Pollack Peacebuilders Volunteer to Train UNIFI Staff in Having Difficult Cultural Conversations

Developing a master class in the nuances and impacts of effective communication, two peacebuilders of Pollack Peacebuilding Systems recently volunteered to provide training to the United Nation of Individuals Fighting Impossibilities (UNIFI), which included a workshop intended to help participants feel more empowered to engage in challenging conversations around social issues.

UNIFI’s Training for Consciousness and Communication

The training was administered by Toni Hawkins and Sara Jeckovich, both leaders who seek to teach and transform how we communicate and create an impact in our communities. Whether talking about race, class, gender, or other social issues at the forefront today, this training offered UNIFI staff members tools around consciousness and communication that can make spaces more inclusive and diverse.

The training focused on these core areas and how they can impact our self-awareness, ability to communicate, and our motivation around becoming changemakers.

Identity

UNIFI values individual identity and encourages participants to get more familiar with how, specifically, they identify. Recognizing the importance of clarity around their own identity, participants can utilize this insight to understand how their experiences impact their perspective, “exploring how our identities affect how we interact with the world and how it interacts with us.” This is an important first step in the process of zooming out and understanding how we’re all interconnected.

Grounding

By teaching participants grounding exercises, the UNIFI training was designed to help empower individuals to regulate their emotions rather than succumb to them. Strengthening the ability to ground ourselves in stressful moments also contributes to a stronger sense of mindfulness and self-awareness which can keep things in perspective when the conversations take a challenging turn. Through grounding tools, individuals can slow down reactivity and get to know themselves, increasing consciousness around what makes them tick, and creating more space to make intentional and effective choices rather than reactive ones.

Being a Good Servant

The Be a Good Servant (BAGS) model encourages individuals to utilize their identity to acknowledge their baggage and biases and recognize how those things add weight to what they carry around in their “bags.” While taking an inventory of their own pressures, participants are encouraged to utilize empathy in considering that other people have weight in their bags, too. By recognizing we’re all carrying a little something, participants can learn to keep the Golden Rule in mind when showing up for others treat others the way you want to be treated yourself. Eliminating blind spots around biases adds to a culture of consciousness where individuals can make more intentional decisions rather than act automatically from a bias they may not actually believe in. This model also offers tools for effective communication skills, such as recognizing the importance of listening, smiling, and managing your automatic judgments in conversation with others.

Inclusion

UNIFI recognizes the value of working with people of diverse experiences and perspectives which means we can all stand to be more actively engaged in creating environments where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully. Additionally, UNIFI sought to empower individuals to create equal access to opportunities and resources so all individuals can feel as if they belong and can contribute fully to the success of their organization or community. To that end, the PPS training indicates how to create a culture of inclusion by applying curiosity, empathy, and space for differences and biases while encouraging those moved to do so to take leadership roles to actively create change.

Feedback

In the name of transparency, facilitators Hawkins and Jeckovich provided an opportunity for UNIFI participants to provide feedback on the training once it was completed. The survey aimed to assess engagement levels, clarity of the presentation, and comfortability in applying skills learned in the training out in real-world challenging situations. Many of the participants described the training as fun, consistent in its messaging, and creating positive outcomes that they will apply in real-world challenging situations. Facilitators Hawkins and Jeckovich utilized the feedback to understand if participants received the message, feel empowered to apply the skills, and walked away with a greater sense of clarity on these topics.