Getting Advocacy Started: For Educators and Facilitators
Facilitators have the power to turn moments of angry conflict into moments where people can actually learn from one another. Even when people do not agree, the role of any facilitator is to promote thoughtful dialogue where diverse viewpoints can actually be heard and explored. Use this guide as a set of reminders for how you can improve conditions for self-advocacy and advocacy for others, creating spaces where diversity is valued. Note: These suggestions are intended as personal checkpoints rather than used as a formula. Feel free to add steps or skip suggestions that do not work for you or the situation you are in – make it your own!
Create Community Agreements
- Pose different scenarios involving conflict and the need for advocacy. Discuss what needs to happen for different voices to be heard.
- Co-create community agreements, including audience norms, speaker norms, and group norms. Discuss do’s and don’ts for further detail.
- Regularly reinforce agreements
Value Diversity, Address Power
- Discuss power: where it comes from, how we can tell who has it, and influences on who has a voice.
- Pose questions about whose point of view is represented and which voices are missing.
- Encourage and validate different perspectives. At times, agree to disagree and value diverse ideas.
- Explicitly teach how to respond productively when people want to disagree or agree with an idea. Post sentence starters.
- The facilitator has power, so keep your opinions open and probe for different views. Validate every idea by responding or connecting it to something else before moving on.
- Facilitators have a responsibility to help people listen. Keep discussions structured and focused on ideas, not people.
- Encourage deeper understanding. Ask questions that haven’t been asked and make connections between ideas. Be extra sensitive to individual needs and emotions.
- Help speakers focus on a specific problem and make sure they can back up their ideas. Provide feedback on structure and help keep their remarks concise and within time limitations.
- Help speakers anticipate where the audience is coming from and adjust to provide greater clarity.
Reinforce Care and Connection
- Reserve time and space to facilitate common ground through debriefs. Observe areas of conflict and identify areas in common.
- Move discussions of ideas to plans of action. Stop people from getting too abstract: focus on human beings, research, concrete examples, and care for each other.