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  • Writer's picturemargothovey

I was speaking at an HR association last week. Many of those who attended represent rural communities in Ontario. Over the course of an Unconscious Bias exercise and general comments, I heard several times that their hometowns aren’t like the big cities and that they live in White communities.

Despite my explanations of the many ways that we are and can be different from each other, and inclusion truly is about belonging, their concerns were clear and, and if I’m not terribly mistaken so were their fears.

The night after my speech, I dreamt about a small community that seemed to have been built on a cliff. It looked terrifying to me. I think that the fear in surrounding inclusion is like that. That things sometimes feel disorienting.

I was speaking about how we all can be heroes of Diversity & Inclusion journeys in our organizations and in our communities. I wondered if they were able to identify with this image of Joseph Campbell’s. When I asked what the roadblocks to initiating change might be back in their organizations, they said, “resources and commitment” . It felt, though, that there was much energy in the room that wasn’t being expressed in the form of words. The atmosphere was tense and difficult for me to read.

I’d like to understand them better and have the opportunity to get to know them better. I have that opportunity within my own family. I have relatives out West who are farmers and have lived the rural life for several generations. I have a rural self within me. That self loves the expanse of the wide open skies, the call of the forests, the arrival of specific birds, the changes in the weather that mark the passage of time. I learned that the patterns of the seasons are the greatest influence on my rural families. When these patterns shift or are threatened by change, folks feel unsettled. This is when fear appears.

Talking about Diversity & Inclusion strategies with rural folk and other white people is a bit like climate change. We don’t know what the outcome will be. Our worlds are changing in a way we can’t anticipate. We are used to relying on predictability. We know that change is coming and we can’t know what that means for us.

Just as I learned how to understand the value of the seeds of influence grown within my family relationships, I hope that my speech germinates and grows in the minds and hearts of the attendees with resources they hadn’t previously acknowledged within themselves. Like me, like many of us, they have come from ancestors who took great risks in coming here and who learned how to nurture the resources within themselves to thrive.

We can all lean in to fear and listen to what it asks us to pay attention to. My mindfulness teachers are showing me how to pay attention to fear and respond with compassion. I am keen to understand and to embrace the source of these fears in our journey towards belonging.

When you need accompaniment on your journey, contact

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  • Writer's picturemargothovey

This past Sunday, as I’ve done for the last 3 months, I hosted the Awakening to Whiteness book club meeting at our church.

I’ve noticed that the first time that people come to this colloquy especially formed to discuss consciousness around being White, they have a distinct need to talk about their realization of being White – the first time or at least formative experiences that made them consider that they were White. They need to share this with others. The sharing is significant. This is something I’ll be sure to ask for feedback on at the end of the book club. The sense I have is that by speaking the stories out loud to others it validates their journey towards an awakening.

Such a journey needs a map. The first steps require bravery and courage. For some it seems that talking about Whiteness is unseemly and they fear upsetting others or instigating heated discussions or conflict (heaven forbid). What has become evident is that sharing creates a connection between people and that responses are not likely to be judgmental but instead encourage pursuit of the line of inquiry. Clearly, this journey is one of inquiry.

As the median age of this group is 70, people have much life to consider before they have their first conversation about Whiteness. They are asking themselves, “What took me so long to get here? What influences formed me so that it took until now to consider the implications of race.” One participant said: “I didn’t think I needed to consider the influences of my prejudices because I have a bi-racial grandchild. But, in fact that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with her.”

She, and others there gathered were stunned by her shared realization that White is a race! And further, that we share in the characteristics of this race, one of which is an unexamined assumption about its very existence and influence on our day-to-day lives.

I am present for the examination of the journey and look forward to guiding others along the voyage. The implications are significant. If we can understand the implications of Whiteness in our daily interactions – in our concern and caring for each other, we can legitimate this discussion with others and reduce the negative implications and impacts of race in the work place, in the sports stadium, and at the shopping mall.

If you want to join me on this journey contact me:

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  • Writer's picturemargothovey

Each of us is different, one from the other, even amongst those reading this blog. Some subtly, some less so. It’s the nature of differences that allows both harmony and chaos to co-exist. Simply, put, and as Sinatra put it, that’s life. And it’s all good because as long as the chaos doesn’t spiral downwards and completely out of control, we’re thriving.

Talking about differences can be one of those brave or difficult conversations. In this moment, we will attempt to make it fun and engaging. Without projecting that conflict will ensue, I’d like to introduce you to the concept of a “Design Alliance”. A design alliance is a structural container for a relationship or, in this case, a group of people. The design alliance helps to articulate two essential procedures and norms for maintaining respectful dialogue.

  1. Creating atmosphere: This is the space or environment that the participants want to create. The advantage of designing an atmosphere is that if the circumstances change, the project milestones shift, or the actors change, the atmosphere we have created is maintained.

  2. Sharing responsibility: What can each of us be counted on to do? What is each person’s part in creating the experience they want.

To create the alliance, it is useful to ask those who are involved, whether it be in a relationship, a team or a group of any kind, a few probing questions. The idea is to hear how others approach these questions as well as to arrive at a shared atmosphere and individual sense of responsibility.

Consider these:

  • For the time that we are together, what is the atmosphere that you want to create? How do you want it to feel (empowering, supportive, spacious, confrontational, collaborative)?

  • What would it take for this group today to flourish, to inspire, to grow?

  • Finally, what will you count on/rely on from each other? For instance you can count on me to shine the light on the essence of Diversity & Inclusion strategies.).

A design alliance helps to encourage trust between people. Not only that. It addresses the social unit (relationship, group, and so on) as an entity in its own right. This social being is both separate and connected to the people that it includes. This social being is a system. Building awareness around social units as systems can be humbling. Well, it has been for me, as over time, I’ve realized that my own needs are smaller than the needs of the system.

Once you have established a design alliance, you can begin the conversation knowing that you have each other’s support and backs. I’m curious to hear your experience in working with design alliances. If you’d like support in how to design alliances and what to do with the outcomes of them, contact me at

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