Many of you know I had the privilege of being a part of a co-creation process developing curriculum for students that will be participating in service learning experiences around the world. Remember some of them from previous pictures?
One of the challenges that I have faced, and witnessed other foreigners face, is understanding power dynamics within the work place (or society). Power structures are a social construct that come from years of conditioning and since each country, and even location in a country, has a different set of conditioning, perspectives are incredibly divergent. With the input of some of my colleagues and one of my interns, I came up with a little test that could be done with students to help them better understand their perspectives, which then will help them to consider others' perspectives (since we often do not realize our views are just that OUR views not the ultimate truth).
Below are some examples, a slightly edited version, of what we used with the co-creation group and examples I used with some of my staff in testing this activity. First, you get to play. See what biases you may hold. We all have biases so I encourage you to be honest with yourself and not say, "I can't respond that way because that makes me look misogynistic, racist, age-ist, etc." You are the only one seeing your biases** and it is only by recognizing them that you can start to address them, if you so choose.
**Note, this idea was very difficult for some of my staff to understand. Many of them have been raised to believe that when asked a question the goal is always to get the 'right' answer, also known as the answer that most closely matches the opinion of the authority figure/teacher.
After you try it, I will explain some reflections of my own that have popped up in my life in Cambodia. To play, you must decide of the three 'people' pictured, who is the boss, who is the manager, and who is the staff person (ignore the fact that some people are missing half their heads this is a technology problem not a reflection of any kind of actual physical difference in the person).
When putting this together, it also made me think, based on my experiences, how homogeneous the bosses and managers in my life have been.
Pencils ready? You may now open you booklets... (I have always wanted to say that, though just the thought of those words makes me anxious).
Put your pencils down. Enjoy that wave of relief that washes over you with those words... Now, some reflections on each of these images.
These last three I think are where it really gets interesting with my colleagues...
Have you ever worked in an office with a person who engages with the world in a different way? From a chair? Through sign language? Who cannot see?
This made me think, how different would our world be if included all people at the table, regardless of how they engage with the world? But, you will have to wait for Part III of this blog for my final thoughts :) Thanks for reading and enjoy struggling with the questions this raises for you.
This post originally appeared on The Life and Love of Karen in August 2016.