Office of Diversity and Inclusion offers BRAVE Conversations


Conversations about race can be difficult and uncomfortable. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion has another word for them: BRAVE.

The department began offering BRAVE (Bold Relevant Authentic Valuable Educational) Conversations for employees in June 2020. Conducted virtually via Zoom, the sessions are designed to provide an open forum where participants can share opinions, fears and concerns in a safe and respectful setting on topics that are necessary to acknowledge, discuss and address head on. Since the first BRAVE Conversation session was offered, more than 1,000 employees from throughout the health system have participated. 

The sessions were formulated in response to social unrest and protests that have taken place nationally since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May 2020, according to Maria Alicea, manager, diversity and inclusion. 

“The virtual Town Hall meetings where senior leadership directly addressed the social unrest in our country were great, but we needed more,” said Alicea. “Employees need to have a platform to be able to talk about uncomfortable things while promoting productive and respectful dialogue. So we thought Diversity and Inclusion could assist in starting those conversations.” 

Each BRAVE Conversation is facilitated by Alicea and Kwame Davenport, diversity and inclusion strategic consultant. Sherene Walters, learning and development consultant, and Kathleen Lynch-Cartine, staff educator, both from the Institute for Excellence, also partnered with Diversity and Inclusion to assist. 

The one-hour session begins with a review of the Standards of Professional Behavior, followed by statements that set expectations and reinforce the purpose of the discussion. Alicea and Davenport share their own personal experiences and the conversation is then opened for dialogue. Each group is capped at 30 participants to encourage an immersion experience that compels thoughtful and productive dialogue without being intimidating for those who may want to speak up. 

Response and comments from participants compiled through a follow-up survey after each session have been overwhelmingly positive. A majority of respondents agreed that attending a BRAVE Conversation had caused them to re-examine some of their personal beliefs and increased their level of awareness about systemic racism. Others commented that – while they did not quite feel comfortable sharing their opinions with the group – listening to the experiences of others was “enlightening,” “thought-provoking” and “eye-opening.” 

“Hearing other people’s stories about their experiences with racism, biases and stereotypes heightens your level of awareness and education, said Alicea." "It may not be your reality, but it’s someone else’s reality. Our goal with BRAVE Conversations is to engage people about how you can be a better ally and a voice for others.” 

At the conclusion of the BRAVE Conversation, participants are encouraged to explore the Diversity and Inclusion intranet page for a tool box of resources that includes lists of videos, podcasts, articles and books and an implicit bias test that employees can take to learn more about their own associations about race, gender, sexual orientation and other topics. 

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion team hopes that BRAVE Conversations will encourage further dialogue. 

“It’s similar to the Safety Catch program," said Davenport. "There was a point in time where we didn’t do this, and now we are modeling safety behavior throughout the system. 

With more than 30 general sessions already completed, Alicea and Davenport are facilitating department-specific BRAVE Conversations upon the request of managers. Additional general sessions are available on a monthly basis. Employees can register on Infor (Learning Management System) or contact Kwame Davenport at [email protected] or 203-215-7917 with questions.