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12 Jun, 2020   |   

Group Discussion Guide on George Floyd and the Following Protests

While this conversation was designed for Up with People’s Cast A 2020 to have a shared reflection on the events of the last few weeks, we wanted to make it available to all of us who are seeking to listen, learn, and talk about the racial challenges we’re facing. Many Up with People alumni groups have been actively meeting during this global pandemic, and we’re hoping this discussion resource can be used by alumni casts, community groups, and others wanting to engage in a respectful dialogue on this topic. We also understand that this guide isn’t perfect, so please feel free to adapt it, add or subtract from it, and remix it. Ultimately, it’s just a guide, not the rules, and the most important thing is that the conversation is happening. The goal is simply to have a respectful, open, and empathetic conversation where individuals are heard, seen, and can grow.

Current Events Focused Conversation

group talkingRational Aim – to reflect on events surrounding the death of George Floyd, its aftermath and repercussions around the world, and the broader issues that brought us here

Experiential Aim – to create a respectful environment, to offer the chance to hear and be heard, to offer the energy and spirit of candid, safe space that discussions on the road around big world events like this take on if the cast was together in the same room

Facilitator Guide

In Advance of Call

Invite participants to join a 60-90 minute “focused conversation” on a video discussion platform.  Let the participants know in advance that you will use the “chat” feature for some of the conversation, and recommend they log in on a laptop if possible, as it will be easier to see the group and participate than on a phone.

Focused Conversation Rundown

[Facilitator tips are included in brackets throughout.]

Welcome Statements

[Adapt the following welcome statements to your group, putting them in your own words.]

Thank you for being here.

  • Our Goal: to have a candid conversation to process together the events surrounding the death of George Floyd, its aftermath and repercussions around the world, and the broader issues that brought us here.
  • I’m going to lead us through a “focused conversation”, which is a group reflection on a shared experience. I am going to ask a series of questions, in order to hear from and listen to as many of us as possible.
  • I will guide this conversation to be within about an hour, with the option to continue for up to an additional 30 minutes. I will commit to ending this call by [TIME-90 minutes from now], and those that want to continue the conversation one-on-one afterwards, I encourage you to do so.

A few expectations for us all:

group talking[Facilitator Tip – copy and paste the two bullets below in the chat first, then read it aloud so people can follow along as you read. This technique is helpful for those who process information better visually, and for non-native English speakers].

  • We will listen with empathy, using active-listening techniques and focusing on the speaker and what we are hearing them say.
  • We will make space to hear as many voices as we can. [when someone has spoken for 1 minute, they will be asked to close their thought]

To do this, I ask us to keep our responses short. We are # people on the call, imagine if we each spoke for 2 minutes, that would take #(x2) minutes.  When someone is responding to a question, when they have spoken for 1 minute, I will let them know and ask them to finish up their thought.

[Facilitator Tip – it is easier to say this time limit guide at the beginning and then decide you don’t need it, than to put it into practice midway through the call. In a group of 10 or less, it may not be necessary. In groups of 10+, starting with a speaking time limit option is recommended. IMPORTANT that if you use it to use it consistently / equally among participants.]

Our format:

I will ask a question and give you all a moment to think about it.

You respond by typing your thoughts in the chat.

These can be phrases or one-word answers—don’t worry about spelling or perfect sentences! Let us know what is going on in your mind.

[After there have been a few responses, read the chat aloud to the group. Read exactly what you see, do not paraphrase.]

After we see the group’s initial reaction in the chat, I will ask for anyone who would like to say more on the question to write their name in the chat, so I can call on people in order.

We will do this instead of the “raise hand” feature, because we can better see the order, and the “raise hand” times out.

[Ask for clarifications on anything in the chat that might be unclear, need to be defined. Ask people to expand on what they commented on. ]

We will give a certain amount of time for each question, with the intent to complete the full experience of the focused conversation.

Like in other cast meetings, we may not get to hear from every person that wants to comment on a given question.

[Facilitator Tip —be comfortable with silence, let people think and then respond. Resist the urge to fill the space with your voice! It takes 15+ seconds for the first person to type in.  After each question, state clearly whether you want people to type in their response or take verbal volunteers right away.  For general pacing, figure 10-15 minutes total per question.]


Brief Summary of current situation:

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old Black man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota while being detained by police. Derek Chauvin, a police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street; two other officers further restrained Floyd and another stood by while preventing onlookers from intervening.

Over the past weeks, there have been widespread protests, rioting, actions by police and actions against police in communities around the world. Protests have occurred in all 50 US states and at least 18 countries.

As of June 3, the four officers involved in this case have been criminally charged.


Objective level questions

group discussionFocus on observations, what have we seen and heard? (try to keep your emotions out of these first responses – I promise you we will get there!)

[Facilitator Tip- paste each question in the chat FIRST, and then read it aloud, so people can follow along as you read.]

QUESTION: Individuals and communities have coped with this event in a variety of ways. Let’s make a list in the chat of the ways you have seen in person and on the news. You can define “cope” how you would like to here. (You can also say how people have reacted to or dealt with this news.)

  • Remind participants to think first, then write in the chat.
  • Read chat responses aloud as they are posted.
  • Ask for verbal comments to further describe reaction in different regions, what is the general feeling where you are, expand on chat comments.

Reflective “gut” level questions

QUESTION: Think about when you first learned the details surrounding George Floyd’s death. What was your initial reaction?

Two options [facilitator can choose in the moment, depending on dialogue so far]

OPTION 1: Looking at this list of reactions and the forms of “coping” – what has impacted or affected you the most?

Or OPTION 2: How have your thoughts or emotions on this situation evolved over the last week?

Interpretive level questions

Think critically, make conscious connections

QUESTION: What is this really about?

QUESTION: How does this event relate to your region?

Decisional questions

people speakingIdentify how to respond, to relate. Makes conversation meaningful and relevant to the future

QUESTION: What do you believe the next steps should be?

QUESTION: At Up with People, our mission is to empower youth to take positive action in their communities. What actions have you taken or been thinking about taking? What, if anything, is holding you back?

QUESTION: What didn’t I ask today that you wished I had? [I added this question in the moment because of the way our conversation went, and the group talked an additional 20 minutes on this. It was some of my favorite dialogue of the entire call, and it was rich and thoughtful because of the work we had done already.]

Thank you for being part of this discussion.  [the closing should be in your own words, but please remember to thank everyone. These conversations are difficult and many are not used to having them, but they’re extremely important.]


4 Replies to “Group Discussion Guide on George Floyd and the Following Protests”

  1. Thank you, UWP team. This is excately what I hope for to read/hear/see from UWP more in the future. Sharing of best practises and wisdom of the myriad topics UWP stands for. The above guide is very concrete and lets me take action immediately. And even if one does not agree with some aspects of it, it does inspire to create my own.

  2. Thanks so much for continuing to take a stand in this area. It takes me back to the flatbed truck shows through Harlem in 1968 and getting spit on in Macon, Georgia for being an interracial show (Cast C). This is a great time to help with having these important conversations. This could be a great workshop for after each show.

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