Inspiring People. Growing Organizations. Strengthening Communities.

News Updates

New Publication! Facilitation And Evaluation

I co-edited this issue of New Directions in Evaluation to bridge the views of these two fields. More



How will we write the next chapter of the story of race in America?

Using Art of Hosting and Conflict Transformation: An event in Houston, Texas.    More


New Results on Girls' Lives in Afar

Why is it hard to change attitudes about girls' education? Because in poor countries, it's more complex than you may think. Check out the results of this study funded by Girlhub Ethiopia More


Photo courtesy of Girlhub Ethiopia ©2013


Arts in Evaluation

My webinar on the use of Arts in Evaluation is now available online.  More


Rita's Blog

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Jan 19, 2017
Category: Antiviolence 
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Leadership 
Category: Antiracism 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

By Rita S. Fierro, Ph.D. and Quanita Roberson, M.A.

 We have work to do. The election of Trump has ripped the bandaid off our modern myths of justice, revealing the collective wounds we swept there after the Civil Rights Movement.  While our society shifted to a more inclusive society in the 1960s, fifty years of good intentions does not erase 350 years of horrific deeds. 

Our wounds have been festering for centuries, cyclically reopened by violence. We are now being called to face our demons and to heal more fully, together. 


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Nov 12, 2016
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Antiracism 
Category: What is an inclusive conversation? 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Category: Tips for inclusive conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

On Wednesday, we found out that Donald J Trump is our president-elect. I spent the day grieving for what I thought the next ten years of my life would look like, for me and the children I’d like to bring into the world. Outrage got him elected. Outrage now grows in those of us who have begun marching. I spent the campaign season reassuring myself that 60 years of desegregation, activism, and coalition building could not have happened in vain. That we were a better people, a more united people, than it seemed. That the violence, the hate, was the minority of us, and Trump’s campaign would become just a bad dream. I was wrong.

The violence is rising.

When I guide groups through frustration and outrage, I say it’s time to tend to the margins. In this case, the margins have become 50% of the popular vote.

For our series on inclusive conversations (conversations where differences are seen as an opportunity, not a threat), tip #7: Look for wisdom in the outrage.


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Jun 14, 2016
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Participatory Leadership 
Category: Leadership 
Category: Antiracism 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Category: Tips for inclusive conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

When you take a stand, it doesn’t have to be you against the world. Taking a stand can also inspire a group to be the best it can be.

Until now, all the tips on inclusive conversations were about being receptiveasking questions, and listening. Today’s tip switches gears: it’s about taking a clear stand in the presence of flawed process.


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May 13, 2016
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Category: Tips for inclusive conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

Do your conversations these days feel like black holes of despair that transform even the sweetest of donuts into booger-tasting jelly beans? If most conversations you have about these crazy primaries end up in fights and go nowhere, tip #4 is for you.  Inclusive conversations occur when differences are seen as a resource, not a threat. Previous tips included preparing the conversation, choosing when and where to invest your energyopening the door to the conversation and making allies. Today's tip is more about the actual conversation. Tip #4: No matter how insane you think people are to think the way they do, don't beat them down with what you know, try to pause, and meet them where they are, instead. But before I explain what I mean by: "meet people where they are," here's a little story for you.


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Apr 13, 2016
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Participatory Leadership 
Category: Art of Hosting 
Category: Leadership 
Category: Emergence 
Category: Antiracism 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Category: Tips for inclusive conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

In the last blog, I listed a self-care tip for having inclusive conversations: choosing when and where to invest your energy. Inclusive conversations are conversations where differences are seen as a resource instead of a threat. These conversations can be tricky because differences can bring up fear, hurt, or anger.

Today's tip is also about self-care. If you're not taking care of yourself in a conversation, or hosting yourself, and being present, as the Art of hosting’s four-fold practice would put it, then it's unlikely that the conversation will be productive. Inclusive conversations are often hard and courageous conversations. So today's tip: Look for allies and build support before you jump in.


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Mar 25, 2016
Category: Antiviolence 
Category: Education 
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Participatory Leadership 
Category: Art of Hosting 
Category: Antiracism 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Category: Tips for inclusive conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

Many friends have talked to me about struggling with Facebook posts on their "friends' " timeline especially in this time of heated presidential debates and recent tragic terrorist attacks in Nigeria, Lebanon, Mali, Turkey, Ivory Coast, Belgium, and Pakistan. Some posts were prejudicial, others blatantly racist. The way Facebook is structured, someone's status shows up on our feed, so many of us feel the need to "call out" misinformation and prejudice, and feel deeply disturbed when we choose silence. It is known that reacting to Facebook posts can create more trouble in relationships and friendships.


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Feb 16, 2016
Category: Antiviolence 
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Participatory Leadership 
Category: Art of Hosting 
Category: Antiracism 
Category: Why Invest in Inclusion? 
Category: Why invest in inclusive conversations? 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Category: Italiano 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

"What is it about you Americans?” a friend in New Zealand said to me a few months ago, “Why are you so resistant to the common good?" The state of panic, fomented by some presidential candidates, reminds me of that statement. Inclusive conversations are defined as conversations where differences are leveraged as a resource, not a threat. For this issue, I’m addressing practicing inclusion for our common good.


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Oct 27, 2015
Category: Group dynamics 
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Antiracism 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Category: Tips for inclusive conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

Tip #1. Open the door mindfully.

How a conversation begins is everything. It’s like not knowing what’s behind a door, so we have to be careful of how we open it. I’ve learned that to have an inclusive conversation, I have to be mindful of how I open the door to the conversation. I pay attention to what I say and the impact of my words and actions.


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Sep 17, 2015
Category: Group dynamics 
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Leadership 
Category: Why Invest in Inclusion? 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

We live in a world where our experiences of individual and group differences are more expansive every day. As globalism, transportation, and communication make our world smaller, we gain contact with people of more different cultures, nationalities, sexual orientations, tribes, ethnic groups, professions, political outlooks, ideologies etc. etc. etc than prior generations.


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Sep 1, 2015
Category: Antiviolence 
Category: Group dynamics 
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Participatory Leadership 
Category: Antiracism 
Category: What is an inclusive conversation? 
Category: Inclusive Conversations 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

Ever feel that having a conversation in a productive way when people have different perspectives is hard work? I've got news for you. You're right!

This blog is the first in a series of 13 about inclusive conversations. With three introductory blogs and ten topical blogs, along with the e-book that will compile them all, I'm focusing on ten barriers to inclusive conversations and 10 skills that can help overcome them.

What is an inclusive conversation and why do inclusive conversations matter?


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Apr 29, 2015
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Evaluation 
Category: Participatory Leadership 
Category: Art of Hosting 
Category: Harvesting 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

I’ve been integrating Participatory Leadership practices with Evaluation for years now. It started simply as a way to bring two passions together. After systematic reflection, blogging, proposal writing, co-editing a journal issue (New Directions in Evaluation, Spring 2016), and teaching trainings on building the bridge between evaluation and facilitation, I have become a lot more aware of the critical importance of this bridge for evaluation practice in service to our changing world. 


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Mar 8, 2014
Category: Italy 
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

Southern Italy is not the first place in the world where most people would turn their attention to when they think about oppression. My passion for understanding privilege and oppression in the United States and my choice to learn from African American present and past history is often puzzling to those who cannot see the link.


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Jan 4, 2014
Category: Group dynamics 
Category: Racism 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Art 
Category: Art and Social Justice 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

Many facilitation processes completely ignore power dynamics and their effect on group conversations. At best, power differentials are identified ahead of time but not addressed as  interactions occur.  This blog lists some of the ways that Art of Hosting plans for differences in power among participants. It also narrates a combination of processes implemented for this specific purpose. 


Aug 14, 2013
Category: Africa 
Category: Group dynamics 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

My colleague, Alissa Schwartz dreamed in her sleep about a new facilitation structure where a group narrates its history. In a circle, ordered from youngest to oldest, each person shares everything they know about the group’s history. The mystery unfolds as the elders speak towards the end. In this blog I share an experience in which I applied this process. 

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Jun 10, 2013
Category: Group dynamics 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Women and girls 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

On a recent evaluation and facilitation project, I came on as the new hire to a well-developed team. The client was a prestigious foundation, and it was a high stakes project for everyone involved.

I was expected to hit the ground running and had no time to get myself acquainted with the particular work style of this team. Over time, my initial discomfort increased, rather than decreased. My colleague’s management style favored attention to details over big picture thinking, and I learned from this process that I’m more of a big picture person.


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May 6, 2013
Category: Antiviolence 
Category: Group dynamics 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Evaluation 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

I recently was hired to help a group of people (Chester Real Change) generate a visual model that represented the transformative process they collectively experienced regarding the impact that violence had had on them.


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Apr 6, 2013
Category: Africa 
Category: Youth 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

In 2012, I hosted a retreat for Kito International an organization in Nairobi, Kenya that trains street youth to establish their own businesses and move towards self-sufficiency. The founder Wiclif Otieno is an ex-street youth himself. In a country with a 75% unemployment rate for people ages 18-35, it is a painful truth that 300,000 youth live on the street. 
Our purpose for the day was to envision the best possible future for the Kawangware community of Kito’s site and to identify ways to move in that direction. 


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Mar 1, 2013
Category: Africa 
Category: Group dynamics 
Category: Power Dynamics 
Category: Evaluation 
Category: Women and girls 
Author: Rita Fierro, Ph.D.

On a recent work trip to Ethiopia, I led and facilitated a group of 15 researchers collecting stories about adolescent girls for Girl Effect with SART, an Ethiopian Research company. We followed a BBC crew showing a documentary about stories of Ethiopian girls.