Fostering Brave Spaces
There is a need for such learning environments where we can indulge in brave conversations and learn together and exposing ourselves to different perspectives. A general assumption can be of a safe space. We will look into how safe space is a very ideally constructed notion, and resurface the concept of a brave space.
Does a safe space really exist?
Every institution observes devising such a guideline for the classroom environment where the educators are motivated to nurture a safe, inclusive and secure ambience. The idea of having a safe space has been tossed around very frequently by encouraging essential values to be put to place, such as, respect, empathy, listening, and no prejudices at all whatsoever. But, do you think a safe space can be achieved in absolute terms; one without any bias or one where everyone exists in harmony? Surprisingly enough, the answer is no.
To say the least, a safe space is more of an ideal concept. A place where nobody passes judgment on you with respect to your experience and you have no fear of opposition. Such a space aims to produce such an outcome which is based on the tenet of support to other people. However, you may question what kind of safety this support is providing.
The terminology of safe space can be traced back to the mid-20th century. The very notion of ‘safe’ is suggestive that any person within that space must protect each other from any kind of harm. But does this injunction fit to a group having differing opinions on a certain matter? Does this space protect each other from the emotional and mental harm inflicted upon participants? Let’s say if a minority group has been attacked for raising their voice, will they be able to trust the safe space as a tool to support them or assume goodwill for them?
This is where the phenomenon of bravery over safety comes in. On one hand, a safe space can be important to provide comfort to people, on the other hand a brave space allows participants to not only acknowledge the differing outlooks but also learn from each other. The concept of brave space is not an ideal one, nor an illusion. It basically concedes that each individual holds a unique perspective towards the world and everyone may not agree to it. It essentially stimulates an exchange of dialogue among participants.
Being brave is analogous to display of strength: physical, emotional and moral. You do it because it challenges you or puts you in a vulnerable state and it is equally important to do so with great care and mindfulness. What plays a significant role here is the G-R formula: give and receive. As much as it is crucial to share, it must also be ensured that you listen.
A brave space will not be free of biases but it will foster such an environment where we are presented with different lens and can explore the cycle of injustice. However, it is pertinent to hold participants accountable when they make a mistake.
Toolbox for Creating Your Own Brave Space
- To begin with, try to identify your privilege and acknowledge it
- Listen attentively and respect each other, no matter your background
- Welcome new ideas and schools of thought, particularly those that pose a challenge to yours. You may not need to embrace them, just listen with respect
- Challenging is the key, but with respect and integrity. Not only challenge others’ worldviews but yours too
- You can be the facilitator for the group or have someone to become one. The facilitator will prompt cues and debrief
Remember that a brave space is an environment where you are openly challenging yourself while also speaking up for yourself. It is a collective and individual effort both. You will find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, but it is your strength and bravery that will bring you out of it.
Do you remember any instance where you may have experienced yourself situated in a brave space? How did you feel about it? What were the elements that encouraged you to be brave? How did you contribute?