JEDI-Infused Facilitation: Bodies, Power, and Intentions

JEDI-Infused Facilitation: Bodies, Power, and Intentions

Oct 20, 2021

By: Mikayla Branz & Darrie Matthew Burrage

When we facilitate a training focused on the words Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion — and even bunch them together to say “JEDI” — we’re not surprised when people have a lot to say about it. Our relationship to JEDI (and its many meanings) is changing at a rapid pace, growing beyond quiet ivory tower libraries and lively dinner tables, expanding its way into common workplace discussions among leaders and colleagues alike. While JEDI is shrinking in intellectual obscurity, it remains pragmatically complex to integrate into our everyday work practices. The particular realm of practice we touch upon in this article is facilitation — that is, our role as facilitators, making it easier for people to accomplish their goals together by leading discussions and holding space for dialogue to occur.

We recently had an opportunity to host a training on JEDI-infused facilitation with our colleagues — how meta is that?! For JEDI to become an everyday practice, we must consider how JEDI principles can be infused into our general approach to facilitation regardless of the subject matter. This infusion provides us more opportunities to reflect on the way we facilitate, and to recognize that any space or conversation can advance or impede justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. By sharpening our skills associated with JEDI, we make every endeavor a more potent expression of our goals and hopes for the world. JEDI-infused facilitation as a way to approach all of our work is a far-reaching practice as opposed to simply facilitating an occasional JEDI topic. In this article, our hope is to offer you the awareness that JEDI-infused facilitation is also within your grasp.

First, as a foundation, let’s break down what JEDI means in the context of facilitation:

Justice – How can your facilitation foster a world that acknowledges its history and builds a future where everyone thrives?

Equity – How do you fairly honor the unique cultures, backgrounds, and needs of participants?

Diversity – How do you ensure the representation of all stakeholders impacted by the discussion? (Inside and outside the space)

Inclusion – How do you provide opportunities and resources to all participants so they may contribute and feel valued as a member of the group?

A subtle notion you may have gathered from each principle is that there are three elements that carry great importance in JEDI work: bodies, power, and intentions. Facilitators are challenged with considering (1) how the physical bodies of participating individuals show up and impact a collective space shared with others; (2) how power shapes interactions among participants, and between them and the facilitators; and (3) how our intentions (revealed or unconscious) can influence the direction of a group’s outcomes and the experience of participants.

We encourage that you now take some pauses in your reading and reflect deeply on the following questions:

Body Politics: What perceptions does society tend to have of your body? Your race, gender expression, skin color, age, heritage/culture, body appearance and abilities, even the way you adorn your body – among other identities that are visible to others that can impact their response to you. Additionally, how does your own understanding of your body influence your facilitation?

Power Dynamics: How does your facilitation style flatten or diffuse power in the space? In what ways does your facilitation create or reinforce power dynamics? What power dynamics might support the group, and which ones might impair their success?

Intentions & Goals: What place do you suppose “impartiality” has in facilitation? What about your own preferences, biases, and motives?

In our exploration of these themes and questions with our colleagues, we found that unpacking JEDI-infused facilitation was personal, vulnerable, and hopeful. Together, our staff generated a short list of JEDI-infused facilitation strategies that you may wish to incorporate into your own approach to facilitation:

  • Foster a JEDI conscious meeting design which will likely require setting aside time to ask yourself whether each component of your agenda is inclusive to all participants, and fosters equity in participation and decision-making.
  • Use inclusive opening questions (See our article on Superpowered Introductions for an example of this)
  • Build trust before and during your facilitation by being transparent with your intentions and sharing your full self, as well as honoring the contributions and humanity of your participants.
  • Provide interactional guidelines that uphold JEDI principles.
  • Wherever possible, learn the personal preferences and goals of your participants.
  • Sharpen your lens for noticing how identities show up and interact in spaces.
  • Highlight emergent connections between what participants are learning during the session and their lives inside and outside of work.

These few strategies incorporate particular attitudes and skills that can make your JEDI facilitation style come to life. Being more aware and employing JEDI-infused approaches help to cultivate a deeper and more deliberate way of being in a space — for us as facilitators as well as for our participants. With practice and attention, the spaces we facilitate can become environments where everyone feels seen, considered, celebrated, and safe.

We invite you to share with us any JEDI facilitation strategies that you have found successful in your own practices that we might add to our list; as well as any curiosities or courageous realizations that have emerged for you while reading this article. We are here to partner with you to increase the conscious impact desired by your organizations and communities – fostering richer discussions, initiatives, and spaces… the JEDI way.