We’ve introduced the theme, laid the groundwork, and reviewed the curriculum to prepare for a meaningful World Thinking Day, but what do we do when things don’t go smoothly? Intentional design requires preparation for both successes and challenges. If there’s conflict or tension at your World Thinking Day event or meeting, remember that’s normal!
On this day, and whenever we engage with the theme of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we should work to create what social justice educators Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens call “brave spaces,” where everyone feels “safe sharing our views, our experiences, and ourselves. To learn from each other, we need an environment that allows us to open, to feel safe challenging ourselves and challenging each other.”
You might have heard of safe spaces, which are common when discussing identity and social justice. However, when we only focus on everyone’s comfort, we can’t foster true growth. This is why we encourage folks to move away from building a space of safety and towards a space of curiosity, bravery, and courage. When building a brave space, there is a key difference in feeling unsafe and feeling uncomfortable. Learning happens in discomfort and tension, not in feeling unsafe. Understanding comfort zones and building brave spaces allows everyone to learn and have meaningful dialogue.
Getting Permission Before You Begin
Some topics discussed during World Thinking Day, like disability, race and ethnicity, citizenship, immigration, sexuality, and gender, may be considered sensitive or controversial subjects for girls and families. What’s considered sensitive or controversial varies for each girl, family, troop leader, and service unit, so we recommend having parents and caregivers sign permission slips to discuss these topics before your event.
Being upfront with the goals and expectations for World Thinking Day will set you up for success as it allows clear guidelines of behavior from everyone involved. Here’s an example of how you can communicate your goals and expectations before, during, and after your event:
- Two weeks before: Send a brief overview email to everyone attending. Include a sensitive issues permission slip (with potential issues discussed), expectations of girls and chaperones/volunteers attending, and how to contact you with questions.
- One week before: Send an agenda of your event or meeting, expectations of behavior for the event (i.e., Girl and Adult Codes of Conduct), and reminders.
- Beginning of the event: Set ground rules for the event is to ensure clear behavioral expectations and goals (i.e., keep what is shared in the room, have an open mind, and ask questions).
- During the event: Be prepared to reinforce the guidelines and encourage other chaperones, volunteers, and girls to maintain the respect and care needed for World Thinking Day.
- Concluding the event: When debriefing the event and encouraging continued dialogue, use your behavioral expectations from the beginning as guiding behavior. Any conflict or tensions brewed during this event are dealt with timely, appropriately, and carefully.
- After the event: Did conflict arise at your event? If so, how was it managed? Sometimes you don’t hear of conflict until after it has happened. If this is the case, follow up with everyone involved and reaffirm behavioral guidelines. If needed, connect with Girl Scouts River Valleys. Everyone leaving the event should feel safe.
Everyone attending can help create a supportive, respectful, and caring behavioral guidelines at your meeting or event. Are adults attending? Have them fill out the parent/guardian agreement form. We expect girls to uphold the value of Girl Scouts, so any parent or family member attending should as well.
When teaching or learning something new, we often think of the worst-case scenarios. What do I do if this doesn’t go as planned? What if no one has fun? These feelings are valid and common! Sometimes we don’t know how an activity is going to pan out until we are leading it. As you look through the activity guides, think of how you can be flexible with them. It’s better to end an activity in its prime rather than risk losing everyone’s interest. Changing your plan to meet the girls where they are at is not a sign of failure, but a sign of awareness in supporting your troop.
Managing Constructive Feedback & Conflict
When managing or facilitating conflict, be mindful of the many different styles of conflict. It’s a myth that everyone handles conflict in the same direct and assertive way. There are many variables shaping the ways in which someone approaches and facilitates conflict (culture, values, geography, etc.). Assuming assertive communication over passive communication tends to escalate situations more than solve them.
It can be difficult to hear feedback on something you have spent a long time organizing and planning. Feedback can feel like an attack and it’s important to recognize the many truths to an experience. When discussing feedback and confrontation, take a moment to assess the situation to determine the best way to de-escalate it. You will not have all the answers and that’s okay. Address feedback with plans of coming back to it; you will not address all questions or feedback at once.
As you manage the brave space, you must also manage instances of disrespect. If someone says something harmful towards another participant or about a culture or community, address it immediately. Having the guidelines and Girl Code of Conduct from the beginning sets an important precedent of behavior for you to work with. An expectation of respect and open-mindedness should not come as a surprise for anyone at your meeting or event.
Interested in learning more about building facilitation and troubleshooting skills? Here are additional resources to help you prepare:
- Prevent and Handle Troop Conflict
- Establishing Braves Spaces: The Roles of Safety and Comfort in Dialogue
- Leading Difficult Conversations with Confidence
- De-Escalation—A User Guide
As you plan for your activities, Girl Scouts River Valleys is always available to help troubleshoot and offer support. We’re excited to hear about your experience with World Thinking Day 2020 and making the world a better place for all.
Grace Heneghan – Grace is a Program Resources Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in Gender and Women’s Studies and minor in Environmental Studies from Northland College. Her background also includes guiding backcountry expeditions and teaching outdoor education to youth. In her free time, Grace enjoys reading, listening to music, cooking, and exploring the metro area. Three things she can’t live without? Pamplemousse La Croix, a canoe paddle, and a manicure.