“The future is something we build in the present.”

Brazilian educator and sociologist Paulo Freire wrote in Pedagogy of Hope:

“Through the process of reflection, individuals may become conscious of the realities other than the one into which they were socialized.”

It takes reflection—deep, sustained, rigorous thought– to discover the myths that deceive us and that help maintain the dehumanizing structures that limit too many. We know from research on how people think that fast thinking is instinctive. It relies on mental short cuts programmed for how the world is, not how it should be. Slow thinking invites us to consider ideas in new ways and examine connections that are not immediately apparent.

This week my slow thinking focused on these equity-related ideas:

  • Asset-framing. By defining someone by their aspirations, not their challenges, we honor their humanity. I think about how we use story in instructional design and training and how we can ensure our narrative lifts up the voices of the people we teach.
  • SMARTIE goals. Many of us use SMART goals to measure our impact. They are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (though there are variations on the acronym). The Management Center adds I and E (Inclusive and Equitable) to add accountability to our equity goals. Here’s a helpful tool to practice.
  • Diverse voices and experiences. A favorite podcast, “Instructional Designers in Offices Drinking Coffee” handed over the microphone to three Black women working in learning and program development. The Intersection of Racial Justice and Learning & Development got me thinking about how intentionally we need to welcome and support diverse trainers on topics other than equity.
  • Conversations about racism. My fellow Nonprofit Radio Show co-hosts and I, all sitting in different regions of our state, reflected and talked together for hours about racism. We set aside our planned episode and recorded a short message that shares resources to help make space for conversations about racism.

It takes more than reflection to make a difference. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire nudges us to action:

“Reflection and action… if one is sacrificed—even in part—the other immediately suffers.”

Reflection alone gets us nowhere. Action alone is uninformed. It is the oscillation between rigorous thought and movement forward that allows us to make progress.

So I began a Racial Equity in Learning Checklist, inviting feedback from diverse colleagues near and far, as well as crowdsourcing ideas from our “How to teach online” course participants. While there are assessments to measure how an organization is doing towards its equity goals, tools focused on adult learning program design are hard to find. Our collective goal is to help learning people integrate equity into everything they do. This document will keep evolving as people provide feedback.

“The future isn’t something hidden in a corner. The future is something we build in the present.”

We don’t know what the future will bring, but we know what our work is right now. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with you.

Published by Nancy

I work at the intersection of learning, nonprofits, and leadership. I am a teacher, instructional designer, and nonprofit person who has worn every hat possible. I regular write, speak, and consult on learning strategy, design, and leadership.

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