navigating power with Ellen Shepard

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Power matters. Power is always present in the rooms where we facilitate, and it can be a force for positive change. However, power’s shadow side is also there, impacting who has access to opportunity, resources, and influence. If we don’t address power deliberately and strategically, we may replicate patterns that sustain an inequitable status quo. So how might we better navigate power?



If, as Adrienne Maree Brown says, “What we practice at the small scale sets the patterns for the whole system,” what is the present moment on Earth calling upon us to do in our role as facilitators?

How might we design sessions and work with our sponsors in ways that disrupt patterns of inequity, foreground and empower previously marginalized voices, and plant the seeds for courageous, systemic transformation?

 This workshop draws on the thinking of multiple facilitators of color, including:

Also: The Community Heart and Soul model from the Orton Family Foundation

“I’m not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right, and that is good.”  – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our Workshop

In this interactive workshop, we’ll explore facilitation models that foreground equity, inclusion, and empowerment. We’ll navigate the delicate waters of how power shows up in our sessions, designs, interactions with sponsors, and in ourselves. We’ll leverage our collective expertise to identify where our facilitator toolkits are already creating new, more equitable power dynamics and where we can grow.

 Questions and topics to be explored include:

  • How are our facilitated sessions microcosms of the change we want to see in the world?
  • What sorts of models can foster more distributed leadership and access to opportunity?

  • What is the ethical and appropriate role for an external facilitator to play in power dynamics and systems change?

  • Who is our client? Who else does the current moment call upon us to prioritize and serve?


Ellen Shepard is the founder and principal consultant at Community Allies, which promotes equitable economic development, strong community support organizations, and authentic community engagement and empowerment. She is the creator of the “Radical Inclusion” approach to inviting all of the voices in a community to be equal partners in determining the community’s future. Most recently, she led community engagement for an initiative to study and improve conditions for small business owners of color in eight cities across the United States.

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