Getting Ourselves Together: How White People Can Show up for Anti-Racism in #GlobalDev: A pop-up practice group

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"Instead of talking about what to do about diversity, [this group] is for the personal work needed to examine white supremacy culture and see how we uphold it and how we can do better. It's not traditional diversity training. It's anti-racist practice. It's more a fierce, loving kick-in-the-butt kind of thing."

How do we interrupt harm in the global development, aid, and international philanthropy sector? How do we move towards liberation?

How, as white people, can we get ourselves together to act in anti-racist and de-colonial ways while working in a sector established alongside colonising forces

As part of our commitment to anti-racist practice in our work, we, Jennifer Lentfer of how-matters.org and Mary Ann Clements of healingsolidarity.org, are offering the first ever Healing Solidarity pop-up practice group for White people working in global development who want to explore how to commit to and practice anti-racism.

The first seven groups we ran between February and September 2020 quickly filled up and we are now opening bookings for a November group.

The pop-up practice group consists of three 120 minute virtual sessions on our Zoom platform. Each group has space for 15 participants.

We welcome anyone who identifies as being raced as white and who is active in development or aid spaces internationally to participate. Other practice groups - mixed and for people of colour - are in development.

Why a group for people raced as white?

Here white people can wrestle with practising anti-racism, which includes self-reflection and metabolising our trauma. This can be harmful, burdensome, and re-traumatising to people of colour who are forced to listen. For that reason, we have created this space with the specific intention not to segregate nor absolve ourselves, but to hold ourselves accountable to what is being asked of us. This is a space for building anti-racist and de-colonial practices in bodies currently raced as white so that we can return to the whole - meaning our sector and our work - more able to practice anti-racism and uphold the other values we share in the sector.

Who are we?

Jennifer Lentfer is a farm girl turned international aid worker turned communications strategist, writing coach, and facilitator/trainer. (But she is mostly a poet.). She is one of Foreign Policy Magazine's "100 women to follow on Twitter” @intldogooder, an author (smartrisks.org) and a blogger at how-matters.org, in which she called for an examination of racism in international aid with its first post in 2010. She was most recently the Director of Communications at Thousand Currents, a foundation reimagining equitable approaches to philanthropy and impact investing. With her students at Georgetown, she published “The Development Element: Guidelines for the future of communicating about the end of global poverty” in 2014 and has been teaching “Storytelling and Communications for Social Change” at the University of Vermont Masters in Leadership for Sustainability Program for the past four years. She has served with various organizations in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, and the US, including Oxfam, the Red Cross, UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, and Firelight Foundation and has consulted with InterAction, Mama Cash, the Global Fund for Community Foundations, Nike Foundation, Feedback Labs, and the Congressional Hunger Center. Jennifer is currently writing her first play about family violence, misogyny, ableism, and U.S. healthcare, which she swears will include laughter.

Mary Ann Clements is a Feminist Writer, Facilitator, Consultant, Activist & Coach. She's also the initiator of Healing Solidarity, an online conference which engaged over 2000 people to reimagine the global development sector. Mary Ann was Executive Director of the INGO AbleChildAfrica between 2004 and 2011 and before that developed programmes in three countries for the mental health and wellbeing charity,  BasicNeeds. Since 2011 she has worked as an independent consultant with both INGOs and funders, including as an Assessor for Comic Relief and DFID funded programmes. Much of her work has focused on women's rights, disability rights and mental health. She’s also been Chair of a local Domestic Violence Refuge in South London where she lives. In recent years she's worked extensively with individuals and organisations on wellbeing in their work. An anthropologist by training, Mary Ann is also a certified Shadow Work Coach, an Accredited Action Learning Facilitator, and has trained in somatic movement practices with the Nia Technique. In 2018 she wrote this article for Bright Magazine about whether there is a role for privileged white people in International development. She is committed to helping re-imagine the way we work and to supporting other white people to show up more effectively as anti-racist activists and practitioners in this space. She is currently writing about how we can show up in healthy and equitable solidarity. 

What can I expect from the sessions?

The hosts/facilitators will introduce some key concepts, but we will also have time for sharing and doing some experiential work together.

How will this group be accountable to People of Colour?

In addition to our relationships in which and teachers to whom we are personally accountable, Healing Solidarity has an inter-generational and racially-diverse advisory group that provides accountability for the project as a whole including for this practice group.

Using the Healing Solidarity Conference as inspiration for our conversations, and integrating a trauma-informed approach, this group is designed for anyone who identifies as white and works in aid or development spaces who wants to be part of re-imagining the sector and doing things differently. 

When will the sessions take place? 

November Practice Group Dates: 10th, 17th & 24th November 7 pm - 9 pm GMT / 2 pm - 4 pm EST

How do I sign up? 

If you would like to join us please click on the links below which will take you to a form where you can fill out your details and make a payment. 

What is the cost of joining?

The fees are structured to honor the time and talents of the facilitators and to ensure the value of spaces for peer support and learning often not provided within our workplaces. The cost for this series of three sessions is £150. 

If you would like an invoice for this amount please contact maryann@healingsolidarity.org to book your place and she will gladly invoice you for it. You will still need to click the link below to fill out the joining form. Details for how you can pay using Paypal or your card are given on the form you access by clicking the link below.

If this fee is beyond your means, there are five slots available for people to pay what they deem fair given their circumstances. Please contact maryann@healingsolidarity.org if you would like to do that.

What if I miss a session?

Before signing up, make sure that you can make all of the dates because there will be no recordings made of them. Please note that no refunds will be given after the start of the practice group. 

Of course, we understand that sometimes life unavoidably prevents you from attending, and in these circumstances, a summary will be provided. 

Testimonials from previous participants

'In these sessions, Jennifer and Mary Ann were able to meet people where they were and help them to take their practice to the next level. For the first time I felt like the conversation was much more honest and organic about the construct of whiteness and white supremacy'. 

'Having participated in these sessions, I now feel much more confident about continuing this [anti-racism] work, where to find support, and realise how important it is to be both brave and uncomfortable'.

'It was great to have a space to talk about these issues, with people who had insights to share and in a space that didn't burden others.'

'It was such a fascinating group...people really showed up and were present and real. It was so great to have the body-related exercises to ground us in time and space.'