27 February, 2024

The Importance of ‘Active Allyship’ – Green Park’s Top Takeaways

As co-founders of Race Equality Matters, Green Park was proud to power Race Equality Week 2024. On 8th February, we hosted a virtual session with Green Park's Diversity, Inclusion, Culture & Ethics (DICE) practice, exploring the virtues of allyship. Supporting the Race Equality 2024 theme #ListenActChange, the session was open to everyone and completely free to join. Click here to view a recording.

Our host for the presentation was Priscilla Akutu-Carter, a Principal Consultant in the DICE Practice. Priscilla is a practicing psychologist with over 15 years’ experience in delivering culture and transformational change programmes within the financial services sector. She is well versed in developing and implementing effective DEI strategies, curating inclusive leadership initiatives, and supporting organisations in building a more inclusive approach.

Over 30 minutes, Priscilla explained what ‘active allyship’ is and why it requires a human-centred approach.

  • Being an ally – what does it mean to you? Showing solidarity? Empathy? Support? All of the above? They’re all relevant answers. However, being an ‘active ally’ involves more than this. It is:
    • Building an understanding – wanting to see someone else’s perspective
    • Recognising your privileges and position – understanding that you may be standing in a very different place to others
    • Being dedicated to ongoing education – the EDI landscape is continually evolving, so you’ve got to commit to learning
    • Real modelling over role modelling – it’s about living and embodying your principles, every day, and recognising the power that every individual has.
  • Being an active ally is not:
    • Focusing on personal gain – there has to be a genuine drive to be an ally. It’s not something you do because it’s high up on the organisational agenda. Allyship is about gain for others.
    • Tokenism – not using a single, diverse individual for conversations or initiatives around EDI
    • Avoiding difficult conversations – allyship requires a level of courage
    • Surface level support without action – a true ally will do more than talk or promise – they will take action too.
  • Some people seem very different to you. But remember that we are more alike than you think. Human beings are 99.9% genetically similar to each other and have a common understanding of the human experience. “When you’re considering active allyship, think about what it means to be similar to someone else and the traits you have in common,” suggests Priscilla.

To be a true ally, you need to grasp the five Allyship fundamentals. These five virtues are the basic traits of allyship:

  1. Curiosity – “When we deliver some of our DICE programmes, we use a ‘cultural intelligence scale’, which starts with curiosity. And the reason for that is that curiosity is almost a gateway trait: when you're curious, it helps you go on the journey of wanting to understand more. But there needs to be a genuineness to that. Curiosity is a stepping stone. Once somebody is curious, they're able to progress further through that cultural intelligence scale.”
  2. Honesty – For Priscilla, “Honesty needs to come from a position of genuineness; from somebody who's committed. It's a universally admired trait across the world. Allyship is about supporting and speaking out for others, and that really does need to come from a very, very honest perspective.”
  3. Authenticity – Priscilla describes this as a key psychological trait: “Authenticity is not about introversion or extroversion, it's about a level of genuineness that can be sensed by other people. So, when we're talking about being an ally, one of the things that's often detected is whether that allyship is coming from an authentic place.”
  4. Courage – Being courageous is about more than being brave, according to Priscilla. It’s also about being vulnerable. “We talk about allyship being brave, having those brave and difficult conversations. But there's also the appreciation that within those conversations there is a requirement for an individual to potentially become quite vulnerable.”
  5. Empathy – “Empathy is another commonly sought-after, pro-social trait, says Priscilla. “It’s about having those courageous and difficult conversations in an empathetic manner which shows a level of authenticity and is grounded in curiosity, but delivered honestly.”

Active allyship – what’s the impact?

For the final part of the presentation, Priscilla highlighted the importance of allyship, sharing insights from focus groups and individual interviews that underscored the positive impact of allyship on individuals within organisations. She emphasised that allyship is not about positional power, but about everyday interactions that empower individuals and foster a sense of belonging. In many cases, this positive experience spurs the individual to ‘pay it forward’ and commit to being an ally for others. As Priscilla emphasised, “It [allyship] changes the way individuals see themselves and changes the way they interact with others.”

These are just some of the comments that have come from those who’ve been supported by allies:

“…being on the receiving end of good allyship encourages me to lift my head up and take a look around to see how I can be a good ally to others.”

“Knowing that I have a supportive team behind me makes me realise that I’m not alone.”

“Sometimes, the feeling of being different can be so exposing…but for all the wrong reasons. When you have allies in your corner, that feeling of being different is celebrated and it gives me the confidence to be and do my best.”

“I feel empowered to show up, do a good job and be the best I can be.”

“It made me feel human – it made me feel seen.”

Priscilla ended the presentation by encouraging everyone to take personal accountability by asking themselves some questions: ‘What insights will I take away, and how will these insights alter my behaviour?’ Priscilla then stressed how active allyship was about being an active ally every day. “It’s about the small acts, not grandiose objectives.” Food for thought during Race Equality Week – and every week.


About the DICE consultancy

For more than a decade, Green Park’s Diversity, Inclusion, Culture and Ethics (DICE) consultancy practice has helped clients to accelerate their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) ambitions and understand the barriers that they may face in making lasting progress to inclusivity.

We assist clients to increase their diversity maturity and proficiency at any stage of an organisations inclusion journey. Our role is as a supportive, critical friend, with a global reach that works with private, public and third sector organisations of all sizes.

One of the greatest risks organisations face is failing to make inclusivity part of a strategic and integrated approach to how they operate. We support our clients to measure the impact of their current people strategies and provide structured and impactful recommendations that assist organisations and their leaders to create sustainable changes in their culture.

If you would like to know more about being an active ally, or about DICE’s broader work, please contact diceconsultancy@green-park.co.uk.

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