As a graphic recorder or facilitator, how do you “Listen for Diversity”? Many of us are working in specialized fields and it’s not one size fits all. Now for the first time, you can read expert advice from over 20 visual practitioners.
This month, I hosted a session called Listening for Diversity at the 2017 International Forum of Visual Practitioners conference. As visual practice expands, it’s an exciting time for us to share techniques about “Listening for Diversity” that work for practitioners, clients, and communities.
I wanted the workshop to include as many voices as possible – including people who aren’t able to make this year’s conference, and to amplify what’s working for practitioners. So before the workshop, I reached out to the graphic recording community for insights.
The responses are grouped by five themes:
- self-reflection and diversity
- drawing diversity
- diversity of perspectives
- relationships, and
- graphic recording as a participatory process.
Diversity comes in infinite forms — race, gender, cultures, age, and abilities to just name a few. As visual practitioners, it’s a great time to start a conversation.
Images were scribed/graphic recorded by participants of the Listening for Diversity workshop session unless otherwise noted.
As many graphic recorders noted, listening for diversity isn’t just about the people in the room, it’s about what we bring to the room – that is, we need to question our own biases and assumptions, and even how we conceive of our role. As Anthony queries, is it just about creating a visual record of events or about intervening? Having our peers record our work could also enable us to step back and look at our facilitation through someone else’s eyes. Only through critical self-reflection, will we be better equipped to listen for diversity.
In order to represent diversity in ways that advance it, create change, equity & inclusion, we ourselves need to be able to see what we are not seeing… We must question our assumptions and seek to understand what things mean to others, what made them so, and what is really their impact as visual practitioners … We all know that it’s hard to understand what we can’t see and our gift is to help folks see. – Claudia Lopez
When I worked with communities in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side on a potential redevelopment of the Woodward’s Building (which was then occupied by squatters), we engaged with many people marginalized by homelessness, poverty, addictions, and/or mental illness. In facilitation, we sought to respect their passions, their own vision for a better future, and to meet them where they were (literally and \). Checking my own preconceptions, attitudes and biases was vital for me to be open and credible- they had to trust me enough to share their (often very private) aspirations so that I could capture their ideas visually. – Drew Ferrari
Is there a better way for everyone to be heard? I think it’s a really good idea for us to have our own conversations drawn by someone else. – Aaron Johannes
As an Indigenous, mixed race facilitator (with many other identities) I notice how often marginalized groups are described by those who don’t belong to the group… What words do they use to describe themselves? [I also] notice my own tone of voice, body language, [and] who I direct my comments to. Make an effort to scan the room, make eye contact with various contributors. – Tiare Jung, with Drawing Change
How we present images on a page says everything about who WE are, how we see the world, and how we instantiate the biases, dominant points of view, and commonly-held reference points in our work. It’s a subjective business–and our subjectivity is both our Achilles heel as well as our calling card. It all depends on how we interrogate it, play with it, and use it to help groups and teams see their conversation. My suggestions are not prescriptive, but rather, borne out of inquiry. Do we have a role in “signal boosting” voices that are not usually heard? Do we have a role in saying directly to groups: “These are the voices I’m hearing…but what other voices need to be heard here?” What might we offer by embracing the role of “artist” and see the world differently, in contrast to the time-honored tradition of “capturing” only what is heard? – Anthony Weeks
2. Visualizing diversity
One of the surprising outcomes of the survey, was the number of excellent and thoughtful techniques about how to visualize or draw diversity! Given the nature of our work, it makes sense that we are also translators or interpreters – we put on paper what we hear. So, it’s important to consider how we put diversity to paper.
Drawing diversity is a prickly, tricky subject for some recorders…I try to go for a light touch. It’s entirely possible to draw diverse people by making slight changes in the shapes of faces, noses, eyes and clothing. I try to avoid drawing “costumes” if that’s not what people wear in everyday life. I’ve also done a trick where I draw the country flag or country flag colors in the body of the person to show German or Chinese or French people. I think it’s good to be conscious of your visual biases when you draw.– Deb Aoki
When dealing with diversity issues, sometimes it’s best to put the pen into the group’s hands. Let them reflect on issues through facilitated exercises, drawing exercises, templates, etc. We’re only one person in the room. Sometimes it’s more powerful to let someone else draw. – Sophia Liang
To visualize diversity in a meeting, I ask participants to describe attributes of a successfully diverse team that they have served on or participated in. I draw a group of diverse people on a flip chart and add the words they offer up. I refer to this diversity chart throughout the course of the meeting. – Heather Martinez
We always introduce ourselves as visual practitioners and tell people it is very important to us that we get the images and words correct, then we show them our ‘delete key’ or ‘chart Band-Aids (large silver backed labels) so we can change anything on the chart, so please tell us if we have got anything wrong so we can correct it! – Rob Benn
I ask the participants to come to me during the breaks and tell me what they feel should be added. I also do couple of speech bubbles to note down different points of view. I note down also fun moments/random comments – this works amazingly well for the participants to feel connected to the recording. I also try to create a complex picture that makes sense as a whole (e.g. road to somewhere, a scene, a street in the city with different buildings around), but it always has to be connected with what is being spoken about. – Bea Broskova
I want to reflect the people in the room, so I try to look at the actual people present, and draw who I see. It has also helped me to study photos online of different ethnic groups, to practice learning ways to draw different types of people quickly, but in a manner that is (I hope) respectful. When I introduce myself, I let people know anything I write or draw can be changed. I encourage people to let me know if they feel mis-heard or mis-represented by anything on the chart, and to tell me in the moment or on a break and I will change it. – Emily Shepard
One big AHA moment I’ve had is to acknowledge the “white space”…the space where people didn’t have ideas, or realized more thought was needed. One particular event comes to mind. At the end of one session, there was the dreaded “vacuum of white space” that I didn’t know how to fill. The truth was that the group didn’t have as many ideas of HOW to execute their vision as they did on WHAT was their vision. So I put dashed lines around it, and labelled it “more discussion needed on how to build the archive”. It was actually really effective, especially when compared to other graphics of the day, which were full of diverse ideas and concepts. – Yolanda Liman
Let’s spread and integrate new terms in our visual vocabulary: symbols for different ways of reduced mobility, gender, colour… – KSt