Behind the Scenes: Intentionally Equitable Hospitality Series in January

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 11 seconds

In case you haven’t heard yet, Equity Unbound is kicking off 2023 with an Intentionally Equitable Hospitality series as a three-part series in January (5th, 9th and 11th from 5-7pm Cairo, time, 3-5pm GMT, 10am-12pm ET). Here is the link to register if you haven’t already. The free ticket expires January 2nd.

I wanted to write a bit about the thinking process behind why and how we’re doing this. By “we”, I mean myself and those who are helping co-facilitate: Mia Zamora, Rissa Sorensen-Unruh, Irene Maweu and Yasser Tamer. All of whom were involved in MYFest (Mia and Rissa as co-leads, Irene and Yasser as very active participants who each gave at least one workshop).

Why This Series?

The idea came to me sometime in the last month or two, when I realized that a lot of the people who practice Intentionally Equitable Hospitality kind of learn it by osmosis, from spending time together in things like Virtually Connecting and Equity Unbound. I think there are many people who enjoy that kind of spirit, but don’t necessarily know how to apply it, and even though I love this praxis that we’ve been developing, I always think we can continue to do better and find ways to be more inclusive and equitable to a more diverse group of participants. So what better way to do this than to bring people together to experience a kind of workshop where we reflect on this – kind of a meta-reflection?

It also occurs to me that if someone wants to, in future, offer sessions via Equity Unbound or things like MYFest, I’d like to know that they understand the notion of Intentionally Equitable Hospitality and have opportunities to maybe practice it or reflect on their own facilitation approach, in order to improve it.

Experimenting with pre-design: selecting diverse facilitators

I also thought it would be an opportunity to experiment with some things. For example, even though I could *technically* offer this series as a sole facilitator, I know for sure that thinking things through with others makes it better, AND that having others help me facilitate during the session would make it a better experience for everyone – I would be less exhausted, participants would get more attention and care, and my co-facilitators’ input on the design and participation in the sessions would enrich the experience all around. Picking diverse co-facilitators (blind and sighted, undergraduate student, grad student, university professor, community college professor, and freelance facilitator in non-edu setting, Black, brown mixed race and white, LGBTQ and het, African and American, and mostly female with one male) is already part of the IEH phase of “pre-design”. Whom do you involve in the design process in the first place?

Early Believer Pass idea

Another element we’re experimenting with is the “early believer pass”, that if someone pays to participate in this January series, they can get access to whatever MYFest23 turns out to be, even though we don’t know yet what it’s gonna be! And not only that, but they can participate in the process of organizing it, have a say in what it is.

Variable price points without a promo code

One more thing we’re experimenting with is variable price points. Last time, for MYFest22, we had different price points, but the “free” option required a promo code that people had to ask for. This time, there are 3 price points (full price, half-off and “symbolic contribution”), a free ticket, and a “choose-your-own-amount” donation ticket. It’s really been interesting to see that, first, so far, around 40% of people chose to pay. People told me no one would pay if I put a “free ticket” right there. One of my co-facilitators suggested we let the free price point expire by January 2nd. Currently, the free ticket is suggested for students, adjuncts, minorities and those from emerging economies – or “or anyone who is otherwise unable to pay any of the other ticket prices”. What was surprising for me, is that I thought by putting the free option right there on the site, people would not feel the need to disclose or justify taking it, but quite a few of the people who chose it emailed me to explain why they did it. I feel bad about that, because I don’t want people to feel like they have to do that, you know? But I guess I also appreciate that they’re trying to say, “I would have paid if I could, I value what you’re offering”. The varying price points also made it simpler for people who cannot attend all three sessions to pay for a lower-priced option, since they knew they’d benefit less.

Personal Invitations

One unintentional part of this experiment is that I ended up announcing it later than planned, so it was like, between Christmas and New Year, where soooo many people won’t be checking their email or social media. And we still had great uptake. I did do the additional “hospitality” piece I often do which is send personal invitations to certain folks: those who favorite/like/retweet/boost on social media, those who I know bring an interesting accessibility or marginality or facilitation perspective, and those who I think could benefit and enjoy it. I also invited people who are already familiar with the notion and the praxis, because their presence as lead learners can make a huge difference to others – and I told them so. This approach of personal invitations seems to work well, and I feel people appreciated being remembered for themselves, not just in a group email. It also means I’m more aware of who is actually going to be there. inshallah.

Hospitality Between Sessions

One new thought I’m having right now relates to the the people who miss some sessions or parts of sessions. I’m wondering how “session summaries” or “re-caps” by facilitators or other participants might be helpful here, and still brainstorming what it might look like. This, in addition to pre-work and post-work that participants will be encouraged to do asynchronously.

So… will I see you there? I hope so! What do you hope to see/find/learn in a series like this?

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