Dr Louise O’Connor was commissioned by a London Youth Offending Service (YOS) to collaboratively develop and deliver workshops facilitating organisation-wide conversations about racism and anti-racist practice.
This project brought together people with extensive experience in social work, therapeutic services, drama and the creative arts: Royal Holloway colleague Cleve Jackson, a social work educator who works with the creative arts, Michelle Denny-Brown from One in Four, a therapeutic organisation for survivors of sexual and domestic abuse and trauma, and Alex Cooke from Little Fish Theatre who works with marginalised young people using the experience of theatre and community arts. Developing a strong team and a series of online workshops which required innovative thinking. The workshops were evaluated positively and contributed to the organisation’s ongoing development of an anti-racist strategy and action plans. Dr O’Connor emphasised the huge value of working with co-facilitators to create a trusting environment and shared approach to working with the challenges and sensitivity this project involved.
‘We deliberately created a team which reflected and addressed differences in terms of our own racial backgrounds, our wider identities and experiences. The commissioning YOS had already decided they wanted affinity groups as part of the workshops. The aim was to create safe spaces for conversations about race. Although only one aspect of the workshops, these were challenging for participants and facilitators. Having sensitive conversations about complex subjects in an online forum added layers of complexity, yet the majority of participants really engaged despite these challenges. The YOS works with young people and families experiencing high levels of trauma and difficulty in contexts of significant inequalities and institutional racism. In the context of the BlackLivesMatter movement and renewed attention to anti-racist practice this YOS is very progressive, keen to support its staff and the young people and families they work with through embracing new approaches to anti-racist practice. As trainers and participants I think we all recognised these workshops were steps on a longer journey. We really wish them well with their next steps in developing anti-racist practice.’