In late 2019, Jonathan Capehart wrote an article for the Washington Post titled, “Diversity Training Fails Because Companies Are Doing it Wrong." A potential client upon seeing his article asked, how is Boundless Awareness different from other companies?
Capehart’s article featured Pamela Newkirk’s book “Diversity Inc: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business.” Frankly, we agree wholeheartedly with Newkirk’s assessment. Luckily, our approach to facilitating conversations on inclusion, power and privilege are exactly the opposite of her findings and yield truly powerful results.
At Boundless Awareness, we set people up for success by focusing on building curiosity, being transparent about the discomfort the workshop might bring up and emphasizing that there is no “one way” to interact with the material. In fact, our exercises are purposely designed to take participants through an experience in which they decide their conclusion. We have never had a participant leave a workshop feeling like they have failed because the whole point is to create more questions and more curiosity.
There are programs out there that claim to eliminate bias. At Boundless Awareness, we believe that is not only impossible but if that is the goal then people will most certainly be set up for failure. Boundless Awareness gives people tools to manage bias, bring out their humility around it, and feel like they CAN say “oops!” and then move forward to address the situation. Bias will always exist, the question is, can we start to notice it and then take action?
So what are some of the tools we use? We give the historical context around race, gender, age, ability, and any other marginalized identity we are focusing on. You can’t tackle what’s going on inside an organization without looking at what we bring in from the outside, from our background, our culture and our histories. Our workshops dig deep and look at the root of bias to give the context we need to see the broader dynamics at play. This is how we can talk about racism without defensiveness, we can talk about misogyny easily and call it out because it is not one person’s fault, rather it is the society and history we all share, and of course we can perpetuate it if we don't gain awareness.
We also do not shy away from the hard topics, but we maintain a digestible way to look at them. So we talk about power and privilege and oppression and our roles in all three. But just like we all have bias, we all hold privilege and oppression, some more than others, and we can only create more inclusive spaces when we recognize where we stand in these dynamics. The recognition part is hard and sometimes scary, but also a really exciting step towards creating the spaces we all want to work in.
Anti-oppression workshops are challenging, and it can’t be done with a formula used for every company. Boundless Awareness believes the work is specific to your office culture, so our workshops are tailored to each space we enter. We cannot check the box and be cured. As we always tell our participants, we all have bias, it is unavoidable. We are here to help you recognize it and where it comes from and then to begin to figure out what to do when it arises, all of which creates more inclusion in your workplace.
These are just some of our tools that help participants in Boundless Awareness workshops succeed and leave feeling empowered ready to effect change.