Creating Transformative Online Space
In a matter of weeks our movements, work and communities have suddenly moved online. Hard conversations, strategy meetings, strategic planning and healing circles are occurring on zoom and in google hangouts instead of in our offices, living rooms, cafes and conference rooms. Many of us are asking ourselves, how do we adapt to this moment? How might we continue to make meaningful connections in a time of physical distancing?
One of the common complaints we’ve heard at PeoplesHub is that it’s so much better to be in person than to be online. But when that’s not possible, how might we engage our imaginations to build a sense of connection and figure out how not to lose the humanity, justice and cultural ways that guided our work before.
Here are some examples and lessons that may be used as a guide:
1. Ground in values of anti-oppression and decolonization. Just because we are moving online doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still acknowledge the land we are on and the ways we are interconnected to each other and the earth. We need to be showing up as three dimensional humans with feelings, dreams, hopes and grief. Now is a time to bring in rituals of connection and creativity. Try building an altar as a group, meditating together, sharing stories or hosting a dance party. Remember we are more than our brains.
2. Now is the time to consider all the more what it takes to equalize online space for all of us. We must not fall into capitalistic, ableist and white supremacist ways of being that center productivity and the “work” over relationships. In order for online spaces to be accessible we should consider using closed captions, offering simultaneous interpretation, include multiple ways for people to engage in conversation (for example written or embodied ways), and take more breaks, which especially serves empathetic and neuro-diverse folks.
3. Presence. When we are online, as in person—we can tell when people are paying attention to us and when they are not. Take five minutes before meetings and convenings and ask everyone to shut off unnecessary notifications, messenger and sounds that will distract from the people we are meeting with. Brew a cup of tea, have doodle supplies on hand, get a snack. Be present for yourself and also for others.
4. Practice. Oftentimes when we move our work online, we cut out the cultural and spiritual work that connects us to each other. However, online is also a great place to practice together. Practices connect us, ground us and regulate our parasympathetic nervous system. Let’s breathe together, stretch, draw and create art, or share poetry.
5. Participatory spaces. We know that people do not learn by listening to a lecture. Set up meetings and gatherings in participatory ways. Aim for the maximum amount of community engagement, deep critical questions and varied activities!!! Good facilitation is good facilitation. Now is the time to get creative. None of us have the answers alone. Together we are stronger. Create space for people to engage in the content, share from their experiences, meet in pairs or small groups (this is an option on zoom and other platforms) and take time to answer questions in the chat function. We learn through diverse modalities and we must engage and facilitate learning and connecting similarly online.
In our work at PeoplesHub we’ve been convening people online across the globe in transformative ways because of our ethos and values we have around environmental justice, transformative leadership and disability justice. While online work can often feel isolating or disconnecting, we’ve experienced the ways that online connection can also be transformative for participants, trainers, and tech support leads.
We ground in 4Rs: Reimagination, Resistance, Resilience, and Restoration. Below are affirmations we move from:
Reimagination: We create the world we need.
Resistance: Rooted ancestrally, we will end violent, oppressive and extractive forces.
Resilience: We are imaginative and adaptive. We take care of each other.
Restoration: We heal community, ecology. We right current and historical wrongs.
In this time of crisis, grief and change—we have an opportunity to gather together in meaningful ways. Let’s continue to hold each other in love and hope, and create online spaces that foster and facilitate what we need most: a world that affirms our divinity.
Resources to go deeper:
Download this free guide created by PeoplesHub trainer and Training Development Lead Jeanne Rewa and co-author Daniel Hunter: Leading Groups Online: a down-and-dirty guide to leading online courses, meetings, trainings, and events during the coronavirus pandemic
Coronavirus: Wisdom from a Social Justice Lens on the Irresistible Podcast (formally healing Justice)
Social justice in a time of social distancing Design Studio for Social Intervention
Digital Resilience in the Time of Coronavirus by Equity Labs