1. Give us a brief history of your organization.
Conversation Starters© began in 2017 as a grassroots effort to host necessary, and sometimes, uncomfortable conversations about race, by three women with nearly forty years of combined facilitation experience. Our team has evolved to include a statistician, administrator, digital media manager and business consultant and a dozen trained facilitators who are diverse in age, racial and ethnic identity and backgrounds.
In the past three years, we have had the opportunity to work with clients who are dedicated to our shared values, such as global tech company CGI, Inc., Ochsner Health System, The Episcopal Church’s Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation, and national chapters of the Junior League. We are able to tailor our offerings to many different audiences, in ways that are effective and specific with a common passion and sense of integrity to do this work responsibly, thoughtfully, and wholeheartedly.
2. What would you tell the rest of Acadiana makes you special?
Conversation Starters© specializes in the discipline of listening, of learning, of creating inclusive spaces where authentic relationships can build, and laying the groundwork for sustainable change. Anecdotal, empirical, and quantitative data shows that our processes work. We utilize an assets-based approach – that is, we focus on achieving positive change by meeting people where they are, we invite rather than force, and we remain flexible in each situation. We know that having difficult conversations demands courage – regardless of who we are, our intentions, or how far along the continuum we think we’ve come.
3. What are you most proud of?
We are proud of our commitment to what we call the “Good, Right Work.” After having used this phrase for a while, we sat down and really considered what that meant to us – identifying what we would use as our business compass when choosing projects, navigating decisions, and aligning ourselves with organizations, businesses, and community projects. It allows us to stay in right relationship internally with one another, and the communities with which we work.
4. Where do you see your organization in 10 years? What are your plans for the future?
Through our combined decades of facilitation experience, we are focused on training the next 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 leaders, communities and organizations as they continue to create inclusive environments. Our work extends to supporting the development of BIPOC communities and investing in the future of equity and transformational justice for people from all backgrounds.
Our goal is not only to develop trained facilitators, but to continue to expand our team and employ people most impacted by this work and ensure that we are intentional in supporting the equitable economic growth of historically excluded and disinvested communities.
In 10 years, our firm will be a recognized center for this kind of work, and a major employer in the Acadiana region and throughout the country.
5. 1A is making an impact as we take an active role in improving the community we live in. Our members are making an impact, too! – What does impact mean to you? How is your company making an impact?
We want everyone in our community to feel safe, to grow, innovate, and continue to develop networks with others’ living shared values. These goals begin with creating an environment of trust and a commitment to understanding each person’s unique experiences, perspectives and cultural differences. It is valuing difference to make a difference.
From our original community forums, to the Conversation Starters on Race virtual series, our affinity groups, and our certified facilitation training cohorts, we create collectives that work together toward transformation. We are committed to serving BIPOC communities through our Joy Fund which provides financial support to organizations, community-centered projects and individuals and we create open access facilitated conversations that allow community members to embrace their curiosity, explore greater self awareness, and execute stronger calls to action.