A Reflection about CAWI’s Inclusive Facilitation Training

By Tong Zhao-Ansari

City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) was partnering with the National Righting Relations Program to deliver a two-day facilitation training with an emphasis on inclusive facilitation and working across diversity in January, 2019. This training was designed and facilitated by CAWI staff Fathiya Warsame, Tong Zhao-Ansari, and CAWI long-term volunteer Terri-Lee Rayvals-Mele who has over 20 years of experience in both workshop design and facilitation, designed and delivered workshops to enable people’s voices to be heard in workplaces, community and for unions across Canada. This Inclusive Facilitation Training focuses on creating a welcoming environment for cross-cultural and participatory learning including how to design and prepare in advance of your workshop, ways for adapting to ensure the most marginalized voices are heard and share and practice inclusive facilitation principles and techniques, with other experienced facilitators. Priority was given to women and those who self-identify as women who have experience as facilitators in their spaces of influence and are from equity groups. As a result, our participants were from diverse backgrounds.

The training went fairly well considering the timeline we had to work with, the limited resources and the positive feedback we got from the participants. We were able to secure a training space that is welcoming, accessible and large. This allowed us to set up chairs in a circle, have plenty of room for participants to move around and set up stations for small group work. We were able to accomplish the tasks designed for the first day and accommodate people’s needs to have more hands-on experience on addressing challenging group dynamics the second day. Participants appreciated that all 3 outstanding facilitators modelled inclusive facilitation perfectly, appreciated their ability to read the energy, mood and desired direction of the participants to accommodate their needs while not losing sight of the workshop’s purpose or having the structure turn chaos into positive and constructive dialogues.

I’d like to encourage the facilitators to consider all participants’ needs as we revise our Inclusive Facilitation training for future groups, for example, some participants might want to spend a whole day talking about how to facilitate challenging group dynamics caused by racism, others might want to stick to the original workshop plan, we need to allow space and provide options to meet everyone’s needs. I am looking forward to meeting with the facilitators soon and going through the evaluation results and hopefully being able to use that to improve the training and inform our next planning steps.

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