Enabling better conversations about race and racism at work through interactive, reflective online courses that promote sustainable behaviour change
What do workplace learning and conversations about “difficult” subjects like racism have in common?
All too often, they’re both addressed in infrequent standalone training events, potentially yielding some interesting conversations or insights but not the long-term mindset shift or action that is really needed to bring about genuine change.
This is where Lanre Sulola comes in, an experienced coach and facilitator, and the founder of Inner Ambitions. Inner Ambitions works with organisations to build inclusive behaviours and bring about sustainable culture change, allowing individuals to be their authentic selves in a sometimes alienating work environment.
Lanre approached LearnJam for support in improving the learning experience of his courses. He wanted the courses to resonate with learners and to have a positive impact on their attitudes towards race, bias and inclusion. But most of all, he wanted to see conversations about race at work shift from a once-a-year “tick-box” exercise to embedded (un)learning, action and practice.
This project brought together two purpose-driven organisations with different skillsets. Through this project, our shared intention was to help learners develop a more inclusive attitude both inside and outside of the workplace by making them feel more able to have open conversations about race. The project sought to answer these questions:
- How can LearnJam elevate Inner Ambitions’ voice by combining our fields of expertise?
- How can we give people truly practical tools to enable sustainable change, not just occasional “difficult conversations”
- In what ways are Inner Ambitions’ existing courses already following sound, evidence-informed learning design principles? Where is there room for improvement?
- How can we help Inner Ambitions courses to become more than just courses, but rather the first step on a journey to changing attitudes when it comes to having conversations about race?
We found this collaboration with Inner Ambitions very rewarding. A key part of our purpose is to develop skills that we all need for the future of humanity, such as more effective communication, empathy and understanding. As the original idea in this project was that people would be able to leave their Inner Ambitions course feeling better able to have an ongoing conversation about race with their peers, both organisations had a strong motivation to meet this challenge and develop courses that would be really effective and engaging.
At LearnJam, we’re also aware that even with the best intention to be good allies and to confront our own biases and prejudices, it’s not always easy to bring about sustainable change. It’s possible to have a conscious awareness of one’s privilege, for example, without really understanding the impact that it has in practice, whether on our peers or in our work or for our wider society. Whether we intend to or not, we all think and act under the influence of our particular experiences, assumptions and biases. These thoughts and actions are often long-standing and very hard to change – even after we’ve developed an awareness of how they’ve arisen and what their consequences are – but it is possible. With genuine commitment to making these changes, we can behave our way through any feelings of discomfort or difficulty.
So working with Inner Ambitions to develop their online courses was really meaningful to us. We were able to relate to the need for such courses, as well as to the challenges faced by both course providers and learners, when trying to shift behaviour from “inclusive in principle” to “inclusive in practice”.
Using our learning design principles as a basis, we reviewed the existing content of three courses: Building racial equity, Overcoming bias and Fostering inclusion. This enabled us to identify some potential focus areas for our review, namely learner engagement, moments for learner reflection and most importantly, the inclusion of activities steeped in behaviour change.
We built on these focus areas, creating a new micro-lesson structure and content maps for the Building racial equity, course, along with recommendations that would apply across Inner Ambitions’ other courses. A lot of the key themes already appeared in the existing video content and just needed more emphasis, such as this key infographic around becoming an anti-racist:
Lanre took on board our recommendations and worked with one of our trusted learning designer friends, Véronique Gauthier-Simmons, to use the structure and map as the basis for updating these courses. The design and delivery of the content was also improved through specific tweaks such as clearer signposting throughout the courses, prompts for reflection and action, reminders for learners to follow up on certain points, and so on.
The three courses have now become seven shorter, more engaging courses and as part of this work, the videos have been edited to better accompany the updated materials. The courses now also contain more visual interest and support.