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5 Good Ways of Building Effective Allyship (and 2 Bad Ones…)

Becoming and maintaining yourself as an effective and engaged ally for any group, person or organization is something that takes time, diligence and energy throughout your life. “Ally” is not a label you can earn one day and maintain for a lifetime without additional work, learning and action. Here are some suggestions on how to continue being an effective ally and some that would steer away from doing good works inspired by our Allyship & Advocacy Workshop Series, which is available for free to anyone. 

1. Remain curious

Much of allyship is challenging the world that is in front of you to see if it really is inclusive, welcoming and safe for everyone equally. It requires a level of curiousity to dig deeper into our systems and societal practices, our leaders and the information that we hear presented in media or by others. 

When you learn new information, take the time to look at the source before choosing to jump on board with an idea, movement or cause. Question the people that you vote for on where their money is coming from and what might influence the decisions that affect you and others. Seek out new voices, perspectives and information about a wide range of topics. 

2. Support businesses, artists and changemakes

No matter who our leaders might be or how things might change on a societal level, we are still a Capitalist society and one of the greatest powers that you have to influence change is through how you spend your hard-earned dollars. 

If you’re interested in showing your support and helping to build up a marginalized community, support them through shopping at their businesses, follow leaders within that community and support artists, musicians, filmmakers and authors creating stories and art from varied perspectives. 

One of the simplest things that you can do is to look at your social media feeds. How diverse are they in terms of perspectives? Are you following activists and organizations that challenge you while giving you new calls to action? 

3. Combine Your Passions

Allyship does take work and is not meant to be easy or convenient. But there are ways to more seamlessly incorporate it into your life. One is to combine it with things you are already passionate about. If you’re an avid theatregoer, for example, you could look into supporting plays and musicals that are telling diverse stories and are being created by artists with lived experience. Or, if you’re physically active, you might consider joining a charitable run or tournament. 

Taking something you love and using it for the betterment of society can have rewards on so many levels both for you and those you are seeking to ally with.

4. Vote

Allyship 101 WorkshopVoting and using your voice as a voter is not something that only happens once every four years in a national election. Be interested and get involved in politics on a national, state or provincial and local level. How do you feel about the choices that are being made by the leaders in your own city or county in terms of policing, homelessness and diversity in spending, for example? If you are a parent, what do you know about the members of your school board trustees? Do you know the platform of your local counsellors or do you just vote for a certain party on election day? 

If you want to make an impact with your voting, visit the websites of all of your potential representatives and look into initiatives you might be asked to vote on as well as the candidates themselves. Challenge your representatives when they follow a decision that you don’t agree with. Go to rallies or town hall appearances. Ask questions. Write letters when needed. Voices add up and let our leaders know that we are watching.

5. Start Conversations

A key of being an effective ally is listening to members of the community that you are seeking to support and amplifying their voices when possible. While this can be done online or in other indirect ways, the best method is simply by getting to know new groups of people and hearing their stories and what they have to say.

If you find that your current community is not very diverse, try to step out of your neighborhood to attend new events and make new friends. Go to lectures, talks and book signings to meet committed activists. Don’t be afraid to start up conversations.

It is also important to talk about inclusion and your work and learnings in allyship with members of your own community and circle. There is likely to be new ideas and forms of thinking that you will want to discuss with people who have similar backgrounds, biases and histories to you. You might have feelings to process or want to ask questions that should be addressed by other allies. Show that you care by being open to these conversations and not making things like equality and human rights taboo topics in your circle.

Don't:

1. Speak over others

It is completely understandable that the more you learn about the inequalities in our society and systems, the more you want to call out of change. And you will likely start building a list of action items for yourself and that you believe others can add into their work as an ally to make things better. 

When you’re voicing your opinions and ideas, keep in mind your audience and defer to members of the community that you’re looking to support when possible. Most of us, make sure you’re not redirecting the conversation to be focused on your instead of on the cause, organization or group that you want to be an ally for.

2. Proformative Post

Posting on social media and showing your support for others can be one of the easiest ways of spreading the word about a cause or helping to bring something into the forefront of people’s minds and into the news. People care about things that go viral and that happens through thousands of millions of individuals posting, reposting and discussing relevant information online.

But performative posting can actually divert from a moment, can do more harm than good or might be a sign that your focus is on yourself rather than the cause itself. 

How do you know if your posting performatively? First, did you do the work before posting to really understand what you’re posting about? If you’re reposting, do you know the source? 

Second, ask yourself what you have done beyond posting. Have you donated money or time? Have you examined your own place within broken systems? Have you found ways to leverage your own privilege? If you have done the work, this is not performative. If you have jumped on a trend without additional time spent, you might want to rethink before posting.

Becoming an ally can expand your world while showing you the possibilities for our future. If you’re interested in learning more about allyship and advocacy, check out our Allyship 101 Workshop, which discusses things like active listening, privilege and performative allyship in detail with information from trusted advocates across several sectors. 

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