How to facilitate for inclusion: 14 tips from knowledge sharing experts

As part of its commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, on International Women’s Day (8 March), CGIAR launched its Panel Pledge.

What is the Panel Pledge? The Panel Pledge is a global drive to improve the representation of women and other under-represented groups on scientific and policy panels. The pledge is a tangible way to increase accountability and accelerate change towards greater equity, so that all voices are heard and all experiences are recognized as equally valuable.

CGIAR GDI Panel Pledge:

We pledge to ensure that a diverse range of people from a variety of backgrounds, genders, age groups, cultures and abilities are given an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to public discussions and are evaluated fairly for speaking opportunities at conferences and other professional external and internal events.

Having a balanced panel is the first step to having an inclusive event. But that is not all. We can do more to raise the voices of our multicultural, vibrant, diverse staff.

Six CGIAR knowledge sharing specialists combined their expertise to help all staff organizing events to maximise diversity and inclusion:

1. Be deliberate. You can say “Research shows that if a woman asks the first question, more women will ask questions, so I’ll take the first question from a woman.” Or “I’d like all the managers to keep their hands down, and let’s have a question from someone else”. Also, say “The notetaker cannot be the youngest woman, anyone else will do”. That way, young women are not always concentrated in secretarial duties, and can participate more profoundly. You can shift the balance during voting and priority-setting processes by assigning more votes, more say, or more time, to certain groups.  

2. Uso Liberating Structure 1-2-4-all. Sometimes junior staff or non-native speakers don’t use their voice because they are afraid that their opinion will seem stupid or their language skills will be inadequate. By allowing them to discuss with the people around them, they can validate that it is not stupid, or get someone with better language skills to ask it.

3. Use tools for anonymity. Asking questions using tools like Slido means that you are anonymous and questions rise up the rankings based on content not the force of the person behind the question. In Mural, use the function ‘don´t show cursors except the facilitators’, which makes the card writing anonymous too, and ask participants not to sign cards and sticky notes.

4. Build in thinking time. Usually the same ‘types’ of people jump in with questions and comments: North Europeans, North Americans, men, senior staff. After the panel has finished, before Q&A, ask people to think and formulate their questions before asking them. This gives the risk-averse or introverts time to organize the wording of their question and non-native speakers the time to find the right words.       

5. Design processes and meetings with inclusion in mind. Make sure participants are representative, that diverse perspectives are invited, that not only panel members, but also facilitators, moderators, and participants are diverse.

6. Be considerate of language People may be working in a second or third language.  Consider allowing questions in people´s native languages and have them translated by someone else. Use interpreters (Zoom is great for this). Have breakout groups in different languages, and the report- back in the general event language. The public written word is harsh and a permanent record, people get distracted trying to ‘write well’ and might not write at all, so allow people to post written content in whatever language they are more comfortable with.

7. Consider other perspectives. When working at ideas on an issue in events, invite participants to look at the ideas from a stakeholder group lens: “Does this solution work for youth, women, men equally?” After ideas for solutions have been brainstormed, consider each idea with a lens of “Does this contribute to greater equality or not?”. Tools like Menti can help capture diverse opinions and feed those opinions into the discussions, e.g. polls for women scientists, people under 30, etc.

8. Translate voice into action. Hearing and acknowledging different voices is nice, but make sure that those voices are really taken into account in any post-event activities and communication, so it is not just lip service.

9. Include a role of critical thinkers formally in an event. Assign to a few representatives of under-represented groups – like younger participants (under 40 maybe) and women — a critical thinking role, and provide time and space for their comments.

10. Work with YPARD (Young Professionals for Agricultural Development). Get somebody from YPARD (they have regional leaders that can be contacted) to participate in design of conferences, events. Invite representative to join event as panelist, participant etc.

11. Organize youth social media bootcamps. La CGIAR Big Data Platform supports social media coverage of events, including training bootcamps run by youth. For a conference, you make a call for young scientists to be part of a social media cohort. They are trained for a day before the event and then cover it on social media.

12. Think about breakout group composition. You can be very deliberate in the distribution of these groups, in different ways: making them very deliberately diverse or the opposite, have ‘birds of a feather’ to encourage comfort. Even do both and compare the results.

13. Make everyone comfortable. Diverse approaches are likely to work better (mixing plenary, small group, individual exercises) than just one format. Adapt to suit the group – there is nothing worse than imposing an Anglo-Saxon informality when something else is culturally more appropriate.

14. Be aware of connectivity differences. When an event is online, the dynamics may change a lot.  Particularly, pay attention to the digital experience, which is a barrier for some. Recognize that some people have bad connectivity so an overly technological approach can exclude them. Again, mix formats and processes to give more opportunities for people to contribute on their terms.  Make sure to offer space to contribute, not just to react (e.g. a poll asks people to react to your agenda, a chat offers more scope for individual answer, small groups can help determine the agenda or questions). Asynchronous formats like written forums are invaluable for connecting places with poor connectivity.

Prepared by Arwen Bailey, (Alliance) Simone Staiger-Rivas (Alliance), Michael Victor (ILRI), Sophie Alvarez (independent consultant), Peter Ballantyne (ILRI), and James Stapleton (CIP).

CGIAR is committed to fair, safe, and inclusive workplaces. Our diversity powers our innovation. It’s critical for our mission. See aquí for more information about Gender, diversity and inclusion in CGIAR workplaces.