One of the most effective, and widespread, tools for Peoplehood Education is the Mifgash – an encounter between two different populations. Interacting in a positive way with people who are different from ourselves is a powerful educational tool that helps us expand our horizons, and reflect on our own identities. But not all mifgashim are equal. Inviting diverse groups to be together does not necessarily lead to good outcomes and lack of preparation is a classic pitfall. Facilitators and educators play a crucial role in building such encounters and creating the conditions necessary for positive educational experiences.
Thus, one of the key elements of a successful mifgash is what happens before the two (or more) groups ever enter the room. Preparation for the meeting on both sides is absolutely critical. Here are some tips for preparing for a successful mifgash.
- Clarify goals in advance. Don’t just assume that “meeting” is all you are trying to achieve. Why do you want these groups to meet? What similarities and differences between them do you want them to notice? What subjects or themes will be the focus of the meeting? Make a list of the experiences and enduring understandings that you hope they will walk away with. Be specific and then make sure that the actual program is likely to lead to your goals.
- Build a relationship in advance with your counterpart on the other side. Just as you are playing a key role in setting up the mifgash for your participants, so is the teacher/educator/madrich on the other side. Make sure to contact them in advance. Ideally, you want to build the mifgash together, set the goals and develop a relationship that will help you facilitate effectively.
- Prepare your participants effectively. Before the mifgash explain what is going to happen. Discuss their expectations and give them space to share their fears and concerns or raise the stereotypes they may have about the people they are going to meet. Give them some tools to handle the meeting. You can do this by teaching a few words of the other language, giving some background about where the other participants come from, and suggest some topics for discussion. Be explicit about why you think the mifgash is valuable and encourage your participants to be as active as possible in taking advantage of the experience.
For more information on running an effective mifgash see the section in the Peoplehood Education Toolkit.