Validating Fears While Instilling Hope

by Ian Francisco

This semester, I had the privilege of being a part of the New Bridges’ Immigrant and Refugee forum as an ICAD facilitator. With everyone so passionate to talk about their thoughts, views, and fears I held the belief that some valuable conversation may get lost in the shuffle.

The beginning of the day gave me the chance to listen to the successes within the community with regards to the immigrant and refugee community in Harrisonburg. Listening to the participants discuss what they considered to be successes was interesting because of I wasn’t aware of Harrisonburg’s previous, fantastic efforts to be welcoming to immigrants and refugees. Learning about them made me proud to go to school within this community. Before this event, I had no idea how much the city of Harrisonburg had accomplished in recent decades.

I think that’s one of the more rewarding things about being a facilitator. Not only are you helping people reach a consensus on the things they can do to help better a community or organization, but as a facilitator you are also exposed to these many different schools of thought. You learn from these people, they learn from one another, and we learn about the amazing work that is being done—work that means so much to certain people but can go unnoticed by JMU students like myself.

A challenge that is currently being faced by the people who want to help the immigrant and refugee population is simply answering the question on how to help them. This is especially difficult to answer with the increasing anxiety within these communities that continues to linger. Activists and organizers of Harrisonburg have put so many amazing programs in place and provided countless services to immigrants and refugees in the area for longer than I’ve even been alive. However, today they are faced with the realization that new trends in who is coming to the area and new social climates are creating new needs. New Bridges asked ICAD to help them address these needs by bringing various parties together and asking them to tell us what changes we need to making in order to address these needs. We also wanted to create an event that would allow these parties to voice their concerns as new realities create increasing uncertainty. These main goals really influenced how we structured the event, making sure to include time to reflect, to let anxieties be heard, and to brainstorm. This proved effective in not only creating a space where attendees were able to speak productively, but it was also helpful in avoiding the problem of progress being stifled by emotion.

There’s something to be said for the ability to balance validating feelings, while also instilling a hope that motivates proactivity. Getting to be a part of those first steps towards a solution feels absolutely invaluable to me.


Make Your Mark on Madison Leaves It’s Mark on ICAD

A collective reflection on the lessons learned while teaching facilitation.

ICAD would like to illustrate the various obstacles and moments of growth we experienced as a group during our MYMOM workshop. This was a significant facilitation for our affiliates because it was the first in which they were working independently, without Dr. Britt there for guidance.

Check out what each individual learned…

“Going into the facilitation we had created a thorough outline showcasing the evening’s plans, as well as highlighting the room’s set up and necessary materials. When we arrived at Festival prior to the workshop we began to notice that things were not going to go according to plan. First, the reserved room was not big enough for the setup we’d envisioned. We were going to create small-group tables for the participants in order to utilize the World Café model but ultimately had to rethink our plans. We managed to find the building coordinator and switch to a bigger room, that was conveniently right down the hall. This room did not have the proper tables either and we had to come together and think of a new plan for the room arrangement.

The second issue that we ran into was lack of supplies; we had planned on covering all tables with large sheets of white paper, but as we were unrolling the paper we ran out. We quickly thought on our feet and were able to gain access to a nearby club room that was able to provide us with paper. What we took away from this experience was that things do not always go according to plan and that you can never be too prepared, but in instances like this one it is best to come together and think on your feet. We were able to work together as a group and pull off a facilitation that was extremely beneficial for the MYMOM leaders. Although there were things we could’ve done to avoid these mishaps, we gained a glimpse into real world situations in which things might go awry. I’m proud to say that as a group we handled it perfectly.”

-Tagne Van de Wall

“In my experience, facilitations never go as planned. That does not mean that they carry out poorly–it means that you have to be prepared for whatever role is thrown your way.

In my case, I was given the role of facilitating Public Conversations Project, with a topic of cultural appropriation, right before our ‘meta-facilitation’ type workshop for Make Your Mark on Madison began. I have to admit that while I may have been willing and ready, I was extremely anxious. Had I known that this was going to be my role, I would’ve prepared by running different scenarios in my head.

As part of the demonstration, we had planned disturbances to show how to maneuver around challenging participants. I’d never really encountered any disturbances previously, so I found myself stumbling for the right (albeit pre-scripted) words in the moment. It was difficult to be an example of how to handle disruptions perfectly regardless of how much I had practiced and trained, especially considering I was given this role minutes before the event. In all my time as a facilitator, this was my most trying moment. Looking back, I recognize that this was personally more difficult for me because I was teaching others, not just facilitating. That pressure was difficult to shake. 

After  all was said and done, I found that I had grown since taking the training course last semester in aiding positive conversation. I have to say that it went pretty well. Mostly because my team so encouraging and reassuring.

With an amazing team, confidence, and preparation, you will come out with an immense amount of growth in your communication skills and a newfound appreciation for positive, productive conversation.”

-Anna Stackhouse

“Our MYMOM facilitation was very unique in the sense that we were not facilitating for a specific topic. Previously, we’d discuss very specific issues that applied to the groups we were facilitating for. However, for MYMOM we were trying to teach them how to use different models of facilitation. So we decided to use vaguer questions such as “What makes a good question?” and “What is closure?”. While these are good hypothetical questions that helped us demonstrate how to best create dialogue in certain facilitation models, their abstract nature made it difficult to get participants to engage. The lack of responses made it tough to highlight what certain models have to offer. However, it was still a good learning experience as it challenged me to adjust throughout the facilitation and adapt to the conversation–adapting in a way that clarified what we were asking of the attendees, so that they were more willing to participate.

This experience exposed us to the difficulty of training within your field of expertise, specifically the difficulty of training while doing. Our MYMOM facilitation was overall a great success and it taught me a lot about how to best teach facilitation models to others.”

-Tyler Burgess


Don’t know what MYMOM is? Check them out here

Helping Young Leaders Become Skilled Facilitators

By Karan Deengar

Last week, I nervously entered into my first facilitation this semester.  My role as facilitator was to help Make Your Mark on Madison’s young student leaders gain facilitation tools that they could use when working with their new members. The workshop was broken into two facilitation models; the first one was World Café and the other one, Public Conversations Project. I was a facilitator for World Café and as we went through the process I began to enjoy myself and relax a little. I asked questions that kept the discussion going and helped them elaborate on their thoughts. I also answered their questions about what we do as facilitators of JMU’s Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue (ICAD), and gave them some advice on facilitation. The students I talked with were invested in this workshop and eager to learn. Their energy motivated me and quickly got rid of any nervousness I felt before.

A notable moment for me came when I was asked “What do you do when someone takes control of the entire conversation by speaking too much and does not give others a chance to express their views?” This was my chance to put my knowledge to the test and serve an enthusiastic participant.

I told them that first, the facilitator needs to validate that person. After they feel they have been heard they are more likely to listen to other people’s opinion. I then explained that it is also helpful to summarize what the person said and then ask those who haven’t spoken much to share their thoughts. It’s important to be mindful of this problem in group discussion, especially when we are discussing controversial issues. It was these kinds of thoughtful questions that helped them learn and helped me grow as facilitator.

The personal impact for me as an ICAD affiliate was seeing how engaged and earnest these students were in learning how to facilitate. It made me happy that I had the opportunity to share my knowledge and skills that could help others with their goals. The skills required to being a good facilitator are skills that help you through all walks of life, especially when it comes to leadership roles. The ability to ask engaging questions and make people feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts is invaluable. I walked away from this facilitation confident in myself, and no matter what I do in the future I want to continue to cultivate my facilitation skills and use these skills to help people whenever I can.

Advancements in Technology, Growth of an Affiliate: The Long-Term Partnership That Has Shaped Me Today

By R. Chase Dunn

When I began my journey as a facilitator of public dialogue, my first professional facilitation was for the Virginia Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education Summit (VIRTUES)—a collaboration of key Virginia leaders in unmanned systems technology. This summit, which took place in the summer of 2016, was hosted by 4-VA—a collaborative partnership of five Virginia universities.

Learn more about 4-VA’s technology education initiatives here

I trained with ICAD for 2 days before the event. Nervous and excited, I tried to use my knowledge of best communication practices to help guide a conversation between professionals and academics on a topic that I knew nothing about.

More recently, after an additional semester-long course on facilitation, I became an intern for ICAD. In this role, I was tasked with taking the lead on VIRTUES II, a follow up conference to the initial summit. I found myself responsible for designing the processes we would use to stimulate conversations for the entire day, a day which would end with remarks from Terry McAuliffe, the Governor of Virginia. Again, I approached the challenge of taking on this new leadership role with excitement and uncertainty.

The process was designed, the plan was approved, and my team was briefed. I felt ready for the event. That was until the day before, when new schedules and new goals forced us to change almost everything we had prepared.

VIRTUES II took place on February 10th, 2017, with 8 other facilitators helping me throughout the day. It went incredibly well thanks to the flexibility and adaptability of my team. The day ended but the project wasn’t quite finished until I compiled everyone’s notes and developed a final report for 4-VA.

From my 2-day training to the full-length course to becoming an intern for ICAD, I have quickly fallen in love with the process of designing and shaping spaces to help people think about issues together.

More than that, I have come to understand the incredible value of what we do. The organizers of the conference even emailed to say “You and the ICAD team were so integral to VIRTUES II being a success!” Moving forward, I can’t wait for future opportunities to design communicative processes that help people reach their goals.

If you’re interested in the growing world of unmanned systems check out Virginia Robotics 

Setting The Example: Harrisonburg Strives to Be a Leader in Community Police Relations

by Erika Harrington

When you look at our country’s current racial climate or the tensions between minorities and law enforcement, it’s easy to let your mind wander to the large scale issue. However, it’s important to remember that taking action locally can have far-reaching impacts. This brings us to the work of 4C, local activists, community members, and JMU students. These groups came together to answer a simple question,

‘What can Harrisonburg do to become a leader in community police relations in the nation?’

How can we make some changes here at home to show what healthy relationships between law enforcement and the community they serve, looks like? What would these changes look like? And how do prioritize these in the most sensible way?

The participants focused on three areas of improvement – education, relationship building, and policy – each of which led to action items. Education focused on what information could help law enforcement work better in their community, the ways we could get this information to law enforcement, and the channels we could use to keep the public updated on the efforts being made by law enforcement. The group brainstormed a list of education needs including citizens knowing their rights, lessons on bias and institutional racism for police officers, and information about restorative justice. Relationship building was a key factor, as the source of many problems can be rooted in the disconnect between officers and the people they serve. Suggestions included officers participating in community events and spending time with youth. Last was policy. This is the formal restructuring of the current system that will ensure consistency. This piece moves away from the culture of police relations and looks at the regulatory aspect. Some of these ideas are as follows:

  • Intensive law enforcement training on bias and mental illness
  • Improved data collection
  • The end of collaboration between police and ICE
  • Establing a civilian review board for all uses of force
  • PTSD screening and random drug testing for officers

The night ended with many attendees thanking 4C for the opportunity to take part in this important conversations. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done. The 4C student team that designed and facilitated the conversation produced a report that was distributed to all of the participants and shared with city council to help support continued changes in Harrisonburg’s local law enforcement that establish Harrisonburg as a community concerned with equity and justice for all. Hopefully, these are changes that the community will be able to see in the near future.
For more information check out the full report here. Deliberating About Harrisonburg Community Police Relations Report

4C students join community to discuss Reducing Recidivism

In August, the Harrisonburg community came together to discuss approaches to Reducing Recidivism and addressing the needs of those being released from prison after serving their time to enable citizens to rejoin society and reconnect with their families and communities. Thirty James Madison students who are part of the 4C Campus Community Civic Collaborative, joined the conversation to witness firsthand how communities organize to deliberate options and collaborate for action. The forum was co-moderated by Kai Degner and Lori Britt, Director of the 4C Initiative.

4C helps viewers discuss “The Hunting Ground”

4C student facilitators designed and facilitated small group discussions about the documentary film, The Hunting Ground ( an exposé of rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, their institutional cover-ups, and the devastating toll they take on students and their families. The film was shown as part of the School of Public and International Affairs Fall 2015 Symposium focused on Sexual Violence: Community, National, and Global Dimensions. Over 100 people stayed after the film to discuss the roles we can all play in ensuring just outcomes for those directly affected.