Learning & Looking Ahead
We conducted a thorough review of the online evaluations (220 were completed), social media feedback, planning team feedback, and commentary that came from email and other follow-up to our staff. Our planning team evaluated this information to measure how the conference fared specifically vis-a-vis our goals (see p. 6), as well as analyzing other elements that participants spoke to in order to inform our future Othering & Belonging efforts and events. From the feedback we received in the 2019 conference, we identified the following takeaways of what we could do either differently, more of, or just simply better.
From left: Aparna Shah who moderated the Urgency of Bridging mainstage panel; closing keynote speaker Rev. William Barber II; and Linda Sarsour speaks on the Future of Feminism panel
1. More participatory, interactive program design.
Taken broadly, attendees are looking for more time to connect with the content and with each other without losing the same quality of content offered. Over a third of survey respondents wanted sessions to be more participatory. Several comments noted a desire to "go deeper" as well as having the space to process and facilitate what was being offered. A comment from one attendee on the Bridging Generations session with Native American leaders illustrated this: "I wish we had had time to process it in small groups. Not even turning it into outcomes or explicit take-aways, but getting to process it. I think the work of the conference is professional, but borders on retreat-like, and having space and facilitators to process more would have helped me come back more ready for change."
Also requested was more facilitation and design of the sessions that would support people in learning more about the application of the materials. When we were explicit about providing opportunities for application, such as with the breakout sessions on curriculum and local government strategies, more time to go in depth was requested.
Taken together there are a number of ways we could design the agenda to meet these requests. Ideas include pre-conference sessions, more focused trainings, extending the duration of the conference to allow for more breathing room across the whole agenda, and creating more lead time to work more deeply with session facilitators on how to make sure the sessions allow for more participation and interactivity.
2. More time for networking and social activities.
Another commonly suggested improvement was to create more opportunities to connect and network with other attendees. As well, this was one of the most highly-valued aspects of the Othering & Belonging conference. While similar to the first takeaway, this set of asks was not necessarily related to the conference content. For future conferences we aim to program in more spaces that offer time to connect with others, such as more social activities, more ways to engage with the local place and culturemakers, and just spaces where there is not much programming.
Creating more spaces for joy and play as well as ensuring there are more intimate, smaller, and more reflective spaces are also ideas that have been generated by participants and our planning team as possibilities for inclusion into the programming. To meet this goal we must take our knowledge that people have a variety of learning styles and ways of processing material. We need to create more spaces that speak to a larger variety of diverse needs.
3. More identities, issues, and geographies elevated.
With critiques around too few out-LGBTQ presenters, a lack of focus on issues of gender and sexuality, requests for more racial and ethnic identities to be included such as more Latinx speakers, we will continue to push ourselves to bring in a range of speakers that is more truly representational and celebrates the wide variety of difference. In addition requests for more focus on certain issues and thematics, such as disability justice and issues that affect other geographies outside of California and the US were also mentioned as points of critique or ways to go further and deeper in the curation to both examine othering and advance belonging