By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
While working as a director of diversity at Notre Dame of Maryland University, Natalie Gillard was often tasked with developing diversity training for the school.
She would find standard exercises online and run them in person, but they felt foreign to her. Even with her refinements, she became sick of them.
Finally, when a colleague insulted Gillard’s diversity trainings, she decided it was time to design her own.
In 2016, Gillard released Factuality, a board game that can be played virtually or in-person with facilitated dialogue that simulates real life experiences in America.
“The rules are based on the history of the United States, and the pawns are the racial and gender groups that are most often reflected in U.S. datasets,” said Gillard. “Characters are receiving different amounts of income, and they have different advantages and limitations based on a variety of different identity markets or intersecting markers that they have.”
Players are required to choose a character that is different from their own identity, and the characters include individuals from the LGBTQ+ community, different religious groups and communities of color, as well as individuals with disabilities.
They then engage in a facilitated conversation surrounding subjects like racial, gender, religious and sexual orientation discrimination; health dispairties; incarceration disparities; ageism and education inequity.
According to Gillard, Factuality is grounded in the evolution of discriminatory practices, like redlining. Characters have restrictions on where they can buy property, which is representative of the communities who were forced to live in redlined neighborhoods and continue to feel the impacts of the segregational policy today.
The game then helps players understand how a person’s zip code determines their life expectancy, food access, education and health, as well as police activity in their neighborhood.
“Gamification and experiential learning
] great ways to get more people on board because people will kind of tune out anything that’s lecture-based, but something more interactive allows the content, I feel, to be more palatable and to stick more,” said Gillard.
Since its launch, Factuality has reached over 50,000 global participants across six continents, and Gillard has facilitated the game with clients, including Google, Youtube, Bloomberg, Johns Hopkins University and Baltimore County and City Public Schools.
Gillard has also added Factuality Jr. for younger learners and Factuality Collegiate, which highlights the structural inequities in the higher education system.
Although the game is rooted in the history of the U.S., Factuality also draws from current events, like the war in Ukraine, Roe v. Wade’s effects on infant and maternal mortality rates and the rise in racism and violence against Asian Americans driven by COVID-19.
Gillard envisions Factuality becoming a staple in companies’ and organizations’ onboarding process nationwide, but she wants people to understand that it’s more than just a diversity, equity and inclusion program.
“It’s largely about judgment and empathy and being kind to ourselves when we realize that we’ve been limited in our understanding of this content,” said Gillard. “
] making sure, now that we know better, we shift out of judging others into extending grace to individuals who have been subjected to these real life inequities.”
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