Facilitation and Accessibility at Meetings – St Imier Anarchist Gathering 2012

While at the International Anarchist Gathering in St Imier in Switzerland, a group formed to deal with the issues around accessibility, privilege and creation of safer spaces. Unfortunately such a major area seemed to have been completely overlooked buy the organisers of the event and the groups that formed spontaneously did a great job of trying their best to rectify the problems where they could.

I was kindly asked to give a brief summary of how a facilitator can help with accessibility and dealing with privilege in a meeting environment, at an open emergency meeting that the group called. About 150 or so people attended. This is not a how to on facilitation, if you want that I recommend looking on the seeds for change website as those guys are great and have some top resources available.
This was simply a brief overview and is transcribed below.

“As a facilitator it is important to be aware of the needs of those participating in the meeting as well as the personality characteristics of others.

The most common examples will be people who dominate meetings.

This is not to say that people who have a lot to say are dominating, but it is the role of the facilitator to prevent this from becoming a problem.

A common need will be those who feel uncomfortable speaking in a large group.

One way of dealing with this is to split a large group in to smaller ones of five or six who can then feed back to the main meeting.

Another issue for the facilitator is how to give fair and proportional time and space to people who do not have the same privileges as others. Such as and form of disability, people of colour, gender, and in this situation, language, to give an incomplete list.

This can be aided using the stack system. Does everyone know what I mean by the stack system?

[No?]

Put simply usually who ever puts their hand up first speaks first, but in this system you can take note of who has put their hand up to speak and then move people higher up the stack.

T facilitator does not have to do first come first served and can move people to the top of the stack where appropriate.

This is not a rule, but instead a state of awareness and understanding of the role of privilege. That the life experiences and view points of a straight, white, able bodied, English speaking Male, without learning difficulties is just one view point.”

St. Imier, Switzerland – 11/08/2012

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2 comments on “Facilitation and Accessibility at Meetings – St Imier Anarchist Gathering 2012

  1. Joe Evans says:

    I tend to think that the problem often stems from having meetings that are not clearly structured to achieve a specific goal. If you bring a hundred people together to discuss two alternative courses of action then vote on which one to follow, that can definitely work. If you bring a hundred people together to talk in a general way about what course of action might be best, it’s hopeless – the scope of the meeting is too large, so everyone will have a lengthy and wide-ranging opinion, and there’s no way to accommodate a hundred of those in one open group session.
    I think that if you look back on the successful activists of past times – the Suffragettes, the US Civil Rights movement, the UK Trade Union movement in it’s early days – they were filled with people who really understood how to use conventional committee meetings, how to engage and inspire a big crowd, when and how to use voting systems – in short how to get decisions made and actually get stuff done. I’m inclined to think that our current preoccupation with consensus is actually stopping us from achieving much, and that our distrust of the conventional mechanisms of organisation – committees, votes, speeches and so on – means that we’re not building the strong, focused organisations that we need to actually change things.

  2. […] this one and relying totally on other people speaking so I can just introduce the debate and take stack. We have been given an hour and a half but I hope to keep it to one hour as I’ve got a […]

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