Setting an Ambitious Course to ‘Crawl’ by Meeting People Where They Are
Designing inclusive introductory training materials to engage all audiences
Please hold onto your seatbelts. I am going to do something that many people typically make into - at best - a bumpy ride.
Every year around the third week of January, the same people who work actively to suppress and limit pull out inspiring quotes. The most recent occurrence happened just a few weeks ago with prominent politicians shutting down voting rights and also posting lovely quotes to their social media channels.
Yes, that. I am going to include a quote from the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Let’s give it a try. Here it goes.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
On March 31, 1956, Dr. King discussed the Montgomery Bus Boycott with a crowd in Brooklyn, New York. Other speakers at the same event included religious and governmental leaders such as a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest, and the city council president.
It is such a solid learning principle. Meeting people where they are. The recorded version of the quote from the speech reads: “Press on and keep pressing. If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk - ‘CRAWL.’”
Yet, it is easier said than done.
Sometimes it takes assuming what people know. Perhaps occasionally it may be from casual observation. Sometimes it takes difficult conversations. Or maybe it appears as the product of challenging situations.
This quote gives two important implications to use here - first, meeting people where they are and second, always moving forward, at least at a crawl.
Last week for my organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion week, I presented the first workshop of the week with “IDEA 101: Introduction to Terminology, Concepts, and Topics.”
Check out my first post in this mini-series about DEI Weeks, Is ‘It’ a Celebration? Training? Or Something Else?
This training focuses on meeting people where they are and moving forward at a crawl. Based on the idea that we cannot engage productively in any conversations (DEI-related or not) without some sort of foundation upon which we can build, this workshop establishes the foundation.
So many trainings seem to try to build the metaphorical airplane while already in flight. Often, these trainings are jumping into some sort of implicit bias workshop. These are widely known to be potentially problematic… and a great topic for another week.
In the IDEA 101 workshop, as a group we set a foundation from what is diversity, including the many-layered aspects of intersectionality, to understanding equity versus equality. The session is layered with multiple breakout sessions for small group discussion (ideally 2-3 people per group) to discuss diversity, common terms they have encountered in the DEI space, and explore methods to address systemic barriers.
The brief advertising blurb for this workshop describes how: “This workshop will cover diversity, inclusion, and equity in academia, approaches to IDEA efforts, current practices, and more! We will reflect, discuss, and answer questions in a collaborative, supportive environment.”
Often, I wonder when training sessions are too advanced, why we are trying to run when we should be crawling. Other than the need to meet people where they are, getting into a too advanced or too technical of a training can be off-putting and discouraging. It would be like a first year introductory chemistry student sitting in a fourth year physical chemistry class. They might be picking up words here and there, but they are not ready for the content yet.
Presenting introductory sessions are a way to be more inclusive. We can meet people where they are. For some, these sessions may be a review and for others the content may be largely brand new. Either way, these are an opportunity to crawl before we run.
The first workshop for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Week 2022 was a great success! The week continues through Friday, February 18. Next week, I am excited to share more about the closing event, an IDEA-Focused Introduction to Facilitating Equitable Faculty Searches that I designed and am hosting as the last session of DEI Week. This session is based on the IDEA acronym - inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (part of that word salad of DEI acronyms that I have written about before). I hope from this event that some of the attendees are ready to move forward with their learning and engagement in this space at whatever speed they can.
This is also a good time to avoid hypocrisy. The people who actively work against voting rights and other social structures definitely should avoid using quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While this training is just a little step and neither a run nor a walk, and really nothing compared to any of Dr. King’s teachings, hopefully it helps someone move forward in some way. Thanks for sticking with me while I included a Dr. King quote too!
Until next time, let us work to meet people where they are and try to be inspired by this quote to move forward at least at a “crawl.” Here’s to plotting a new ambitious course - to at least crawl.