I’m participating in a series of three sessions on Intentionally Equitable Hospitality, organized and facilitated by Maha Bali, Yasser Tammer, Irene Maweu, Mia Zamora, and Clarissa Sorenson-Unruh. You can find out more about the series from a blog post by Maha Bali. IEH is something I learned about a bit while participating in Virtually Connecting, a community that has brought together people who were attending conferences in person with people who were not attending, to have informal conversations about the conference, about the topics being discussed, about each others’ work, etc.
IEH is a way to facilitate and teach that supports equity and inclusivity, that intentionally works make a space where everyone feels welcomed and can participate equitably (as an ideal to strive for; making this work for everyone can be challenging but we can always keep working towards it). IEH is particularly focused on relations of power, on oppression and marginalization, and how these play into classes, workshops, and other events.
Here’s a brief overview of IEH from Bali & Zamora (2022):
IEH begins with the notion that the teacher or workshop facilitator is a “host” of a space, responsible for hospitality, and welcoming others into that space. IEH requires intentionality about who is involved in the design of that space, noticing for whom the space is hospitable and for whom it is not. IEH is iterative design, planning, and facilitation in the moment. It also includes the interactions outside of formal gatherings that influence formal, synchronous interactions.
You can also find out more about IEH from Bali, Caines, Hogue, Dewaard, and Friedrich (2019), focused on Virtually Connecting. And Maha Bali also has a short video explaining the concept.
As someone who teaches and also facilitates workshops and other events, I am very interested in learning more about IEH and how to put it into practice in my own context.
We had the first session on January 5, and I wanted to write down a few thoughts about one thing that stood out to me (there are many others!), namely the four phases of IEH that were presented in the session.
Here is a slide explaining four phases of IEH, from the first session.
One thing that stood out to me is that there are four phases; I think in the past I have mostly focused on the middle two, design and facilitation.
And even then I am learning a lot about those two phases, including thinking intentionally about design to “anticipate or respond to inequalities” and whether the design might “redress” or “reproduce” oppressions. I have done some of this sort of thinking and design, particularly around accessibility for people with disabilities and thinking about access in terms of ability to access technology, wifi bandwidth, cost, and others. There are more things to consider in terms of inequalities and oppressions that I could focus more on, such as diversity in language, culture, race, roles, levels of relative power, and more.
And one way to do so is to pay more attention to the first phase, pre-design–who is involved? What kinds of diverse experiences and perspectives do those folks bring to the group, that can help fill in things that others might not even recognize, and to help answer the above questions in the design phase to make the design more equitable? I also really appreciate thinking about the second question in the “pre-design” phase above, which is about larger structures that shape even how we think about a class or a session, and who is involved. What kinds of inequalities might be perpetuated there? And instead of just thinking that, well, this is how it is, are there ways we might resist?
For the “facilitation” phase, I wasn’t familiar with Priya Parker’s work, but Maha Bali has a blog post on Parker’s idea of generous authority that I found helpful. It comes from Parker’s book The Art of Gathering: Why We Meet and Why it Matters. From Maha’s blog post:
Parker writes about how, leaving the guests to do whatever does not mean there is no power in the room: other guests will step in to force their own agendas; I’ve always thought it was important to question what it means when teachers “give up their authority” in the classroom – because it just means that we leave the power dynamics among students there, with no teacher to balance those out.
This is really important and generative. It’s something I’ve struggled with in the past. I have certainly had the experience of stepping back to let the people in the class, or the workshop or activity, have more space to discuss or do things, with the result too often that a few people dominate. It has taken years to really recognize this and start to design in ways that help to support more equitable participation. Maha notes in her blog post that some Liberating Structures are designed specifically to ensure everyone has a chance to speak, for example.
I appreciate the description of “generous authority,” that giving up authority entirely can be problematic, and continuing to lead and guide spaces with authority in certain ways can be generous. I hadn’t thought about it in quite that way before.
Finally, I don’t always think about the fourth phase above, “beyond the moment.” Certainly in classes I do think beyond the individual class meeting because we are continuing to be together as a group for the rest of the term. And sometimes beyond, of course; students will sometimes bond into longer-lasting groups after a small seminar, for example. So sustaining equitable community can be very important to do beyond a limited moment, particularly when you will be working with that group of people over a somewhat extended period of time.
I was thinking about more one-off, shorter engagements…it could seems like maybe we will only see each other once, and then go our separate ways. But when I think about it more carefully, in the workshops and other activities I’ve done, whether as a facilitator or participant, it’s frequently the case that I connect with at least some of the same people over multiple workshops and events. Partly this may be due to geography or being in the same institution. In other cases it’s because certain folks get together in community around topics of shared interest and passion. That’s the case, for example, with people I have connected with in the open education community, and also with folks in Virtually Connecting, MY Fest, now IEH, and I’m sure other things in the future! So working towards sustaining community can be valuable beyond even a relatively short engagement.
This last one is something I want to think about more, though–it’s fairly straightforward to work on sustaining community through a series of workshops and events like MYFest or IEH, but what about for a one-off workshop? Perhaps it could lie in things like intentionally inviting people you have connected with in that workshop to something else they may be interested in? Just an initial thought…I’m sure I can come up with more later!