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Inclusive Retreat Practices

Must Have Information for Hosts

Recently a friend and coach reached out to me about a retreat she is hosting overseas and wants to include a spot for a person of colour at an accessible price point as a sponsorship. It’s something we’ve discussed in the past for her other offers and is someone who is acutely aware of the inequities and lack of access that creates barriers for people of colour. Hence why she is always looking for ways to be intentional about her inclusion especially when it comes to her offers.

Upon deeper reflection and discussion with the potential sponsorship recipient, a lot of things came up for the person of colour and I. Here are some of the things we discussed amongst ourselves:

1️⃣ Trust

Whilst I was advocating for someone I know, the person I was advocating to didn’t know them. The level of commitment that was required from her in accepting this sponsored offer was high and required a deeper level of trust than even I could provide.

It reminded me of the many times someone has been introduced to me or even recommended to me and to my surprise (or not) the other person didn’t treat me the way they treated my friend. Sometimes we think that because this friend is great to me, they’ll be great to my friend too. In some cases, that doesn’t always happen. And it’s the most awkward of situations where you don’t want to put any tension on the existing friendship you have but it’s clear the other person is not as inclusive as you’d hoped.

I don’t think this would have been the case here, but of course I cannot say that for certain. And so this was something for my friend and I to unpack further and for me to hold space for the uncertainty which to be honest I’d be feeling too if I was the one on the other side of the conversation.

2️⃣ Safety

This came up more than once. It was safety in 2 different areas. The safety of being the only person of colour around potentially an all white group of women and how she might feel in a space where she doesn’t know any of the other women (and let’s face it, it’s already hard enough when you actually do not know a group of people in general and you are to spend time with them). Then it was the safety of the white women and how they might feel about the only woman of colour at the retreat especially if they had to share a room.

I’ve seen this play out for me first hand where I’ve been assigned different buddies to work with in a group program and almost always the other white woman has no space in her schedule for us to partner and support each other. It’s a painful experience and one where these containers and arrangements are made such that you cannot go back to the organiser to discuss. Since we are adults,  it’s expected that this is something that should be managed between ourselves without the organiser’s intervention.

It’s also a very difficult conversation to bring up about the issue of exclusion with another white person who may not believe you. This example I share is often in a virtual capacity and not in person which makes the idea of safety even more intense for an in-person event where you are spending days with each other.

And so I could understand fully what she meant by safety not just for herself as a woman of colour but also for other white women she’d be spending days with.

3️⃣ Values

Again whilst I might know the values of my friend who I trust, I don’t know the values of those who have been invited. Are they inclusive? Are they aware of their implicit biases or are they the kind of people who say I love all people and I’m super inclusive only for a person of colour to spend time in their presence to realise they are actually not that inclusive after all.

For the host of the retreat, this is a great opportunity to ensure this is communicated to all retreat goers from the very beginning. Be clear about your inclusion values by having an inclusion statement that not only serves as assurance for the attendees but also discourages anyone who might not be inclusive from attending the retreat.

You might know what your values of inclusivity are but if the people you are going to be hosting do not know then you are potentially setting up a space that might not be “safe” for everyone. That’s the danger of assuming people know you and your values by not articulating them clearly in writing.

4️⃣ Location 

The location of your retreat can also play a key role in whether or not people of colour sign up. Is it going to be primarily a place that is for a particular class and person. I know this might sound a little bit over the top but bear with me here. There are locations that are still incredibly racist and fly the white supremacy flag high. There are certain locations to this day in certain countries where Black people are targets and if they were to stay past a certain time or even spend the night, they would be risking their lives. If knocking on the “wrong” door in 2023 in Kansas City can see a 16 year old boy shot, it’s not an exaggeration to say that location plays a key role in whether or not people of colour sign up to your retreat.

5️⃣ Duration

Factoring how long the retreat will be and how much alone/personal time everyone has access to is really important. As an introvert who loves plenty of quiet and alone time, I know it would be a struggle to be switched on everyday with group activities to do for days on end. Add on the other factors of being a person of colour and it becomes even less attractive to want to take the trip despite how amazing the location or agenda might be. A 2 to 3 day trip might be absolute bliss but a 10 day trip could be a painful experience.

The essence of this information I share is never to confuse you on your inclusion journey. It’s not a straightforward journey with clear answers. There’s nuance to factor. And if you’re asking yourself…”so what’s the right thing to do here? How can I have more women of colour at a retreat I’m hosting?”

Here’s what you can do:

✋🏾 Slow down: I know this is counter intuitive to the “take action” I often teach but stay with me on this one. If you’ve been reading my emails long enough you’ll already be familiar with the phrase “you cannot rush inclusion”. While you might have great intentions on how you’d like to be more inclusive, it’s work that takes a long time and there are areas where you might need to slow down and other areas when you’ll need to dig deeper and go all in. It’s the same principle when it comes to building and growing a business. It’s not something you can fast track through. It takes time, especially when building a firm foundation so that when the stormy winds come, you can withstand.

💛 Nurture the existing relationships with the people of colour in your network. If you don’t have a network, begin to expand your network. Who are you following, reading from, subscribing to? It all adds up to your education and network building. It might be the next person you interview on your podcast who you spark a connection with and that begins an amazing journey of friendship. Be intentional about building relationships with people of colour. They will help you begin to look at life and business through a different lens and continually challenge you to do the work.

✊🏾Stay in the work: This is what will stop you from asking the question, “how do I know if I’m being performative or genuine?” When you are immersed in the work of racial equity, your level of understanding, growth and progress accelerate. It won’t be linear because nothing in being a student of life is, but you won’t be where you were when you started.

I hope the next time you think of hosting a retreat that you still think of how you can include people of colour and not just through accessible pricing. How could you make the space they will be part of more inclusive and most importantly what work will be required from you to make this happen.

If you happen to attend or host a retreat this year what’s one thing that you are going to consider or do differently? Hit reply and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

If you are yet to incorporate an inclusion statement for your business, I’d love to recommend my 3 hour workshop that walks you step by step on how to create one that is authentic to you and your business. It will help draw more people of colour into your business and begin to position you as an inclusive leader.

Get Instant Access to the Inclusion Statement Workshop

With Love,
Annie


How I can support you:

👉🏾 Want to build a racially equitable online business? Join the waitlist and be the first to find out when doors to my 10 week signature program REPRESENTED open in September 2023. Join REPRESENTED waitlist

👉🏾 Are you a woman of colour coach needing support to grow your coaching business? I’d love to help you attract paying clients. Find out more and book a free business strategy call. We’ll have a whole session to discuss where you are struggling most and a strategy to take with you.

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