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Conversations About Race


Stage 1: Preparing our foundation

Hello and welcome to Royal Holloway's Conversations About Race (CAR) initiative.

CAR are facilitated race-based conversations where colleagues and students from all backgrounds can share their experiences. The University is working to resurrect this project with the aim to build community and enhance learning and understanding (beyond mandatory training), to lead to genuine and sustained positive change based on listening, inclusion, empathy and respect. 

In March 2024, we ran briefing sessions with Citizens UK for colleagues and students interested in becoming CAR facilitators, to learn more about facilitator training and CAR more broadly. Please email equality@rhul.ac.uk if you would like a recording of this session.

If you are interested in facilitating a CAR session, you will be required to complete one of our initial facilitator training sessions, taking place on Thursday 11 and Thursday 18 April, both 1:00 - 3:30pm in-person in EWD Events Space. Please email equality@rhul.ac.uk if you would like to join one of these sessions.

All facilitators will also be required to complete another 2.5 hour training session once they have facilitated some CAR sessions. Further debriefing support will be offered by Citizens UK inbetween CAR sessions, for any facilitators who need it.

We are in the process of arranging CAR sessions, but envisage the first sessions to take place in May 2024.

 

Background

CAR was developed as a response to reports from the UUK/NUS on awarding gaps and the EHRC on racial harassment at Universities that suggested “open, meaningful conversations about race, racism and ethnicity” are needed to open up the issues that lie at the heart of both, and enable effective change to take place.

CAR sessions are intended to support participants to embed anti-racism practices in their daily lives, and support learning on issues related to race and race equality. The sessions also offer opportunities for participants to share experiences. The aim is to ensure conversations also lead to action planning around race equality, and this initative will be embedded in our University Race Equality Charter work.  

In 2021, Royal Holloway ran two University-wide pilot sessions with support from King’s who had been been successfully running these sessions for a number of years, and in partnership with Citizens UK (an organisation that aims to empower communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good). Colleagues participating in Royal Holloway’s 2021 pilot noted an increase in confidence to “have a conversation about race with someone in your school/department.” Colleagues also suggested that CAR helped to develop skills and confidence to facilitate and manage conversations that may arise in the classroom.

Moving forwards

We are currently resurrecting the project with Citizens UK following discussions at Creative Conversations and with staff networks. A key focus will be on documenting insights, ensuring these inform impactful action and strategy, so that we see a gradual but genuine change in culture. CAR will also be incorporated within our Race Equality Charter renewal submission in 2024. 

Initial exploratory and planning meetings with colleagues from our Inclusive Culture and Environment Strategy Working Group, our Race Equality Group and Citizens UK (October and November 2023) highlighted the need to ‘take it slow and build it up’, so that we are confident the project is run in a way that is both supportive and safe for participants, and also impactful in terms of positive culture change.

In this vein, we are currently working with Citizens UK to ensure iterative facilitator training is in place to gradually build skills and confidence. This training includes a general introduction to community building,  alongside smaller facilitator-only CAR events to gradually build experience and confidence. As time progresses, we envisage CAR gradually building up towards larger conversations, with more colleagues participating and acquiring skills that can be used in other spaces such as the classroom and in everyday discussions, with conversations becoming opportunities for learning and change.  

We have also discussed the need to establish post-conversation debriefing spaces for colleagues and students who may require support after conversations have taken place.

 

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