Caucuses

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Summary

Caucuses are a tool for people who have had similar experiences connected to discrimination. Groups who share similar experiences get together to speak about them and related issues. Separate caucuses could for instance be created by people of colour and white people, who would then discuss issues regarding discrimination within the organisation.

Although a potentially discriminating group such as white people may address the topic quite differently from those who have experienced discrimination, their caucus is just as important for self-reflection. If there is more than one group then each group can decide what they want to share with the other groups.

Goal/Learning Objective/Expected Output

Empowerment to stand up against discriminatory behaviour, detecting own discriminatory behaviour, connecting to others with similar experiences.

Way/level of dealing with subject at stake

Exchange of stories, self-reflection.

Application in moderation cycle

Opening up, sensitising, looking for solutions.

Duration

1–2 hours, happening periodically.

Group Size

4–15 people per caucus group

Level of difficulty

Easy

Facilitator

Internal, someone who shares the same experiences as the group. You will need to be able to remain emotionally calm when painful experiences are shared and to create a safe, trusting environment among the group.

Materials needed

  • No materials needed.

Process description

Caucuses are created for two reasons. First, to empower people, through sharing their stories and experiences, to have a look at organisational issues that are associated with discriminatory behaviour, relations and structures. Second, to explore possibilities for identifying and changing any structures that support discriminatory behaviour.

Empowering can encourage people to stand up against discrimination, even if they belong to the potentially discriminating group. They can then hold each other accountable, within their caucus and beyond, for any discrimination they see.

You structure the caucus session roughly into three parts:

  1. Participants share stories of discrimination they have experienced. Please bear in mind that these might be emotional moments which you need to manage.
  2. Discuss possible reasons why such experiences became possible (try to be precise here, not going into a very general discussion, but narrow it down as much as you can).
  3. Think about possible ways to change the circumstances so that the shared experiences of being discriminated have less chance to occur again.

The discussion covers both the change that is required within the organisation/team etc. as well as the participants’ experiences with discrimination. This needs suitable questions to stimulate the caucus’ discussion, according to the context in which they are in.

Options for modification

The format is very flexible. You can have it as a one-off session within a workshop, where you would tell the group to divide itself according to a pre-set identifier (e.g. gender). However, a regular meeting might prove to be more effective because groups need a few meetings to build trust and come up with new ideas.

Debriefing options

Ask for individual reflection: how can we transfer the insights we had from the shared stories into our everyday life?

Find a little ritual to closure the caucus (especially if you meet regularly), in which you reiterate the purpose of the meetings.

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