Dangerous Conversations in Safe Spaces: a new training offer for your team

Ben Kernighan, Chief Executive
Monday 17th February 2020

Race plays both a visible and an invisible role in our society, in our organisations and in our relationships. It is clear that organisations across all sectors need to become better at recognising and addressing issues of race, racism, prejudice and white privilege, and to begin to challenge dominant thinking. In response, we are offering a new training package to organisations called Dangerous Conversations in Safe Spaces. It’s a programme which provides boards and staff groups an opportunity to explore and address issues of race within their organisation.

Programme history

Back in January 2018, Tom Lawson (then Leap’s Chief Executive) wrote a blog titled ‘Us White Charity CEOs Need to Talk.’  In the blog, he called for charity sector leaders to build awareness in their teams of the subtle ways in which both racism and privilege operate. Tom wanted to encourage his fellow CEOs to ‘build safe spaces in which to have dangerous conversations where people can learn from each other.’  This sparked conversations between senior managers at Leap who were keen to better integrate race into our training curriculum.

Leap has a diverse pool of trainers with expertise in facilitating difficult conversations and holding safe spaces. Our trainers are experienced working in group settings, encouraging participants to explore issues which are personal, challenging and important for them. With the evident need in both the sector and society more broadly, we decided to develop a training offer built around this concept, specifically addressing the issue of race in organisations. Through Dangerous Conversations in Safe Spaces, we seek, as a group, to explore the impact of race and to understand patterns around race and racism and where they come from.

Programme development

We recognise that, as an organisation, there is still more to be done to address racism and privilege, and therefore we decided to trial this programme on our staff and trainers. In 2019, we ran two one-day pilots to test the curriculum and delivery of Dangerous Conversations in Safe Spaces. Despite being an uncomfortable conversation to have, these sessions were positively engaged in by all who took part. Participants were eager to continue the conversation, sharing articles, resources and reflections with each other for six months following the training. The pilots have taught us a lot, uncovering the challenges, but equally the necessity, of having these conversations. Feedback from staff highlighted the value of the training in bringing greater self-awareness in relation to conflict and race, as well as learning about their colleagues’ experiences and perspectives. Over 30 years’ experience of delivering conflict management training has shown us that when groups share the emotional issues that are important to them, and when they are given a safe space to show their vulnerability, it has a powerful bonding effect on the team. Several participants reinforced this in their feedback: having these conversations with colleagues, often for the first time, had a big impact in building positive relationships within the team.

Programme content

The content of the training includes discussion and activities based around Leap’s core frameworks. Day 1 introduces participants to the topic, creating a safe space to reflect on and share personal experiences in relation to race. This safe environment is one in which participants can make mistakes, speak freely and learn to listen to things that might feel challenging or uncomfortable. The trainers will facilitate group activities looking at the paradigms through which we all live and encouraging participants to hear different perspectives in the room, based on different experiences or perceptions of race. They are encouraged to think about what gets in the way of speaking truthfully and authentically. The second day of the training goes deeper, seeking to raise participants’ consciousness by supporting them to explore in more depth their relationships to race and where they come from. Activities on day two are designed to identify prejudice and stereotypes linked to race, addressing topics of cultural conditioning, white privilege and systemic racism. The first optional follow up session focuses on how this knowledge can be applied in the organisation. The second is to be held six months following the programme to reflect on implementation and strengthen learning.

Programme benefits

This programme goes beyond improving team building and self-awareness. It increases participants’ understanding of each other’s perspectives and experiences, and gives participants an opportunity to understand what they are not aware of. For example, there may be something that you say or do that you had no idea may cause offence to one of your colleagues. This training helps you to discover these things and to learn what you could do differently next time around. It helps you to become more aware of your organisational culture, and the impact that your words and actions have on other people.

Last year, I participated in one of the pilots, and the insights I gained into myself and my fellow colleagues was hugely valuable. I strongly believe that it is our job as leaders to create an environment in which people can bring their whole selves to work. When this environment has been created, people and teams will be able to perform at their best.

Too often conversations about race go unspoken. When things that are so important to people's identity are left unsaid, it can cause damage to the individual and those around them. These conversations need to happen, and this training provides an opportunity for organisations to take a valuable step forward.

We are offering Dangerous Conversations in Safe Spaces as a two-day training for your team, with an optional two half-day follow up sessions. If your organisation is interested in receiving the training, please get in touch with our Business Development Manager, Bethany Roberts:


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