POCC ProgramMycelium participated in the 28th People of Color Conference (POCC) hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) December 2-5, 2015 that was attended by 2700 adults. Simultaneously the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) was hosted with 1600 youth. It was an empowering experience to be amongst over 4300 people who are willing to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves because of our dedication to the Equity Imperative.

Affinity groups are a cornerstone experience for POCC and SDLC where conference participants who share the same race or ethnicity explore their racial identity in a protected space that is just for people who share that identity.

“Unlike other conference programming (which is open to all irrespective of race and ethnicity), affinity group space derives its meaning, integrity, and transformative power from participation by same-group members.”

Affinity groups are organized around 9 different identifiers including Transracially Adopted and Multiracial Heritage. Mycelium’s co-founder, Ashley Cooper, was a Lead Facilitator for the white affinity group — 450 white educators who are committed to exploring their white identity and undoing patterns of dominance and subordination in service to creating more equitable communities and learning environments. This was Ashley’s 2nd year facilitating the white affinity group.

IMG_4726Mycelium also hosted a booth in the POCC Hub/Exhibit Hall where Mycelium highlighted our dedication to innovative approaches to education and disruptive education that addresses systemic obstacles to healthy and thriving people and ecosystems.

Mycleium’s participation in POCC is thanks to Caroline Blackwell, VP of Equity and Justice at NAIS who’s department produces POCC and SDLC. Caroline is also a Mycelium alumni who participated in the Summer 2014 Learning Journey.

About the conference from the NAIS website:

IMG_4739The mission of the conference is to provide a safe space for leadership and professional development and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools.

…This event is distinct among professional development experiences in the national education landscape.

…In 2006, the NAIS board affirmed that the People of Color Conference be “designed for people of color as it relates to their roles in independent schools. Its programming should include offerings that support people of color as they pursue strategies for success and leadership. Its focus should be on providing a sanctuary and networking opportunity for people of color and allies in independent schools as we build and sustain inclusive school communities.”

Practically, this mission means that unlike most independent school settings, the majority of the PoCC attendees and presenters are people of color. The wisdom and perspective of people of color tends to be a “minority” view in independent schools (and other businesses and organizations in the U.S., particularly), despite the fact that people of color comprise a world majority. Because of this, the NAIS People of Color Conference offers attendees the empowering experience of an interactional space that more closely mirrors world racial and ethnic demography, and the professional development scope and vision necessary to refocus their work and learning through an equity perspective.

Mycelium Exhibit Booth

In the center of the conference was the POCC Hub, a convening space with a Makerspace, Wellness Center, Bookstore, Education Corners and exhibitors. The Mycelium booth was designed based on disruptive, innovative education. In addition to sharing the core purpose and programs that Mycelium offers, the booth also served as a resource station for innovative ideas in education that educators could immediately apply in their classrooms and schools. Mycelium’s Director of Operations, Michele Henry, graciously welcomed people into the Mycelium experience.

Three top innovations that were shared:

  • ALNUGE – Game-based STEM and STEAM education that uses geometric codes to give children an opportunity to see things differently and communicate differently. Decoder cards and Brain Power Game Sheets were given away. ALNUGE was invented by Cleaster Cotton who is part of the Mycelium Network.
  • ENGAGE & INTERACT: Play it Forward Missions – Using Sneaky Cards and Mycelium-created Missions, these cards invite people to interact in fun and meaningful ways. The categories for the missions were: Grow, Connect, Engage, Care, Surprise, Create.
  • Conversation Starters – Mycelium’s designer, Mason Greenewald, prototyped his tabletop “Howdy Stranger” cards that invite “old fashioned human interaction” and for people to become a “Practicing Humilitarian.” These cards are perfect for breaking the isolation bubble at coffee shops and study halls.
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The tools for the classroom were greatly appreciated by courageous, caring and active teachers who were open to new ideas and disruption. Many visitors of the booth asked if Mycelium could come to their school and help train fellow teachers and faculty on facilitation skills for creating brave spaces for communicating about differences and equity.

We are looking forward to NAIS POCC 2017 in Atlanta, GA.

Let us know if you are interested in getting involved in future, related Mycelium programming. We are exploring offering Facilitation Training programs for educators, a Think Tank and Community of Practice focused on the theme of “Working Together Across Differences” and a White Affinity Practice Group. These are in addition to our 3-month Learning Journey and 3-month Venture Journey.