The Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward is partnering with local consulting firm Turn of Events to determine the commission's priorities and future projects through a series of inclusivity-focused workshops.
The partnership was announced at a commission meeting on Feb 22. Mayme Webb-Bledsoe, leader of Turn of Events and assistant vice president for the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership and Community Development, will lead a three-person facilitation team to guide the commission in sifting through its priorities through guided dialogues.
Commission co-chairperson Jim Leloudis explained that the purpose of working with Turn of Events is to help the commission sort out possible projects it could pursue. Leloudis added that the commission has received a number of requests for new projects.
“Every one of them has something to commend it, but we can’t do everything,” he said. “So what we want to do is try to work together to figure out what the priorities are for the next two years.”
These workshops will help the commission develop measurable outcomes for success, Leloudis said.
“Once you set those kinds of goals then you can begin to prioritize the possible projects," he said.
Webb-Bledsoe said in order to determine these priorities, members of the commission will participate in three workshops in small groups. What they learn from these workshops will inform a final consensus workshop that will include all commission members.
Turn of Events will work to include all voices from the start — not as an afterthought.
“If you are heard, if you are being considered early on in a process, people begin to think that there’s something that matters here,” Webb-Bledsoe said.
To do this, Webb-Bledsoe and her team said they will use Technology of Participation methods to facilitate inclusive and thorough dialogue. These methods focus on participation and commitment, to emphasize the importance of group contributions.
“Inclusive participation is important,” Webb-Bledsoe said. “When you think about who needs to be at the table, we intentionally look around the room and think about who's missing, because everyone has something to offer to the way that we might think of something.”
Turn of Events facilitation team member Barbara Lau described the process as "group-minded," preventing any one individual from dominating the conversation.
Lau said she has seen these methods employed for nearly 20 years. As executive director of the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice, she has been involved with the Southwest Central Durham Quality of Life Project and has seen its success in using the Technology of Participation methods. She described these results as “powerful.”
“I think it’s particularly helpful when the groups that are engaged in the process don’t necessarily, by position or identity or association, have the same level of power, but the way the ToP methods works kind of flattens that,” Lau added.
As a member of the facilitation team, Lau will work alongside Webb-Bledsoe and Murphy Dynamics, LLC Principal Consultant Monica Murphy to help the commission lift up all voices involved.
Leloudis said that while the commission has done a lot in the last year, there is still a lot of work to be done. He added that the commission would love to hear student perspectives and ideas.
“For students, what, from your perspective, at your end, are some of the best kind of strategies for sharing the work we’re doing?” he asked. “Because we want people to know about this.”
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