The Welcome Table™
Our approach, called The Welcome Table™, is rooted in inclusion, trust, healing, and equity. Its innovation lies in respecting the timeless wisdom of circles, deep listening, and authentic relationships.
Deeply influenced by the work of civil rights activists, we ground our work on the principle that achieving justice begins with the inner work of individuals examining their own attitudes and biases. That reflective practice, when combined with the outer work of building trusting and respectful relationships, leads toward advocacy and policies for equitable systemic change. Our process promotes a deep sense of belonging and deep equity.
Its successes include transformations in Mississippi sites most notorious for racial violence. Examples include a historic conviction in a cold civil rights case, the passage and implementation of a statewide law requiring civil rights and human rights history curriculum in all Mississippi schools, and contributing to the successful effort to secure a new state flag, plus dozens of other local actions that have improved the quality of life for local citizens.
Since then, we have offered this community building process successfully in other locales, including New Orleans, Louisiana; Columbia, South Carolina; and over twenty other states and in collaboration with colleagues in Northern Ireland and South Africa. We have used it to help transform the climates and cultures of universities, communities, organizations, and corporate partners.
Our approach includes three phases of reflection, connection and transformation. We facilitate a variety of interactive exercises, carefully sequenced for growing understanding, in large circles and in small groups and pairs. This guided learning process is based on a growth or strengths-based model of learning rather than a compliance model. In other words, we believe that all participants have their own wisdom and gifts that can be tapped into and called forth and that sharing those with others increases the collective wisdom of the group.
Sessions can be created of varying lengths from one week to three weeks and for municipalities, universities and corporate partners, from half-day and full-day sessions to multiple days and weeks.
We begin with anti-racism and we guide you through heart, head and body work to interdependence and mutuality.
Our process is not a series of lectures meant to convey lessons for rote memory. The facilitators and participants learn from each other. We do not train you; we accompany you and guide you on a journey that you must begin from within.
Ultimately, the process cultivates a Beloved Community which understands that justice is what love looks like in public.
How The Welcome Table Works
Phase One: PRESENCE
In phase one, participants explore and reconnect with their authentic self and their life-calling. In sharing those highest values, participants begin to develop trust and form respectful relationships while understanding the often difficult and different experiences each of us have had. In short, it asks “how do we learn to love ourselves and each other?” in order to understand the implications of every choice our clients can make.
CENTRAL QUESTION: WHO ARE WE?
·What is your authentic self?
·What are your highest values?
·How do we learn to love ourselves and each other?
Phase Two: PURPOSE
In phase two participants begin to grapple with the systems and histories we have all inherited that have limited opportunities for many and which have prevented a shared prosperity for all. It does not assign blame or shame. Rather, it illuminates those existing structures and attitudes that prevent people from working together and being successful. It recognizes that while none of us created racism and other biases, we have all inherited a responsibility to address those mindsets and outcomes.
CENTRAL QUESTION: HOW DID WE GET HERE?
·How did we get to where we are?
·How do we practice our shared highest values respectfully with others, within the context of a complex and inequitable world and fraught histories?
·What is the purpose of your leadership as it relates to healing the world?
Phase Three: POWER
In phase three, participants begin to practice working together and using an equity lens approach as they develop a project that benefits the greater good. Having engaged with who we are and how we got here, phase three explores what we are going to do about our present situation in order to build a more sustainable and equitable future.
CENTRAL QUESTION: WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO TOGETHER?
·How do we share this love with the world?
·How do we practice loving each other, even when it's hard?
·How do we transform "power over" to "power with?"