Diversity | Inclusion | Equity and Inclusion
Creating change,  Diversity,  Inclusion

Smart Approaches to Effectively Address Equity by Balancing Group Participation

Lately, I’ve been going over strategies for trainers to make their courses and workshops more effective, by bringing attention to issues of equity and inclusion.


In my last post, I explained how you can help participants broaden their perspectives by interacting with a more diverse range of people.


Today, let’s talk about how you can successfully invite verbal participation from a full range of participants across group memberships. To begin, you may find it useful to increase your awareness of who, by group membership, is participating during large group discussions.

To Infuse Diversity and Inclusion, Start by Paying Attention…

With intent, notice and track who shares in the room and see if you observe any patterns by age, level in the organization, race, sex, age, gender identity, years of experience, sexuality, etc. You may observe that people with multiple memberships in privileged groups tend to speak up more frequently and talk for longer periods of time.

The major exception to this pattern has occurred during discussions related directly to issues of inclusion and diversity, when members of one or more privileged groups tend to be far quieter during the conversation. Regardless of the particular pattern, if facilitators notice an imbalance of participation, they can use a variety of tools to encourage a broader range of voices.

Try Using These Prompts to Balance Participation Across All Group Memberships

* I’d like to hear from some new voices….from people we haven’t heard from lately….

* I’m appreciating this conversation, and I’d like to broaden the number of voices. Who else has something to add?

* I’m noticing that a few people are sharing their perspectives, but we haven’t heard from a number of folks yet….I’d like to open up the space for people who haven’t yet shared….

* I believe the learning is far deeper when we explore a wide variety of perspectives. Who else has something to add that may be different from what has already been said?

* I’m noticing that most of the folks who have shared recently are managers; I’m curious what some of the rest of the staff think about this topic?

* I’m appreciating the comments so far, and most seem to be from people who are newer in the organization. I’m curious what people who have over 15 years of experience think?

Diversity | Inclusion | Equity and Inclusion

Facilitators can also use various learning methods to increase verbal participation, including:

* Buzz pairs:

Partner participants with someone they don’t know well and give them 2 minutes to talk about whatever is NOT being talked about, i.e., ideas, reactions, solutions, feelings, etc. Then ask for short report outs from each dyad or move back into a large group discussion.

* Buzz then brainstorm:

After the 2-minute buzz session, have participants brainstorm what they discussed and chart their ideas. Then start the large group discussion based on what was charted.

* Stations activity:

Identify 4-6+ topics you want ideas/input on. Put one topic at the top of each piece of chart paper. Divide participants into small groups and assign each group 1 chart. Give them 3+ minutes to brainstorm and list ideas; then move each group to another “station,” and ask them to review what’s already written, and brainstorm other ideas. You can also ask them to put a check mark by ideas they like. Pull group back together and have a large group discussion.

* Individual reflection time:

Give each participant a 3×5 card and ask them to individually write an idea/solution. Collect them and redistribute them or have participants trade them several times and then read them aloud in the group. Options: chart them all; have people read them in small groups; post them on the wall and ask people to go around and read them before discussing as a full group.

* To explore the pros/cons of an idea in more depth:

Give participants time to think about at least 1 pro and 1 con for the idea. Then go around the room and:

  • Each person shares 1 positive outcome of this idea
  • Then each person shares a possible pitfall or draw back

Variation: Form dyads or triads and ask them to generate 3 pros and 3 possible draw backs without discussing them. Then have groups report these into the room.

These are just some of the strategies I’ve found to be most helpful to expand the number and diversity of voices and ideas, and thus, enhance learning application and retention. Stay tuned for an upcoming post where I’ll build on this by explaining how to acknowledge and engage the input and contributions across a full range of group memberships.

Diversity | Inclusion | Equity and Inclusion

If you’re really serious about getting all the tools and activities to design and train engaging, productive foundational workshops of diversity and social justice, I’ve got some exciting events rolling out this summer – visit my Events page to find the one that’s the perfect fit for your organization.

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