Episode 210: Who’s on the line? Reflecting on Inclusion – Featuring Andrea Van Liew
With the recent rise in remote work, many of us are faced with the challenge of designing and facilitating engaging and inclusive meetings while in a virtual setting. Today we’re joined by Andrea Van Liew – GLP Consultant and leader of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team – to talk about how we can be sure to tend to the core principle of “inclusion” in virtual meetings.
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This show is produced by Global Learning Partners and Greg Tilton JR.
Theme music: ‘Pretty Face’ by Una Walkenhorst.
Read the transcript for the episode below.
Meg (11s): [INTRO MUSIC] 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. With the recent rise in remote work many of us are faced with the challenge of designing and facilitating, engaging, and inclusive meetings. while in a virtual setting. Today, we’re joined by Andrea Van Liew, GLP consultant and leader of our Diversity Equity and Inclusion Team, to talk about how we can be sure to tend to the core principle of inclusion as we make this shift to virtual meetings. Welcome Andrea. It’s great to have you with us today.
Andrea (52s): Hi Meg. Thanks for having me on.
Meg (54s): So Andrea, what do you see as the different dimensions of inclusion to be mindful of and what strategies or steps would you recommend our listeners keep in mind as they work to ensure inclusion in their virtual meetings?
Andrea (1m 6s): Thanks, Meg, that’s such a great question and there’s multiple answers to it. I’m going to answer by saying that there’s things that we can do before a virtual meeting or gathering, things that we can do during, things that we can do after – all of which will lead to greater inclusion. So when we’re thinking about what we might do before a meeting, we want to think about the ideas of invitation and access. So with a virtual meeting, depending on where you live and what the internet bandwidth capacity is in your community or in the variety of communities where individuals are going to physically be in order to join your meeting, you want to make sure there’s good access to broadband.
For example, I live here in Vermont and there are parts of Vermont which have very little broadband access and in fact have very little cell service. And this is of concern because certainly if you can’t even get into the meeting, then you’re not going to be reaching your goal of inclusion. So that’s the first part, really looking at that question of are the people that you were inviting to your meeting – Do they have the kind of access that they need in order to be able to join in a way that’s going to be decent enough so that their participation can be guaranteed? And by that, I mean, full participation. The other thing to think about is who are you inviting to your meeting?
Are you making sure that the folks that you’re inviting represent a broad array of perspectives, so that your discussion and your dialogue on a particular topic is going to be inclusive of not only the people that you might consider to be experts or your go-to folks on a particular topic or decision, but also the folks who maybe have a different opinion – they may not agree with you, but their opinion and their perspective are going to make your eventual decision and discussion much stronger and more comprehensive. So that’s the first thing. Those are things that you might do prior to your actual engagement.
Then during your event, you want to make sure that you’re giving people ample opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. And you’re doing that through invitation, but also providing adequate space for them to respond. So you want to craft some well thought out open questions to allow learners or meeting participants, decision-makers to think about what it is that you’re grappling with, but then you have to apply ample time for them to respond to your question. One way to do this is to provide them with those questions in advance, because then they can think about that prior to your meeting and they can prepare their thoughts.
But another way to do that is to provide a variety of opportunities during the meeting for them to be able to respond. And to make sure that everyone in your meeting has the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas, depending on the size of your meeting, you might do this through the chat box, you might do this through breakout rooms – the smaller the number of people in the breakout room the greater the ability for all individuals to engage in that particular question or conversation. You’ll also – if you’re using breakout rooms, you want to create a mechanism so that the thoughts and ideas that are generated in those breakout rooms can then get shared back to the larger group.
You can do this through a whiteboard, a feature called Jam Board or through the chat box. And if you are choosing to use the chat box, it’s great to have somebody on your team who’s going to monitor what’s in the chat box and to pull out themes or certain ideas or concepts that maybe are repeated so that they then can be reinforced in the larger group. Another thing that you may do, I’ve seen this work, is to literally take turns in responding to a specific question. If you’re going to do this, it’s great to establish an order in the beginning so that people aren’t wondering where they are in the queue, you can write the order in the chat box, and then if you do that multiple times, you stay with that same order. Or if you notice that a particular person hasn’t been particularly vocal in responding to a particular question, when in the discussion on a certain topic, you can actually invite that person by naming them and giving them the opportunity to share. Also, it can be important to just give people permission to pass on a particular question or discussion – could be that they would prefer to think about it and not say something right at that time. So to mention that upfront also as a way to respectfully invite participation. In terms of what you might do after a meeting, I find it to be really helpful to share back with the group what it is that was discussed or decided.
This could be particularly important if there was a decision that was made and not everybody agreed with this decision, but they would have some written documentation of the discussion and or the decision, some of the thinking that went into making that particular decision, and also a summary of what the discussion was. And making sure that you address all the perspectives that were shared, including those that may be representative of a minority position, but that all the comments that were shared during the context of the meeting were valued, because they were reflected back to the entire group. By doing these follow-up tasks, it will help ensure future participation in future meetings so that when people feel valued, when they feel heard, they’re more likely to join your meeting or discussion in the future.
And again, this will just add to the inclusive nature of your meeting or gathering.
Meg (7m 17s): Absolutely. You cannot underscore the importance enough of really building that culture of inclusion and respect and ensuring that-that people know when they contribute, their contributions will be valued. So, Andrea, I wonder if you could help us really visualize how these strategies can play out. Can you share an example of a time when you were able to successfully implement these strategies and really be attentive to inclusion?
Andrea (7m 47s): Certainly. Jeanette Romkema and I, another one of the GLP Partners, we recently worked with a client who happened to be here in Vermont, where I am, and their task was to integrate medical health care and mental health care. And this was in a particular community here in Vermont. The reason that it was valuable to me was because I’m familiar with the communities in Vermont, but all of the meetings took place virtually because of the pandemic. I actually didn’t meet any of these people actually in-person, but I did spend a fair amount of time with them in Zoom meetings, and so to the degree that we’re able to get to know one another, in that context, we did share quite a bit of time together.
These folks worked for two separate organizations and in previous context, the provision of mental health and medical health care had been somewhat siloed. And this community had received a federal grant to integrate those services, so that from the user’s perspective, from the client perspective, they would perceive that mental health and physical health were easily accessible regardless of what the entry point was, and also that the service providers in their community valued mental health and behavioral health, as much as they valued physical or medical health.
And that’s really, it was really important to address all of that in a way that the community would value all of the range of services. So the context being that these providers had previously thought of themselves as being fairly siloed, that their task was to become more integrated the way that Jeanette and I designed to these meetings was to model for them a couple of different things. One was that they should be integrated themselves as members of a team to implement this process that they were designing. So right off the bat, we mixed them up. We didn’t keep them in their separate work groups that they were existing and used to.
We got them all mixed- we mixed them up and-and set them with tasks that were going to apply to both organizations to meet that overall goal of integration. We also did a lot of affirmation and celebration of accomplishments along the way. So this was a multi-step process. It took place over the course of several months. We had routine meetings which were scheduled for, you know, a decent amount of time, about an hour and a half each meeting. And they also had tasks that they had to complete in-between meetings. And there was regular communication through email. So they were given a lot of opportunity to intermingle between these two organizations, and we reflected back to them, the achievements that they made along the way and gave them opportunity to celebrate and affirm each other as we went along.
We did that through a variety of techniques. One was, we just said, you know, this week, send somebody an email and tell them something that you appreciate about what they’ve done in the context of this project over the last week. And then we would also do different affirmation type activities during the context of the meetings, so that people could put in the chat box something that they valued about another member, or say out loud something that they noticed that was achieved by the group as a whole that they really valued and wanted to hold up as a success.
Through all of these different ways, by the end, folks ended up reflecting back that they ended up feeling like an integrated team with this goal of creating an integration process, which they were then charged with implementing, and that in the past, they maybe didn’t have as much feeling of trust and safety amongst all the members of the group, but that those feelings had grown through the course of the engagement that we had with them. So we launched them off with a plan and a process, and we congratulated them on their work well done and wish them the best as they moved forward.
Meg (11m 53s): Thank you so much sharing that example, Andrea. That really helps-helps me visualize what it can look like and also the difference that it can make, not just in ensuring inclusion, but as you said, really all of the other principles that we try to be attentive to can be strengthened and really come together in a beautiful way when we are more attentive to the principle of inclusion.
Andrea (12m 16s): Absolutely.
Meg (12m 17s): Thank you so much for joining us and sharing your techniques and strategies and your wisdoms. Appreciate you, Andrea.
Andrea (12m 23s): It’s a very important topic and I love to talk about it. So thank you, Meg.
Meg (12m 28s): So as always, we’ll end with an open question for our listeners – an invitation for you to pause and ponder about what you’ve just heard. So to our listeners, here’s your away for today: What’s one thing you heard Andrea say today that you would like to try out to ensure inclusion in your next virtual meeting?
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for tuning into 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. [OUTRO MUSIC FADES]