Benefits of Professional Accountability Groups
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As a white person doing anti-racism work, it is important that I intentionally create opportunities to hold myself accountable to the values I aspire to live out. I need to commit to continually learning, practicing, and evaluating my own behavior so that I am more able, more often, to do less harm. This means doing my own research and education. It means being mindful that the research and education I’m seeking out is authored by People of Color (POC), is current, and is meaningful. It means intentionally seeking out POC, that I’ve developed relationships with, to practice receiving open and honest feedback without defensiveness. It also means connecting with other white colleagues who do anti-racism work so that my POC colleagues aren’t doing all the work for my education. To that end, I have started participating in a white study group with other white anti-racism facilitators as a way for us to hold one another accountable.
Accountability Groups are becoming common practice in many fields and industries e.g., nursing, education, media, graphic design etc. They can serve lots of different functions and mean lots of different things to different people. But they are essentially any group of like professionals who want to provide support, personal and professional growth opportunities for, resources to, and build relationships with others in their field. They exist in response to the questions; How can we get better if we aren’t holding ourselves accountable? Who’s evaluating our competency? Where are the other people in my field who struggle with what I struggle with?
So, what are some benefits of these groups?
- Being with people who share our values can be energizing when the work is daunting.
- Often our peers can provide empathy for how difficult the work is and remind us that perfectionism isn’t attainable and the pursuit of perfectionism often gets in the way.
- It can be a reminder that we’re not in this alone.
Personal and Professional Growth
- Developing a relationship with people you trust can provide a safer space to be courageous, say the hard things, and receive potentially difficult feedback, that ultimately makes us better.
- If groups meet regularly, they can track growth over time.
- They can remind us of our “Why?” – why we got into the work in the first place.
- They can be good networking opportunities.
- It’s important that all our research and education isn’t in a vacuum, that we’re getting resources from others' lived experiences and expertise.
- Creativity happens when we’re generating ideas together and building on one another’s ideas.
- Collaboration breeds innovation.
How do I start an accountability group and what are some important things to keep in mind?
- Reach out to people you know in your field who have expressed similar frustrations, needs, or interests.
- Keep the group small so everyone has ample time to share.
- It’s important to establish shared purpose and goals.
- Mutually agreed upon structure and agreements can help you share the space equitably, make the group more effective, and provide a basis for dialogue when healthy and necessary conflict arises.
- Commitment to showing up to the group when it’s your turn to listen and not only when it’s your turn to share a particular problem or issue, builds greater connection and trust.
Please let us know if you are currently in an accountability group or if you plan to start one and have insights to share!