Founded in 2000, College Possible makes college admission and success possible for low-income students. This Twin Cities based non-profit opens up opportunity for bright, hard-working students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support.
College Possible’s diverse workforce was devastated by the shooting of George Floyd in May of 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak meant that few individuals were working in the office, and the sense of isolation and grief was immense. In the immediate aftermath, the CEO provided employees paid time off and access to coaching resources, but it was clear that more connection and safe, brave dialog was needed. The Bailey Group was asked to facilitate an open conversation among the white members of the staff to help process and share their emotions around the event – and the personal and professional impact. Black, Indigenous and POC staff members had a separate, similar dialog with an additional facilitator. All staff members and facilitators then came together to process both conversations as a team.
The Bailey Group created a set of ground rules designed to promote listening, understanding, empathy, and learning. This was not intended to be a problem-solving discussion, nor was it a platform to espouse personal views. It was simply a powerful and intimate way for staff members to share feelings, ask questions, and gain advice and support on how to deal with the event and how to respectfully offer support to non-white colleagues. The facilitators role was to “hold a safe space” for brave and authentic dialog, assuring that the ground rules were respected, and that everyone had a chance to participate in their own way. A large majority of the staff voluntarily attended these dialog sessions.
These dialogs facilitated the healing of staff members after this tragic event. Individuals learned that they were not alone in their experiences. They received answers to questions that would have felt risky to ask in a larger, mixed race group. The staff felt more confident in their ability to discuss the event with their colleagues of color, which opened honest and caring conversations, building trust among all staff members.
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