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Racial Equity Training: 5 Key Guidelines to the IBIS Approach

Last month, we shared the Three Principles of Effective Racial Equity Training and reviewed the meaning and purpose of racial equity.

At IBIS, we see increasing demand from a wide range of organizations who are eager to address this vital topic.

These 5 key guidelines make IBIS’s racial equity training especially effective.

1. We Help Participants Stay in the Learning Zone

It’s not uncommon for learners to experience feelings of resistance and frustration, and skilled IBIS facilitators and managers are prepared to address those feelings.

On one hand, some discomfort is a natural part of growth. As some participants become more aware of privilege and racial inequity, they may feel defensive and provoked as they move out of their comfort zone – but those feelings evolve as their understanding deepens and they enter what IBIS calls the “learning zone.”

Adults in the learning zone are able to adapt new information to their environment.

But participants should never feel so provoked by racial equity conversations that they shut down and don’t participate.

When those feelings take over, learners enter a zone that is not conducive to growth or absorbing new information.

IBIS facilitators create “brave spaces” in which participants are encouraged to suspend assumptions and engage in dialogue, even when they are uncomfortable.

We are careful not to “shame and blame” participants, as well. Instead we work to understand and support individual identities, experiences and life stories.

2. We Remember that Different Learners Have Different Perspectives

Not all participants experience racial equity training in the same way. IBIS facilitators are prepared to support a wide range of learners as they process this material.

People of color, for instance, might find aspects of racial training frustrating if their lived experience is unfamiliar to those who have never been on the receiving end of racism. Our facilitators are careful to support all participants as they contribute to the dialogue.

In combination with race, learners bring a variety of other diversity dimensions, which impact and deepen the complexity of their perspective. Intersectionality is an element of every racial equity training and IBIS facilitators are committed to not making assumptions about anyone’s identity or experiences.

Finally, cultures all over the globe have unique, localized viewpoints on racial equity. Because IBIS works in countries all over the world, we’ve gained a lot of insight about common global themes of racial equity.

Look for more details on that topic in a future newsletter!

3. We Consider Facilitator Identity

In an ideal world, the facilitator’s identity would mirror the demographics of the learners.

But we’ve found that a trained and empathetic facilitator is able to create a brave space to gather information and support a range of voices regardless of personal identity.

Empathetic listening cuts across different races and identities.

The core skills of IBIS facilitators enable them to design the dialogue with empathy for a range of different perspectives.

We are also thoughtful about when and how to use white facilitators. Whiteness – often accompanied by privilege, challenges to awareness, and potential for allyship – can be a useful part of the facilitation of racial equity training. We believe that white people can and should shoulder the burden of unpacking racism. It cannot be the sole job of people of color. For racial equity training, we often pair white facilitators with facilitators of color to enable meaningful dialogue.

4. We Recognize Historical Context

On a typical day in most workplaces, people don’t talk much about historical events.

But we’ve learned that we can’t have a meaningful dialogue about race without a common understanding of how we got where we are.

IBIS facilitators start racial equity trainings by offering a short, thoughtful overview of the history of racism. We know that a shared foundation is necessary to support understanding and dialogue for learners.

Each training is intended to have lasting impact. By taking a short time to offer that initial historical context, we help learners connect to the material in a more lasting and meaningful way.

5. Our End Goal? Learners Take Action

Sometimes people are overwhelmed by the problem of racism…and feel powerless. “This is such a big issue,” they think, “that I don’t know where to start or what to do.”

Our Interactive Theater sessions guide learners to get past that feeling of not knowing what to do…and to take action.

Our actors play out workplace scenarios and stay in character once the scene is over, helping to highlight microaggressions and other challenges that stem from racial inequity.

Our facilitators cover the do’s and don’ts of how to discuss racial equity at work.

When it comes to career development and promotions, learners are able to see the impact of dialogue and manager bias on their colleagues.

After an IBIS training, learners leave feeling empowered and ready to take action. Everyone has a sphere of influence, whether it’s co-workers, friends, family, teachers, students, neighbors or more.

The next step might be as simple as starting a conversation around the dinner table.

The most meaningful early action is dialogue, and participants leave our racial equity trainings equipped to have honest conversations that lead to accountability, insight, and change. Systemic change, after all, starts with change and growth at the individual level.

Those who have the power to impact systemic change, such as managers, can take action at the system level. We encourage them to push the boundaries and expand the actions they can take by changing procedures, policies and processes.

IBIS trainings are designed to lead to action and change for every participant and organization.

To find out more about our racial equity trainings, or to speak to our Chief Growth Officer about trainings, assessments and other approaches to achieving diversity, equity and inclusion goals for your organization, contact us today.

CEO Shilpa Pherwani collaborates with leaders to develop innovative, engaging solutions to dismantle systemic inequities and leverage diversity for success. An organizational psychologist by training, she builds trusting, long-term relationships through deep listening and meeting people where they are.

Cedar Pruitt is a Senior Consultant at IBIS specializing in leadership and culture that allows everyone to thrive, whether it’s at a competitive university, mid-size financial firm, an innovative start-up, or something completely different.