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Community Engagement Forum 2020: Establishing Meaningful Relationships with Communities You Serve

Panel at AIA Seattle's 2020 Community Engagement Forum, on the topic of "Establishing Meaningful Relationships with Communities You Serve."

The forum discusses ways to build the knowledge, resources, and skillsets to form more authentic relationships and coalitions with community, and transform our profession from one that works for community to one that works with.

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Community Engagement Forum 2020: Establishing Meaningful Relationships with Communities You Serve

  1. 1. Sarah Fathallah @SFath
  2. 2. I acknowledge that the city of Oakland, from where I am presenting today, sits in the territory of Huichin, part of the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Lisjan Ohlone people. As an immigrant who settled here, I have benefited and continue to benefit from the seizure of this land. I am grateful to the Lisjan Ohlone people who are still here, and continue to live on this land, despite a history of erasure, forced removal, and genocide of Indigenous peoples. I commit to naming their existence, because naming is an exercise in power when what is being named has been historically erased. I also commit to continue learning about the history of this land, to center and join the struggle of the Lisjan Ohlone people and Indigenous peoples everywhere, and fight for Indigenous land stewardship and rematriation, today and every day.
  3. 3. Authentic Connection in BIPOC Communities Sarah Fathallah @SFath
  4. 4. Centering lived experience Being in solidarity Naming systemic forces Practicing critical reflexivity Ceding power Building relationships Extending hospitality Honoring resilience Building communities of care Striving for healing Inspiring direct action Fighting white supremacy
  5. 5. Centering lived experience “Redesigners are individuals that really are thinking about the reality of being embedded. That’s actually the best place to be because you have that living knowledge, and are, many times, affected by the outcomes of whatever you’re creating. It eliminates this tendency of savior complexity. They are always asking, “How do I improve, innovate, and create interventions to better my best community and address the issue that’s relevant to my lived experience?” They are constantly building upon existing resources.” — Antionette Carroll, How to Redesign for Justice, 2020.
  6. 6. Centering lived experience How can we ensure that the individuals and communities most affected by the outcomes of our work are the ones in charge of influencing them?
  7. 7. Being in solidarity “Design justice practitioners choose to work in solidarity with and amplify the power of community-based organizations. This is unlike many other approaches to participatory design, in which designers partner with a community but tend to retain power in the process: power to convene and structure the work, to make choices about who participates, and usually, to make decisions at each point.” — Sasha Costanza-Chock, Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need, 2020.
  8. 8. Being in solidarity How can we shift towards contributing our skills and resources to community-led processes, instead of seeking community participation in processes that we initiate and control?
  9. 9. Naming systemic forces “The relationships between people and problems are often governed by sets of heuristics—techniques that allow problems to be solved with speed, agility, and economy. However, these preexisting schemas can perpetuate exclusionary assumptions and biased practices [...] that govern relationships with people in our organizations, schools, and governments. By making them visible, we can assess their impact and create a space for reflection and repair.” — Caroline Hill, Michelle Molitor, and Christine Ortiz, Racism And Inequity Are Products Of Design.They Can Be Redesigned, 2016.
  10. 10. Naming systemic forces How can we build a more robust understanding of the hegemonic institutional, structural, and historic forces at play in the communities with whom we work?
  11. 11. Practicing critical reflexivity “Critical reflexivity is foundational to socially just, anti-oppressive research. [...] It enables us to examine the ways in which our own values, identifies, and positionality affect our research and particularly our relationships with participants. [It’s] a recognition that the researcher is not separate from but exists in relationship with what s/he is trying to understand. [...] Critical reflexibility is an ongoing process rather than an event.” — Susan Strega and Leslie Brown, “From Resistance to Resurgence”, Research as Resistance: Revisiting Critical, Indigenous, and Anti-Oppressive Approaches, 2005.
  12. 12. Practicing critical reflexivity How can we embed the uncomfortable, ongoing process of critical reflexivity in our practices to uncover and challenge the assumptions embedded in ourselves?
  13. 13. Ceding power “When designers work on complex social sector issues, they often enter situations with power inherently given to them (even if they don’t realize it). They’re seen as the ones with the newest knowledge, the ones with solutions, the innovators. [...] But the more experienced you are in understanding the mechanics of power, you’ll find that power is remarkably renewable. Power is restorative the more you give it away.” — George Aye, Design Education’s Big Gap: Understanding the Role of Power, 2017.
  14. 14. Ceding power How can we recognize and shift power differentials, prioritizing the safety and well-being of marginalized people over the comfort of privileged people?
  15. 15. Building relationships “The philosophical premise of take what you need (and only what you need), give back, and offer thanks suggests a deep respect for other living beings and is integral to Indigenous methodologies. [...] In a relationship-based model, research is a sincere, authentic investment in the community. This requires the ability to take time to visit with people from the community; the ability to be humble about the goals; and the ability to have conversations at the start about who own the research, its use, and its purpose.” — Margaret Kovach, “Emerging from the Margins: Indigenous Methodologies”, Research as Resistance: Revisiting Critical, Indigenous, and Anti-Oppressive Approaches, 2005.
  16. 16. Building relationships How can we structure engagements with communities in a relational praxis that aims to minimize extraction, and address issues of ownership, accountability, and responsibility?
  17. 17. Extending hospitality “In many cultural contexts, hospitality is critical to demonstrate care and respect and foster connection. In co-design, we long to be seen, heard, valued, and treated as an individual. [...] When we offer hospitality (giving before we get), we’re rewarded with people’s time, full participation, and the previous commodity of their hopefulness.” — Kelly Ann McKercher, Beyond Sticky Notes. Co-Design for Real: Mindsets, Methods and Movements, 2020.
  18. 18. Extending hospitality How can we increase our practices of hospitality to ensure communities feel appreciated, supported, welcome, and that they can come as they are?
  19. 19. Honoring resilience “Non-indigenous research has been intent on documenting the demise and cultural assimilation of Indigenous peoples. Instead, it is possible to celebrate survival, or what Gerald Vizenor has called ‘survivance’—survival and resistance. Survivance accentuates the degree to which Indigenous peoples and communities have retained cultural and spiritual values and authenticity in resisting colonialism.” — Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, 1999.
  20. 20. Honoring resilience How can we join in celebrating communities’ survival and active resistance rather than contributing to and perpetuating narratives of their problems and downfall?
  21. 21. Building communities of care “What does it mean to shift our ideas of access and care (whether it’s disability, childcare, economic access, or many more) from an individual chore, an unfortunate cost of having an unfortunate body, to a collective responsibility that’s maybe deeply joyful? What does it mean for our movements? Our communities/fam?” — Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, 2018.
  22. 22. Building communities of care How can we fight against ableism and build communities of care where no one is left behind?
  23. 23. Striving for healing “Just like the absence of disease doesn’t constitute health, nor the absence of violence constitute peace, the reduction of pathology (anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, distrust, triggers) doesn’t constitute well-being (hope, happiness, imagination, aspirations, trust). Everyone wants to be happy, not just have less misery. [...] One approach is called healing-centered, as opposed to trauma-informed. A healing centered approach is holistic involving culture, spirituality, civic action, and collective healing.” — Shawn Ginwright, The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement, 2018.
  24. 24. Striving for healing How can we move beyond minimizing the potential for triggering and retraumatization to understanding the ways in which trauma and healing are experienced collectively?
  25. 25. Inspiring direct action “Radical love should ask how the work in which we are engaged helps to build respectful relationships between ourselves and others. [It] means asking ourselves if what we are contributing is giving back to the community and if it is strengthening the relationship of all of those involved in the process. Is what is being shared adding to the growth of the community? Is what we are working toward leading to a more peaceful and equitable society?” — Andrew J. Jolivétte, Research Justice: Methodologies for Social Change, 2015.
  26. 26. Inspiring direct action How can we ensure that the processes we support aim at producing better life outcomes and materials conditions for community members?
  27. 27. Fighting white supremacy “[Trauma] is a spontaneous protective mechanism used by the body to stop or thwart further (or future) potential damage. Trauma is not a flaw or a weakness. It is a highly effective tool of safety and survival. [...] White supremacy—and all the claims, accusations, excuses, and dodges that surround it—are a trauma response. [...] These ideas have been reinforced through institutions as practice, procedures, and standards.” — Resmaa Menakem, White Supremacy as a Trauma Response, 2018.
  28. 28. Fighting white supremacy How can we actively fight against the norms and standards of white supremacy culture in our work and our organizations?
  29. 29. Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture ● Perfectionism ● Sense of Urgency ● Defensiveness ● Quantity over Quality ● Worship of the Written Word ● Only One Right Way ● Paternalism ● Either/Or Thinking ● Power Hoarding ● Fear of Open Conflict ● Individualism ● Progress is Bigger, More ● Objectivity ● Right to Comfort Source: Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, 2001. Cited by: Creative Reaction Lab, How Traditional Design Thinking Protects White Supremacy, 2020.
  30. 30. Thank you! Sarah Fathallah @SFath

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