hard. What I do, though, once they do have, their going to send out the invitation or anything like that is, is I always ask them to include a message from me to the participants, so they get a sense of who I am. And especially on the virtual ones, I really try to say, hey, this is what you can expect and this is what we’re going to be doing and put out any expectations about camera on camera, or what to do or anything like that. Just so they can get a sense of who I am a little bit. You know, are you going to be expected to be hands on, can you sit back. Just so anyone that has a little bit of anxiety, or, or a second guessing whether they want to participate, they get a sense of what’s coming in the session, right? So I really do try, and even if it’s not my session, there’s a client in between, that I can communicate still to my participants.

Beth
I think that’s really important. I tried to do that, too, that pre-session communication can make or break somebody wanting to attend, can’t it? If they feel like, you know, when they read that blurb, or whatever it is, if they feel like, somehow it’s not for them, that’s a really dangerous and sad and awful situation, isn’t it? How can we make sure that doesn’t happen?

Susana
Yeah.

Beth
Where do you still hope to take your facilitation practice? You know, like we’ve said, and you’ve said, we’ll never be done our job of learning how to be great facilitators of learning. So are there things that you’re thinking about these days that you’re trying to, you know, keep your ears sort of pricked up too, and develop your own learning in how to be more inclusive?

Susana
That’s a big question. I have to think about that because there’s just so much. One of the things I need to stop doing is stop signing up for trainings, because I’m always such a keen learner. And I’m like, oh, I want to learn about that, oh, I want to learn about that. Because I think we just need to keep growing. I think that’s another one of our responsibilities, right? We need to continue to refine our skills. We need to continue to refine our knowledge base, right? You know, and COVID ironically offered some of that, because all of a sudden I know, I was like, learning all these platforms and trying to know them well enough so that I could use them and make people comfortable in them, whether it was Mural or Zoom or any of those right? So I want to continue to keep ahead of new platforms that are being offered. And I’m also already thinking like, I think before, when I would facilitate a session and I would pull out a Mural, everybody would be like, ooh, but now that’s so old. Like no one’s impressed by a Mural anymore, even if you make it really visually appealing that like yeah, sticky notes that move. [Laughs]

Beth
Yeah, we’ve seen this.

Susana
We’ve seen this before.

Beth
That was so two years ago! [Both laugh]

Susana
So I think it’s just to continue to, to learn what else there is. And I’ve dabbled into, and I do believe I have a learner-centered practice. And I want to continue to really deepen that approach, right? You know, like, there’s a whole body of work around human centered design, right? And I really want to just dive deeper and deeper into that to ensure that I am really following that path. That I’m not just saying I am. And I’m lucky right now that I’m working on a couple of contracts which allow me the space to do that. They’re allowing me the space to connect with the people that are going to be in these learning environments, right? And I’m able to talk to them and go, okay, what would work, what wouldn’t work? How do we create something that is going to be meaningful, engaging and relevant to you? And I know that not all contracts or projects allow that luxury, right, because it is a luxury but I do think we should include it as much as possible.

Beth
Did you see that Anna Jackson in the States was running the facilitative equity course?

Susana
Yes!

Beth
Yeah. So it’s nice to see that there are professional development total opportunities. And you know, of course, here in BC we have, you know, a lot coming out of higher ed and probably the nonprofit sector as well. And you mentioned trauma informed practice. Like, it’s a lucky time to be a facilitator if I can phrase it that way, isn’t it? There’s so much to be able to tap into.

Susana
Yeah, well, I think it’s important, you know, and I think that’s why I focus on human centered design, because I think if you’re truly human centered, then you’re including equity, you’re including diversity, you you are being inclusive. You know, like, I just recently took a course with BCcampus on indigenizing your curriculum and your learning design, and it was so transformative, and some of the questions that they posed for us, right, and, and even invited me to challenge what I believe about how group agreements create safety, and how they might not create safety, right. So all those things that disrupt what we believe, I think, are really powerful, powerful invitations to learn.

Beth
I think you’re right and I’ve definitely questioned some of the things that I thought I knew was true, I guess about certain things. And even, you know, when I wrote my book, Design to Engage, like I thought about particularly Indigenous ways of knowing and being at the time, because people would say, Beth, you can obviously learn through listening for long periods of time. I mean, some cultures, that is very much a part of their culture. And I, I get that. And there’s but there’s ‘both and’ thing there, too. It’s like, that’s not necessarily part of my culture but I appreciate and can try to figure out what to learn from that and just recognize that other people are coming from different practices and, and backgrounds than I and so how can we all figure this out together in some ways.

Susana
And I think it’s that openness of not being stuck in what you believe to be true, like you said, right. Because really, when you’re creating inclusive space, and you’re talking about physically inclusive space, you’re creating about a cognitive inclusive spaces, you’re talking about an emotionally inclusive space, and a culturally inclusive space, right. So there’s a lot to think about him and be intentional about.

Beth
There is and I think there’s a physical inclusion there as well, isn’t there because, you know, we can look at things like activities that might say, touch the person beside you. And we know that not everyone is gonna want to, not everyone will, especially even with the pandemic, and we don’t even want to be six feet, you know, next to each other. [Both laugh] But of course, there were, you know, some of us just never wanted that. And it doesn’t matter what culture you’re from, you know, on any given day, somebody might not want to be touched or might not want to be close to others. So, the Universal Design for Learning pieces [Susana: Yes!] are helpful for that too, aren’t they?

Susana
They’re very helpful, for sure. And that’s it. Like there’s so many tools out there that we as facilitators can tap into, that we really have no excuse for challenging ourselves to create inclusive spaces. There’s so much freely available knowledge out there, and there’s so many beautiful trainings that are out there. And, and that’s where it’s like, it’s our challenge to continue to deepen our skills.

Beth
Yeah. And turn to each other as well, right?

Susana
Yeah and turn to each other! Yes. Yeah and I love that about our facilitators network, right? That we can be like, hey, I’m struggling with this, right. And I really value to have that conversation because often as independent facilitators, we’re working in silos or like our little silo space, right? So to be able to reach out and go, hey, I’m, I’m struggling, how to do this or not do this, or this didn’t go well? Or what do you think of this is really nice to have sounding boards, right?

Beth
It is, and it makes me think about co-facilitation. So have you reaped the benefits of co-facilitation, particularly from a standpoint of wanting to be more inclusive or welcoming to your participants? Tell me about that.

Susana
Yeah, that’s always a challenging one. Because it can be such a gift and a joy, right? If you’re comfortable, like you, and I co facilitate quite a bit, right. And I think we have a very similar approach. And I think it really depends on the topic. I mean, as you know, like some of my background is facilitating really sensitive and what people will consider uncomfortable topics such as suicide and relationship violence and child abuse, right. And I think you know, the benefit of a co-facilitator and that point is that there’s two of you to maintain safety. But that’s when you really have to be aligned on what that looks like and how you’re going to do that, right. And I think those pre-session conversations are crucial. And even like, how are you going to respectfully call each other out if things go sideways by calling each other in to be able to have that safety and role model that you can do that in a really positive way.

Beth
I like how you said calling each other in because you know if we show up thinking I will probably make a mistake you know with you at some point and you know, how could you, or with the group or you know, something that I didn’t realize was offensive. You know, like, I think a lot of facilitators, especially if they’re new to thinking about inclusive facilitation, it can be almost hampering to, you know, it locks you up a little bit. But if we can have those early conversations with each other about how do we gently support and kind of catch each other and like, come into it as learn, we’re going to learn something, aren’t we working together? And let’s be gentle with each other at the same time.

Susana
Yeah, no, I think and it is. It’s just skill. But it’s also such a gift to be able to work with someone, right? Yeah.

Beth
Absolutely.

Susana
Beth, can we talk a little about visual thinking?

Beth Cougler Blom
Yes. Let’s talk about visual thinking. Because I know that’s a skill of yours. And it directly relates to inclusive facilitation, doesn’t it? Tell me more about that.

Susana
Yeah. So for me, like I was thinking like, how do I define visual thinking, right? Because I think a lot of people might be familiar with graphic recording, right, where there’s a session or a presentation, and someone is graphically or visually recording what’s being said, right. And at the end, there’s this beautiful, large scale graphic depiction or visual depiction of the conversation. What I do is visual facilitation, right, where I use visual thinking to guide people through a process, engage people in conversation. And what I like about visual thinking is that it really deepens understanding, particularly of abstract concepts. And it’s really a way of using visual images or symbols to illustrate concepts, to have a conversation. And the way I think it taps into inclusion is a difference between walking into a room where everything is text-based, and walking into a room where there’s pictures and symbols, because already that changes someone’s experience of that space.

Beth
Yes and we can’t always assume that people interpret symbols or pictures the same way, can we? But there, there is an opening up, I think maybe we can find more common ground sometimes when we’re looking at imagery together or, you know, even just a smile, like a smile translates across cultures, mostly, doesn’t it things like that?

Susana
Yeah, I think so. I think there’s some especially now that we have in our in a world of icons, right? Everything’s an icon, and an emoji and a Bitmoji. And all that sort of thing. I think visuals are becoming even more common. And which is even more reason why I think it’s important to incorporate them into our practices, right? And one, it’s more visually pleasing and engaging. And I’ve had sessions where people can come up to you and go, wait, does that mean, I can draw my answer too? And I’m like, yes, absolutely. Because already then it invites people to engage in a different way, right? It gives them permission to go from the text and from the written word into yes, you can express yourself in symbols and metaphors and visuals, right, and it allows people to play a little bit more.

Beth
It does and it’s that multiple intelligences thing, isn’t it? Because I’ve heard people say, well, I don’t really, I’m not a great writer, or I don’t read very fast, but maybe they’re an excellent drawer, or they actually can distill concepts quite quickly from seeing imagery or…and then music plays into that as well, doesn’t it? With like, we’re getting into five senses stuff here? Yeah.

Susana
Yeah, I think music plays something into it, because I’m fascinated by how we respond to music differently. Like why some of us like one particular kind of music and other people like others. But I do think there’s always beautiful background music that you can be playing, right that, again, creates that warm environment as people are walking in. And it also, because as humans, we tend to sometimes be uncomfortable with silence. So there’s something there, right, just like there’s visuals to kind of focus your eyes on and then you add the auditory part. Then, you know, while people are having a moment of reflection, and there’s some quiet music playing in the background, or as people are coming in. And I love kind of creating a playlist with at the beginning, you know, it’s really mellow and gentle, and then if there’s some small group work, kind of adapting the music to that, and then at lunchtime, kind of building up the energy of the music, right. So yeah, it’s nice to kind of play with that. And asking people what music they like. You know, like, it’s a treat when you’re doing multiple days, like, you know, if it’s a workshop that’s over multiple days, then you start building a playlist together of things people do, right. So that’s really great.

Beth
That’s a great way to keep the participants at the centre. And I know you’re quite good at using world music as well. So that you don’t have just this sort of Canadian or North American kind of boundary to you know, to you when you’re picking music. Like you’re quite intentional about the music you choose.

Susana
I am because I think, you know, one, there’s no excuse to not tap into the incredible amount of world music that we have at our fingertips. And to be able to walk in and hear a song from your part of the world or from your language or something that really resonates with you again, just deepens that belonging piece. Like if I walk in and I’m hearing a Spanish song like that, I’m like, oh, okay, this person actually knows a song from my area of the world, right, instead of just keeping mainstream music at play, right? [Beth: Yeah.] Yeah.

Beth
You know, this could be overwhelming for people I suppose, just thinking about all the things that we’ve talked about. Is there one thing that, you know, if people don’t do anything else but if they’re just starting out in their journey to try to open up their facilitation practice and be more inclusive to others, what might be the thing that you would suggest people start with?

Susana
Putting yourself in your participants’ shoes is important, right, because I think when we’re beginning, or at least you know when I was beginning as a facilitator, I was just so worried about my shoes [laughs]. You know, I was so worried about how I was going to come across that I forgot to just kind of take some time to take it in from my participants’ point of view, right. And I think that just kind of allows you to have a different perspective and maybe catch yourself a little bit. And to be really gentle with yourself as you’re moving forward, but really don’t assume that your truth is the only truth, right. Like I think we get into trouble when we do that. And continue to learn. Like I really go out, participate in workshops and learn from other facilitators, right. I always go to a workshop and I’m like, I’m there as a learner, but I’m also there going, oh, OK, that’s working for me as a participant, that’s not working, right. So I’m doing the two-lane learning I guess maybe.

Beth
I do that too and I’m sure, if people know me, they’re probably going, oh no, Beth’s in the room! Not that I’m so expert, but I can’t turn it off, I think and maybe other facilitators feel the same way, that it’s like two-eyed seeing or whatever you want to call it.

Susana
Totally!

Beth
And so yeah, we do learn from others. And things to do and things not to do.

Susana
Yeah and I think you said this in one of our conversations, it’s like, you know the more you facilitate, the more these will come second nature to you, right, and the more that you’ll be able to spend so much time reading the room instead of being focused on your agenda. Because we know we get into trouble when we’re more worried about the agenda than we are about how people are doing, because our priority should be the container and our participants, right?

Beth
Yeah, thank you for helping me and all of us to remember that. You know, get out of our heads sometime and really keep thinking about who is in the room and looking at things from their perspective. So powerful, for sure. What does it mean to you to facilitate on purpose?

Susana
I think it goes to the intentionality. To being intentional about what you’re facilitating, how you’re facilitating, and knowing that you, or I, I’ll speak for myself, that I as a facilitator play a really key role in that room. And to really step into it with purpose, right, and with intentionality and to be able to consider all that. It’s a lot to carry on our shoulders but I think what an incredible gift we’ve been given to be able to step into a room as a facilitator.

Beth
I very much agree, as you know, and I just thank you for sharing that and all the other words of wisdom with us now. So, yeah, thank you so much for being here and having this conversation with me today. I so appreciate it.

Susana
Thank you, Beth, and thank you for starting this podcast. I’m excited about hearing the conversations you’re going to be having and you know I really appreciate your role in our community of convening facilitators and having these conversations so we’re not in our little silos all by ourselves, so thank you for that. I really appreciate that.

Beth
Ah, it’s true. We’re not in it alone, are we, so there’s a comfort in that, absolutely.

Susana
No! [Laughs] We’re all learning together.

[Upbeat music playing]

[Episode outro]
Beth
Oh I really enjoyed my conversation with Susana and you know what? Now I can tell you that she’s such a good friend of mine that she actually recorded this episode twice for me. Because this was the first guest episode that I recorded for the podcast but what happened was, we recorded it in an audio only format first, so we couldn’t see each other. But we see each other all the time in Zoom and Zoom-like environments, and it was just so weird to have a conversation where we couldn’t see each other. We were stilted – actually she was fabulous, I was stilted, and what I asked her to do was record it with me again because I just wanted to see her and have the conversation and just feel like it was more of a natural experience. [Laughs] So she was kind enough to record it twice with me and this is the second episode. Susana really brought to us so many great things to think about around inclusive facilitation. Just two things I want to highlight. One is the piece around feedback. If you’re not asking for feedback from your learners, oh I really encourage you to start, because when we ask for feedback throughout the learning experience and afterward and then – and here’s the key – we actually look at it and make changes for the future, we are going to be able to become more inclusive facilitators as we grow in our practice. The other thing I want to highlight from our conversation is how Susana told us that she learned a lot of her skills in inclusive facilitation from working with youth. So particularly if you work with youth but of course if you work with adults too, if you can create spaces where they can tell you what they need and you make change to be able to value and respect their voice in a more inclusive way, that is golden. You will be growing in your practice as a facilitator. In the next episode I interview Moe Poirier of Shift Facilitation. Moe is a facilitator, he is a trainer of facilitators, he is also a coach, and Moe and I have a great conversation about the skills that leaders need in facilitation. And because he’s a coach and a facilitator we talk about the relationship between those two fields. So join Moe Poirier and I in the next episode. See you then.

[Show outro]
Beth
Thank you for listening to Facilitating on Purpose. If you were inspired by something in this episode, please share it with a friend or a colleague to help them expand their facilitation practice too. To find the show notes, give me feedback, or submit ideas for future episodes visit facilitatingonpurpose.com. Special thanks to Mary Chan at Organized Sound Productions for producing this episode. Happy facilitating!

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