Yes& General

What’s a Brave Space?

Yes& Inclusive Design Committee

Controversy with Civility | Know Your Identities |
Own Your Impact | Ask Questions, Be Specific | Comfortable with the Uncomfortable | Bravery Requires Vulnerability  

We’ve been having a lot of tough (read: important, eye-opening, perspective-shifting) conversations at Yes& lately. We call it Inclusive Design. It’s our commitment to making equity, representation, and accessibility inherent to our work, both internally and externally. We ask questions of ourselves and one another in order to challenge assumptions. And that requires vulnerability. 

The nature of creative work already demands a certain level of vulnerability. Inclusive Design invites us to delve deeper. 

How do you create the conditions for these conversations? A decade ago, the answer would have been, “you make a safe space.” But now, at Yes&—and plenty of institutions—the answer is different. It’s about creating a brave space. 

We offer here the facets of a Yes& Inclusive Design Brave Space so that you may foster productive dialogue in your spaces, too. We acknowledge the contributions of the facilitators who originated the concept in 2013, Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens (“From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces: A New Way to Frame Dialogue Around Diversity and Social Justice”), and those who have continued to shape the idea since. Here’s what works for us:

  1. In brave spaces, we can have controversy with civility. 

    Whereas safe spaces are where we simply “agree to disagree.” 


  2. In brave spaces, we own both our intentions and our impact—even when those don’t align. 

    This is different than saying, “don’t take things personally,” because sometimes it is personal. Still, we look for ways to create distinction, distinguishing between what we intended and how others may have received our statement.  


  3. In brave spaces, questions work well. 

    When we want to challenge a comment, we do it from a place of curiosity.


  4. In brave spaces, we try to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. 

    We use specifics rather than generalizations. We talk through ideas, not around them.   

  5. In brave spaces, we focus on behaviors and comments, 

    not people: “That was _____” not “They are _____.” 


  6. In brave spaces, we take the stories and leave the names— 

    this means the lessons are sharable, identities are not.  


  7. Bravery requires vulnerability,

    and we give ourselves and others space to reset after hard conversations.  

Mutually agreeing to these brave space tenets, as well as a handful of other group norms, makes meaningful dialogue possible. It requires regular practice; we’re learning and growing all the time. Brave conversations make our work better.

And it’s the Yes& way: harnessing positivity to unlock new possibilities. Inclusivity is inherent to our brand values, starting with Yes-ence. Then, Figure-It-Out-ability shows up when we ask hard questions knowing we’ll find the answers together. I’ve-Got-This-ness encourages everyone to use their voice, and I’ll-Get-Your-Back-itude means we hear and amplify everyone’s perspective. These norms were once new to us; Let’s-Try-It-ism was step one. If you want to try, too, we can’t wait to hear how it goes. 



Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

Let’s talk about what the power of "&" can do for you.

Yes& Inclusive Design Committee