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Colorado Humanities: Changing the Legacy of Race – Program Development and Facilitator Training & Coaching

The National Endowment for the Humanities and State Humanities Councils were undergoing a fundamental change in the kind of work they did – from engaging communities in history and literature to strengthening communities through engaged civic practice and democratic traditions. Colorado Humanities staff sought help in developing both skills and programs that would realize this conceptual change, with a focus on bridging divides among racial, ethnic and other groups in Colorado communities, and build their capacity to do so. 

The Athena Group worked with board and staff members to identify an approach to this change that would both leverage the strengths that already existed among staff in their previous programming and increase their capacity to host and facilitate bridge-building community conversations on challenging topics. Together, we developed and piloted a Community Conversations program on Changing the Legacy of Race that incorporated film and readings to spark thoughtful reflection on the role of race and ethnicity in American history and facilitated dialogue to build relationships, deepen understanding of experiences related to racial/ethnic identity today and identify action all community members can take to bridge divides, heal historical wounds and build more cohesive and inclusive communities in Colorado. We then trained two experienced facilitators in advanced methods in intergroup dialogue, mentored them throughout the pilot project and worked with the team to evaluate the pilot effort.

‘Changing the Legacy of Race’ was a huge success for participants and partners. Using process facilitation to explore the issue and experience of race in black neighborhoods in Denver helped see the value of deepening the conversations, while teaching us how to inspire those conversations in safe settings that allow all points of view to be voiced.
— Director of Programs Josephine Jones