Atlas is thrilled to announce that Claire Slattery has joined our team as Director of Learning. She will be designing the learning experiences and curriculum for all of our Mapping Ourselves and CareMap workshops. Her improv background and diverse experience are invaluable to how we’re hoping to show up and support individuals and communities in more fully and deeply seeing how they care for each other.
We asked her a few questions about her past, her perspective on inclusion, and her role at Atlas:
What are some of the most interesting lessons you’ve learned about how improv and facilitation work together?
Improv is an empathy machine. Joyfully playing and failing together is a fantastic way to jumpstart vulnerability, trust, and laughter — all of which are crucial for creating safe spaces for people to learn and grow outside of their comfort zones.
In a very real way, when you tell a group of people that they can’t possibly prepare for the next moment, their eyes widen and a beautiful thing happens: they realize they are going to need each other.
Improv has myriad techniques for sparking the tiny moments of vulnerability to make big shifts in community consciousness. I love that improvisation is an egalitarian approach that reminds us — the CEO and the first-week summer intern — that we’re all just making it up. Moment by moment.
In terms of supporting women and non-binary individuals, how has improv helped people authentically and powerfully show up?
I have seen the practice of ‘over-preparation’ be an obstacle to those who want to show up to communicate their story and their message, where they have written out talks for powerpoint presentations weeks before daring to speak them aloud. Individuals feel overwhelmed (and in fact, very underprepared) to present as themselves in the moment.
The world is constantly messaging to marginalized groups, of which women and non-binary folks are a part, that they aren’t ‘enough’. Thus, over-preparation–needing to disprove this message— and feeling the pressure of having to show up and represent all women, all non-binary folks.
These folks are exhausted.
I support individuals through an improv approach that aims to remove that unhelpful narrative of ‘lacking’ and replace it with one that is rooted in improvisation (essentially, less preparation) in order to build back up the trust in self that majority groups so enjoy: women and non-binary folk know their stories and damn, they are powerful.
How do I do this? I provide shorthand tools and techniques to rewire their current process of going to external (often negative) feedback sources to a process of seeking internal feedback (one that supports ‘enoughness’) so they can unleash their authentic and powerful perspective that was always there.
Atlas is a bit of a different direction for you. What got you excited about Atlas’ work? Why jump ship (or create a bridge between two ships?)
My section of the article “8 Life Lessons You Can Learn from Improv (Without Ever Stepping into a Class)” published by Stanford Magazine centered on the collaborative nature of improvisation: “you can’t do it alone.”
When being interviewed for the article, my belief (and committed practice to it) rose to the top as one of the core principles by which I have grown as a person and professional since graduating from my alma mater in 2009.
This foundational belief that we must work collectively is absolutely shared by Atlas. So, while I have jumped ships, it feels that both vessels are on parallel courses: helping communities to connect, have open vulnerable conversations, and collaborate to create positive change, together.
How do you see your past experience influencing the various initiatives Atlas is engaged in?
Improv Thinking is all about integrating the creativity of the body and mind. I hope to bring my approach to help Atlas’ CareMap and Mapping Ourselves workshops be more active, embodied, and engaging.
Being an improviser is all about responding to others and making them look good. With such vulnerable conversations as those about caregiving, I think I bring a different perspective to the team as a facilitator who is deeply curious about playing the role of community activator and advocate.
In what I call my ‘work career’, I have provided training to companies around the globe who want to use the power of improvisation to transform their ability to collaborate, communicate, and create. My specialty has been amplifying the voices of women-identifying people within organizations to help them more authentically and powerfully show up and tell their stories. I chose to accept this position with Atlas because I would be tasked with bringing Atlas’ community action tools to groups of women leaders. In what I call my ‘passion career,’ I have promoted women on stage and off. I have produced and performed as part of an all-women improv group, The Right Now, for the past six years.
I am currently producing The Bechdel Test, which borrows its name from Allison Bechdel’s famous criteria, and is an improvised theater show that features women as the complex, dynamic protagonists of their own stories. In the past I have volunteered at the community level as a Job Readiness coach for women suffering from homelessness at the Downtown Women’s Center on Skid Row. I continue to support the DWC financially and believe in its important local work. All of these experiences will inevitably influence the perspectives I bring into the planning, collaboration, and execution of our learning programs at Atlas!
In 2017 and 2018, I was the lead Speechless project manager on a partnered International Women’s Day summit series with Google’s Women Techmakers. We were tasked to create and deliver culturally adaptable workshops for groups of women at Google-sponsored day-long summits all over the globe. To this date, it is still one of the most thrilling and empowering projects of which I have been a part. In 2017 we delivered ‘Develop Your Story’ workshops to just under 1,000 participants at 10 International Women’s Day 2017 summit sites. In 2018 we delivered our ‘Communicate with Confidence’ workshop to over 2,000 participants at 14 summit sites in 9 countries on 5 continents. The content we created spread even further; shared with approximately 20,000 women in 52 countries during Women Techmakers’ 2018 International Women’s Day event series.
Both years, the team I led worked tirelessly to bring our energy, creativity, and curiosity to create meaningful experiences for these women whose voices and perspectives have long been needed in the international technology conversation. I’m very proud of the immediate communities we enriched with our workshops and the ripple effects it created.
I’m hoping to bring the insights gained from the scale and scope of that partnership to the Mapping Ourselves for Women initiative at Atlas.
What’s most exciting to you about this new adventure?
Diving into the field of health, care, and community-level interdisciplinary dialogue! I am going to learn a ton, which makes this nerdlet giddy inside. The idea that I will be directing an audacious state-wide learning pilot program — what an incredible opportunity!