“Promoting inclusion should be the business of all facilitators” write the IAF Social Inclusion Facilitators. But how does that work online? In these circumstances our groups are often more diverse than in-the-room gatherings. Power differentials abound, but they may be less apparent.
Online meetings are shaped by the technologies in use, which place constraints on how we can recognise diversity and promote inclusion:
With audio-only groups, non-native speakers of the call’s language are at an automatic disadvantage.
When we encourage the use of video to build personal connection, we reveal differences in skin colour, clothing and calling location.
With most conferencing systems, online breakout groups can’t easily be seen or overheard by the facilitator: what difference will that make?
Text chat perhaps gives away the least about who is making each comment - which brings its own challenges.
All of these technologies have advantages and disadvantages for facilitators seeking to promote inclusion.
In these environments, how might we challenge or learn from prejudice and intolerance as appropriate? As experienced online facilitators we have our own tried and tested tactics - but we know we still have lots to learn. This event brought together a wide range of perspectives to develop our practice.