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Discuss - Safe Zone Conversations

A Safe Zone Conversation is defined as dialogue among a group of people purposely engineered to discuss human topics that can be deemed sensitive, uncomfortable, or complex in nature.

*Applications are currently not being accepted for Safe Zone Conversations due to program restructuring. For more information, or to add your name to a wait list, please contact Duane Smith at

The IPRA Diversity Leadership Task Force is accepting applications to host Safe Zone Conversations (SZC) on the topics of racism, LGBTQ+, Latinx, and Disability. Click on the link below to complete an application, and IPRA will contact you to discuss the next step in setting up your event. Host agencies are asked to make a donation in the amount of their choice to the Illinois Park and Recreation Foundation Diversity Education Fund, which will help fund future educational programs and events that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. For questions, contact IPRA Education Director Duane Smith at

For the upcoming event schedule, visit our Event List and type in "Safe Zone Conversations".

What is a Safe Zone Conversation?
A Safe Zone Conversation (SZC) is defined as dialogue among a group of people purposely engineered to discuss human topics that can be deemed sensitive, uncomfortable, or complex in nature. It is an environment of mutual respect and inclusivity, a safe place for people to speak their minds. All comments and questions are welcome. No judgments.

What Do You Talk About?
Currently, Safe Zone Conversations are designed to discuss racism, LGBTQ+, Latinx, and Disability matters. Applicants must select one topic when applying to host an event.

Who Leads the Discussion?
Safe Zone Conversations are generously facilitated by members of IPRA's Diversity Leadership Task Force, or individuals specifically trained and approved by the group. Each event has a lead and supportive facilitators for large and small group discussions.

How Does It Work and Why Should I Host?
Each SZC has a lead facilitator that coordinates introductions and presents a grounding question about a specific topic. Each participant shares their response to the question with the group, which allows time to get more acclimated with the topic. From there, participants are broken down into smaller groups where supporting facilitators lead more specific discussions about the same topic. Each event concludes with a debriefing with the entire group. The Safe Zone Conversation platform promotes safe and purposeful conversation that might otherwise not take place in the workplace because people are uncertain of how to start the conversation, fearful of offending others or how they might respond, uncomfortable talking about the topic, or simply don't understand what needs to be discussed.

How Many People Participate and How Long is It?
A minimum of 15 and maximum of 40 participants is required to host an event. For the best interaction, it is recommended the ratio of facilitators to participants is 1:5, but as high as 1:10 is also acceptable. Depending on the size of the group and level of engagement, events typically last anywhere from 90-180 minutes.

What Does It Cost to Host a SZC?
This service is available in exchange for a donation to the Illinois Park and Recreation Foundation to further support diversity, equity, and inclusion education. IPRA will invoice the applicant after scheduling an event.

What Happens Afterwards?
Applicants can choose to do one or multiple Safe Zone Conversations. Subsequent events can be with or without the IPRA Diversity Leadership Taskforce volunteers, whichever the applicant prefers. Resources will be provided for further individual and group exploration.


“…Your program was effective for many reasons. Staff noted previous attempts at similar discussions, but had received divisive results. Some said this was the most open District conversation they can remember….there has been an overwhelming call to continue your engagement with Champaign Park District.” 

- Jarrod Scheunemann, Assistant To Executive Director, Champaign Park District

"The Glenview Park District just held a Safe Zone Conversation with our full-time staff where 41 employees participated via Zoom. It was truly inspiring and moving to share and learn as a team in a brave and safe space. It provided a starting point for continued individual reflection, team equity, and inclusion and organizational transformation. I would encourage my fellow leaders to not overlook the importance of this opportunity for your team and schedule especially during these challenging times."   

- Michael McCarty, Executive Director, Glenview Park District

“The safe talks I have attended at NWSRA have been eye opening. I think that I am lucky enough to work in an environment that strives for inclusion, so I don’t always realize the struggles that are out there. Not everyone works and lives in an environment that is as inclusive as the environment I am a part of. It is good to have reminders of different environments, so that you can keep up with trends and changes. These safe talks exposed me to conversations and realities I have not experienced before. I feel more educated and aware that my education in different culture, believes, and communities should continue and evolve.”  

- Trisha Palmieri, CPRP, CTRS, QIDP, DSP, PATH, Collaboratives Coordinator, NWSRA

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