Diversity Cohort Project

"A leader isn't someone who forces others to make her stronger;
a leader is someone willing to give her strength to others,
so that they may have the strength to stand on their own." - Beth Revis

Inviting Diversity into the Field of Facilitation

IAF 2010 Cohort Presenters

This page is meant to inspire you to consider participating in or creating similar cohort projects of your own. Although this story focuses on our first cohort project started in 2009, we have since run 4 other cohorts that ran for multiple years or most recently for one year. This is a wonderful way to make connections across the globe, race, generations, gender identities, culture etc. We hope you enjoy this first example of a diversity cohort.

In January 2009, we started a small, but bold project with a very diverse group of people. We had three intentions:

  • to defy the isolation that separates people through external and internal oppression which North American society encourages us to take on
  • to deepen our understanding and practice of facilitation and be able to practice this skillfully anywhere in the world, ideally together, and on projects focused on restoring social justice.
  • to create a model of a co-learning & co-mentoring collaboration in where no one person was superior or more powerful than anyone else. We needed a coordinator and leader but we also intended to support emerging leadership at every possible opportunity.

Cohort Video Production

In this video, members of the cohort answer the questions:

  • Why is facilitation important to you?
  • What happens in the room when you facilitate?
  • How do you use your facilitation skills?


How we got started

The project started with an e-mail invitation to about 10 people who had either taken one 2-day facilitation course or expressed an interest in learning more about facilitation. Barbara Mackay shared her dream idea of having a group of people who would co-mentor with each other in facilitation skills over the next 2+ years. She was willing to get the ball rolling and be the primary mentor at first around facilitation. Ultimately, though this was an opportunity for her to grow a lot. It was also an opportunity for others to offer their complementary skills to the group in cultural competency, mediation, not-for profit management, international dispute resolution, organizational communication, public involvement, and creativity to name just a few of the incredible skills already existing in the group. The first meeting was held in a borrowed office space in Portland, Oregon, USA with seven people participating in person or through phone.

The gatherings have since evolved to meetings in each others’ homes and participation in conferences and facilitation work. Some have left the group (primarily due to time commitment and distance from Oregon) but new members have joined to make up the core group of 12 with 3 advisors/mentors. Barbara is supported in her mentoring by IAF and ICA trained colleagues Nanci Luna-Jimenez, Shoshanna Cogan and Linda Ximenes.

Our stance and philosophy

Both new and seasoned members of the facilitation profession of different constituency groups are working and supporting each other to ensure we build competency in facilitation. Our co-learning/co-mentoring cohort invites every member to take responsibility for ensuring the success of the entire group. We strive to understand, enjoy and capitalize on the nature of our differences in our common quest for excellence, compassion, competency in, and the future survival of the field of facilitation. We seek to practice and model equality and humility. By committing to stay in touch and be accountable to each other and each others’ professional and life goals, we invite continuing closeness, connection, competency-building and collaboration.