Episode 103: Principles in Action: Safety Takes Courage and Bravery

Here we reflect on the need to address courage and bravery when facilitating learning through the ideas put forth by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens in their 2013 writing, From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces. They note brave spaces are especially important when in dialogue on complicated diversity and social justice issues. Read the GLP blog post by Andrea Van Liew on this here.

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This show is produced by Global Learning Partners and Greg Tilton JR. You can learn more about GLP on our website, as well as check out Greg’s work and services!

Theme music: ‘Pretty Face’ by Una Walkenhorst. You can hear more of Una’s music on her website!

Read more about courage and bravery in this blog post here.

Read transcripts for the episode below.

Meg (10s): Hello and Welcome to Shift the Power: A Learning-Centered Podcast where we talk about the revolutionary power of a learning-centered approach. Through this podcast we hope to inspire creative thinking and provide practical tools and techniques to deepen learning through dialogue. I’m your host, Meg Logue. Today, we’re talking about the importance of Courage and Bravery and how this language can expand our thinking, as it relates to the adult learning principles of safety and respect. This episode is based on a blog by GLP partner Andrea Van Liew, where she reflects on the groundbreaking article by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens, From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces.

Meg (55s): At GLP we’ve been fierce advocates for centering the core principle of safety in learning events. This stems from our belief that adults will not learn if their environment feels threatening. Everything from the atmosphere of the room, to the way that dialogue is structured and facilitated can contribute to an increased sense of safety so that learners can take increasing levels of risk with their learning. However, when most of us hear the word safety, we envision a space where we will be taken care of. There is no threat of danger or risk, and we need not worry, researches and facilitators have begun to push back identifying just that in the context of some learning events, we must be careful not to confuse safety with comfort in their article titled From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces, Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens described their experiences leading social justice workshops for student leaders at the university level, they advocate lessening the emphasis on Safety while centering Bravery and Courage, especially when discussing difficult topics like racism, sexism, and other forms of social inequality and oppression.

Meg (1m 59s): As facilitators, we can do better with small linguistic shifts to encourage learners, to anticipate discomfort and challenge.

Meg (2m 14s): Now let’s take a look at one example of how we can make this shift. During the first day of most of our learning events, we asked participants to identify guidelines that will support each other. And the Learning the generated lists usually include expectations about setting aside cell phones, side conversations, handling disagreements, and listening intentionally to each other. We also emphasize two of our core principles, safety and respect early and throughout the course, as a way of modeling, embedding these concepts and learning tasks, meetings, and other gatherings to encourage safety and respect as well as Bravery and Courage around. Arao and Clemens identified a number of ways to transform the common agreements made within group guidelines like ours into Brave agreements.

Meg (2m 58s): For example, many people use the phrase agreed to disagree in order to avoid conflict among individuals, during conversations around controversial topics Arao and Clemens share the phrase, controversy with civility, different views are expected and honored, and the group has an agreement to work cooperatively toward common solutions. Other conflict avoidance phrases found in group guidelines include don’t take things so personally, and it’s okay to make mistakes. Although these guidelines allow for honest participation, they Shift the responsibility for any emotional impact to the effected person who is then expected to hide their feelings and process them internally rather than with the group. This is a disservice to the growth of all members of the learning community, the alternative guideline of own your intention and impact expresses respect for all members of the Learning group.

Meg (3m 49s): Even though someone may make a comment or ask a question with good intentions, it’s critical to acknowledge and address any negative impacts that arise for other group members around. Arao and Clemens note that often using the term Brave space at the beginning of an event can have a positive impact in an of itself, transforming what is sometimes seen as an obligatory conversation into an important group process. This alternative for setting group guidelines aligns well with Global Learning Partners learning-centered approach by disrupting and de-centering dominant narratives in which knowledge flows one way from teachers to students. The article concludes with these thoughts, we have found that reframing ground rules to establish Brave Spaces is an asset to us in our work as social justice facilitators.

Meg (4m 36s): It has helped us to better prepare participants to interact authentically with one another in challenging dialogues, moreover, as compared to the idea of safe space, brave space is more congruent with our understanding of power privilege and oppression and the challenges inherent in dialogue about issues in socially culturally diverse groups. For us as practitioners having a learning-centered approach, creating a safe space for Learning also invites us to step into a space of bravery and courage. When we show up with courage, authenticity wholeheartedness, and our best intentions to learn and grow, we will begin to know and understand how to mend some of the broken places in our society. Discomfort, honesty, and accountability are a part of this work along with joy, satisfaction, and resolution.

Meg (5m 19s): You can read more about Brave spaces and common agreements in Andrea Van Liew’s blog on the GLP website entitled Courage and Bravery in Addition to Safety and Respect. Within the blog or in the episode description, you can also find a link to the original article by Arao and Clemens. As always, we closed this podcast with an open question to continue the dialogue. So to our listeners, here’s your away. How has this notion of Brave Spaces expanded your thinking about safety and respect in learning events?

Meg (5m 51s): Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Shift the Power: A Learning-Centered Podcast. This podcast is produced by Global Learning Partners and Greg Tilton with music by Una Walkenhorst. To find out more about Global Learning Partners, whether it be our course offerings, consulting services, free resources or blogs, go to www.globallearningpartners.com. We invite you to sign up for our mailing list, subscribe to our podcast and find us on social media to continue the dialogue. If you enjoy the show, please consider leaving us a review on Apple podcasts or your preferred podcast player. .

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