How Do YOU Show Up as a Facilitator?

This week, Chirag and I were so fortunate to spend 2.5 days with state and local library staff from all across the country. During the course of our time together, we explored our various social identities and considered how they show up when we’re facilitating.

We all have social identity memberships–lots of them. These are the different groups and communities that we are a part of based on social categories in which people have shared experiences-both historically and presently. Unlike other aspects of identity like interests or talents, social identities are usually not chosen. People often receive different treatment based on their membership in these groups. Sometimes, we can see these identities clearly and other times, they are invisible. Some social identity examples are race, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, ability, and citizenship status.

Want to do a reflection? Think about how you identify yourself in each of these categories:

  • race

  • gender

  • socio-economic class

  • religion/spirituality

  • sexual orientation

  • ability/health

  • citizenship status

Now, consider: Which of these identities do you draw upon when you facilitate learning sessions or meetings with groups? Which of these identities do you keep at bay? Why?

Personally, I’ve found our social identities session really helpful in my work to be my authentic self when I’m facilitating. It’s sometimes easy for me to slip into “performance mode” where I kind of leave my own experience at the door. Over the years, I’ve become a much stronger facilitator by becoming more aware of my identities and realizing that my participants also have multiple social identities. This shows up in my facilitation in a couple ways:

1) Language: Being mindful of using inclusive, culturally competent language and not making assumptions about participants’ backgrounds or experiences.

2) Environment: Creating and reinforcing a safe space with clear community agreements and strategies that invite participation from every one.

3) Power: Intentionally structuring sessions where I’m not “the expert.” But rather, participants share their own expertise and we are all empowered us to learn from each other.

I’d love to hear: how do you show up as a facilitator?