WOMEN, ORGANIZING AND DIVERSITY

A workbook and guide to the video

By Diana Agosta

With Barbara Joseph, Susan Lob, Terry Mizrahi,

Beth Richie and Beth Rosenthal

 

Consulting Editor, Robin Ferguson

 

The Women Organizers' Video Project,

Education Center for Community Organizing

at the Hunter College School of Social Work




Session one: Why diversity is important

 

Session Two:The politics of language

 

Multiculturalism and Diversity:

Necessary But Insufficient Challenges to Racesexism

 

Session Three: Viewing and discussing the video

 

Session Four: Part one: Approaches to multicultural organizational development
Part Two: From theory to practice

 

Session Five: Planning for change

 

Session Six: Celebrating ourselves and our work


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How your organization could use this videotape and workbook

 

 

You could use this video, Women, Organizing and Diversity, and this accompanying workbook with a group of women or a group of women and men:

 

to explore the implications of confronting economic, social, cultural and political bias, and to encourage the creation of diverse, multicultural organizations usingfeminist principles;

 

to explore connections between the organizing that women do and their work to overcome oppression, especially racism, sexism and other "isms";

 

ƒ to help you think critically about your organizing processes ‑‑ goals, strategies, principles, style, values, commitments ‑‑ and how these may relate to diversity;

 

to help your organization and your organizing strategies and processes more completely embody our diverse and multi‑cultural world.

 

 

Who this workbook and video is for:

 

This videotape and workbook was written primarily for women in grassroots, community service or activist organizations, but can also be used for classes addressing oppression and multiculturalism. The workbook and video can also be adapted for use by unions, neighborhood groups, social service agencies, non‑profits and other organizations.

Such groups may be composed of staff, volunteers, clients, members, or students. While this videotape and workbook was developed by women organizers as a way of sharing strengths and struggles with women doing similar work, this process is not limited to women or feminists. The process of education, exploration, self‑analysis and strategy is important for all of us.

 

Before you begin

 

We have designed this workbook for women organizers. You may be an educator, staff member, trainer, leader, or simply an active member of your group. We assume that you, the facilitator will bring your own particular experience and style to this work, so we have designed this workbook to be useful in a variety of contexts. We urge you to view the video and read through this workbook before you begin working with your group, so you can use these materials more effectively.

 

A note on our terminology: "we" indicates the writers of this workbook, a shorthand for the Women Organizers Video Project; "you" means the facilitator or group leader; and by "your group" or "the group" we mean the people viewing the video and doing these exercises.

 

As you know, you will not solve the problems of racism and sexism with one discussion, one video, one evening session. We have designed this workbook ideally to include a six session program, with each session lasting about one and one-half hours (which won't solve the problem either, but it's a start!). We strongly recommend that your group hold all these sessions which include discussions, exercises and video screening. However, there is a great deal of flexibility within each session. We suggest that you first assess your group's motivation and goals, their level of knowledge and awareness of diversity, anti‑racist and feminist issues, and then choose appropriate sessions and exercises.

 

How to use these training materials

 

We recommend that you don't show the video in the first session, but instead provide some preliminary information and help your group assess their current knowledge, motivations and goals. We have designed two sessions before showing the video:

Session 1. Why diversity is important. Here we have included three options: a discussion about your organizations motivations and goals for building multi‑racial organizations, and two exercises exploring personal identity issues. A review of the Fact Sheet might also be useful here. You might also discuss the idea of an Organizational Analysis outlined in Session Five.

 

Session 2. The politics of language. This is an exercise that includes background information on basic concepts and definitions.

 

Session 3. provides a process for viewing the video, including a list of questions for discussion. We suggest that your group first watches the 30 minute video first in its entirety, then view it in sections to discuss each set of topics. Several case studies are included after this chapter in which several women explain the examples they mentioned in the video. Each vignette is followed by questions you can use to spark further discussion.


After showing the video, we have developed two sessions to help your group explore some options for how to build more a diverse organization, and some examples of planning processes you can begin with:

Session 4. Models for building anti‑racist, anti‑sexist organizations. Here we provide ways for your group to explore the model presented in the video as well as two other models, through a guided discussion. In addition, these models can be applied to the case studies introduced in the video.

 

Session 5. Planning for Action: applying the models to your organization. This is where your group can develop an action plan for your organization.

 

Ideas from Session 6, Celebrating our work, can be used in any of the preceding sessions as well as a wrap-up. This session describes some ways to acknowledge ourselves, our work, and our accomplishments, and explore the next steps in the process.

 

Materials you will need

 

In addition to a (1/2" VHS) VCR and TV or video monitor for the videotape, you will need:

several large newsprint pads and colored markers

or a blackboard and chalk

photocopies of the several handouts

 

You may also want to assign some background readings found in the Resources section on pages.

 

Some suggestions for working with groups

 

You may be skilled or a novice at leading group discussion. If you are inexperienced, the following hints may prove helpful.

 

The ideal size for a group doing this kind of intensive discussion is 10‑15 people: large enough for lively discussion but small enough for everyone to participate. If you are working in a larger group, you might try breaking it up into small discussion groups at various points during a session.

 

You may want to consider the feminist principle of shared leadership. (See page 16 of Women on the Advance for a discussion of women organizer's leadership styles.) For example, a different person or persons might lead each of the sessions.

Ground Rules

 

Before beginning, take a few moments to think of the group atmosphere. The discussion generated from the sessions may make people feel personally challenged, vulnerable and threatened. So it is important to create an atmosphere of safety so that everyone in the group knows that their feelings and thoughts are respected, if not shared.

 

Some facilitators feel it is a good idea to work with homogeneous groups, so that people can explore their fears and questions more freely. Other facilitator believe that these issues are best confronted directly in mixed groups. If you are working with a mixed group, it is important to establish that people of color are not expected to represent their entire group, or to take the responsibility for teaching the rest of the group; and that white people are made to feel personally guilty or defensive. If you are working in a group that shares the same ethnic background or gender, it is also important not to assume that they're all alike in other ways.

 

Here are some suggestions to help especially for groups that include both men and women, and people of diverse identities.

 

Set clear expectations and limitation: for example, no sexual innuendo or "racial" slurs permitted.

 

The facilitator should remain non‑judgmental, especially careful not to put people on the defensive.

 

When possible, use volunteers; don't force people to talk.

 

Arrange seats in a circle; this creates a sense of a group working together.

 

Use small groups (3-5 people) to discuss personal or controversial issues.

 

Put closure on discussions: sum up each topic before moving on to the next one.

 

Don't expect an individual to represent an entire group.

 

Don't assume one person's views represent the group's views. Ask who agrees, who disagrees?

 

Don't assume that silence means agreement.

 

If the discussion becomes too abstract, ask for concrete examples.

If the discussion becomes too personal, ask for related examples, or ask, what can we all learn from this?

 

Here are some ground rules to post in front of the room or hand out:

 

Treat your own and other people's ideas and emotions with respect.

 

Don't interrupt: listening is as important as speaking.

 

Be as honest as possible.

 

Don't question other people's experiences.

 

Don't make fun of each other, or make sarcastic or cutting comments.

 

Treat the discussions with confidentiality

 

Don't over-generalize about groups; these can lead to stereotyping

 

 

Sources: Tips for Generating Safety in Discussions of Races, Class, Gender and Sexual Orientation, Panel of Americans and Helpful Tips for Groups, Dan Willis and Josh Meyer.

 


Acknowledgements

 

We would like to thank the following funders for their support of the Women Organizers' Video Project:

 

The Sister Fund (formerly the Hunt Alternatives Fund)

The Women's Research and Development Fund of CUNY

The Pluralism and Diversity Fund of Hunter College

The Joyce Mertz -Gilmore Foundation

 

Thanks to the Education Center for Community Organizing at the Hunter School of Social Work for its administrative support. We also would like to express our appreciation to Robin Sirota and Diane Williams for their invaluable assistance in coordinating this project, for everything from juggling our impossible schedules to find meeting times to their thoughtful contributions to the workbook itself.

 

Author's note

 

I would like to thank all the members of the WOVP, including Consulting Editor Robin Ferguson, for giving me the opportunity to work work with them. I have learned and grown from their knowledge, warmth and experience. I have appreciated their encouragement and support, especially when I felt overwhelmed by the scope of this project. I feel privileged to have worked for such as truly collaborative group of women, impressed by their lack of defensiveness, ability to be self-critical, eagerness to hear each other's views and willingness to go beyond disagreements to find consensus.

 

I would also like to thank Julia Andino, who was not able to join the project, but whose suggestions, criticisms and advice on early drafts were generous and perceptive. I would especially like to thank Terry Mizrahi for handling the flock of administrative "details," making sure we had everything from sufficient funding to office supplies, and also for her copious but always clarifying red pencil on each successive draft. I hope this workbook conveys the supportive and critical intelligence of this impressive group of women.

 

Women, Organizing and Diversity: Struggling with the Issues

1994 Women Organizers' Project, Education Center for Community Organizing

 

Policy for reproduction: We encourage those who use this workbook to reproduce pages for their workshops and classes. These and all other quotations, citations and reproductions of this work must include proper credit (Women, Organizing and Diversity: Struggling with the Issues; c. 1994 Women Organizers' Project of the Education Center for Community Organizing) For all other uses, please contact

ecco@hunter.cuny.edu 212-452-7112