This blog post was collaboratively written by an international team of volunteer Inclusive Leadership Consultants: Seyi Alawuh, Muhammad Almahroof, Bukola Amao-Taiwo, Lindsay Beal, Terri Beaton, Alan Cundall, Harriet Greenwood, Linda Hill, Nola Landucci, Amy Matamba, Tafadzwa Matamba, Janice Milnerwood. Pema Rigzin, and Claudia Sanchez.
The Strengthening Bridges project is generously funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism.
Our goal is to build community capacity by preparing new generations of Inclusive Leadership facilitators.
The project Education Committee (Janice, Linda, Lindsay, Harriet, and Terri) invited Inclusive Leaders to gather online on November 27, 2019 for two hours of Appreciative Inquiry into the ILC Strengthening Bridges project. We are so grateful to everyone who came to our virtual meeting room. The 14 of us who met together live and work in diverse parts of the world with half of us in Canada. The make-up of this online gathering beautifully captured how our Inclusive Leadership community is growing out from our roots on Vancouver Island BC to other provinces in Canada and to Argentina, Colombia, England, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and many other countries. We showed up with open hearts and minds to embrace the new and somewhat unusual experience of learning on-the-job to be Participatory Action Researchers and Consultants.
Our Inclusive Leadership consulting meeting combined the Building Bridges steps with Appreciative Inquiry to strengthen and enrich the Strengthening Bridges Project. During our meeting-that-was-also-a-workshop we watched and listened to short overview presentations from members of the Project Education Committee. After each presentation our appreciative consultants asked curious questions, made encouraging suggestions and highlighted what is working well so far. We typed all these notes into a transcript of the meeting. Following the workshop, Janice, Linda and Harriet applied a qualitative research process called “Q-sorting” to organize everyone’s input into themes. By reviewing, reflecting on, acting on and building on these themes, we will strengthen and enrich our January to April 2020 plans for developing a self-assessment inventory and an online Facilitating Inclusive Leadership Practice Group.
Six Themes That Will Guide Our Work in 2020
Theme 1 is Access. The consultants appreciated the ways the Strengthening Bridges project is using online technology to address the challenges and barriers that used to make it difficult for people who do not live on Vancouver Island, BC to access Inclusive Leadership education. By developing online Inclusive Leadership Education, we are increasing access throughout BC, across Canada and around the world. Despite unreliable internet access for Inclusive Leaders from some African countries, online Inclusive Leadership education is working well to build a global community of Inclusive Leaders who are becoming Inclusive Leadership facilitators. One of our consultants shared how she is already facilitating Inclusive Leadership sessions for educators from rural communities. She appreciates how she can make the course accessible by downloading and printing handouts and e-booklets. We briefly touched on how language barriers might be lowered by translating our online courses into other languages.
Theme 2 is Connection. The Strengthening Bridges Project is increasing our capacity to connect regionally around the province of BC as well as across Canada and globally. We are making deep authentic, purposeful connections and alliances on behalf of the planet and social action. Inclusive Leaders who gather online share powerful experiences of being one human family in our Earth home. Facilitating Inclusive Leadership also involves learning to form connections and alliances in our local communities that engage more people in the social diversity and biodiversity challenges we are each passionate about. Showing up for each other on this local level continues to be easiest in the Cowichan Valley and other parts of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada where most Inclusive Leaders live. We are growing organically from these rural roots.
Theme 3 is Authenticity. Integrity is one of the core shared values of practicing and facilitating Inclusive Leadership. Being real, grounded and down to earth is so important. Integrity allows us to know where we are coming from and to communicate our perspectives with others in ways that lead to mutual understanding. Honest expression that cares and empathizes with the other leads to learning together in accepting and respectful ways. These authentic connections foster inclusion. Facilitating Inclusive Leadership authentically involves learning to hold our ground in the midst of conflict and other challenging moments. We can learn to connect from the heart even when one person’s needs clash with what another person needs. We can learn how to be in places of discomfort and stay connected to the possibility of shared understanding. We can learn how to be in a peer group with our diverse perspectives, while sticking with our integrity.
Theme 4 is Justice. Inclusive Leaders share many social and environmental justice concerns. Our shared struggles unite us. We are drawing inspiration from what we are each doing around the world. The next few months of preparing the next generation of Inclusive Leadership facilitators will involve sharing our ideas, knowledge and skills for coming together in our communities in ways that work to reduce inequalities and make our communities safer. Our intention is to create webs of empowering mutual mentoring alliances of inclusively minded leaders. Becoming Inclusive Leadership facilitators involves learning to participate in these online webs of mutual support. We then connect our local communities to all this previous learning. For example, one of our consultants shared an experience of being involved in a peace-building project in which a group created posters about skills for peace as part of raising public awareness. We could come together online in one of our Facilitating Inclusive Leadership Practice sessions to make Anti-discrimination First Aid posters and then share these posters with our communities.
Theme 5 is Peace. At conferences and community gatherings we can learn to receive each persons differences as gifts. Part of this peace-building skill is looking for similarities and common ground to be found within and among the differences in the people we meet. Facilitating peace building is learning how to receive, include, hear and acknowledge collective pain without creating blame. Inclusive Leadership facilitators can learn alternatives to burying conflict or avoiding conflict. We can learn to face conflict and use it for socially and environmentally just changes.
Theme 6 is Children and Youth. Inclusive Leadership is inter-generational as well as inter-cultural bridge-building. Facilitating Inclusive Leadership involves sharing leadership with children and youth. Let’s not forget those under the age of fifteen who are unlikely to participate in adult oriented Inclusive Leadership online education. A crucial part of building a more inclusive world is adults supporting, teaching and learning alongside children and youth. What if we could strengthen bridges of inclusion by pairing classrooms and schools around the globe? What if we engage children and youth in diversity education through online groups that will expose them to Inclusive Leadership in other countries? These are seeds that will grow from our rural roots on the west coast of Canada into a global intercultural and inter-generational community.