Ally Skills

Anthony DELANOIX (Unsplash License)

Ally Skills

Multiple OLS community members are trained Ally skill facilitators. We offer ad-hoc in-house workshops (starting at £2,000 GBP for universities) as well as anyone-may-register workshops.

OLS Ally Skills Workshops: Organisation Guide

The Open Life Science (OLS) Ally Skills workshop trainers are trained from the Frame Shift Consulting and training materials provided by them are built on the CC BY-SA 4.0 Licensed resources provided by Frame Shift Consulting (© 2016 - 2020), Dr Sheila Addison (© 2016) and The Ada Initiative (© 2011 - 2015). To learn more about Open Seeds, our open science training and mentoring programme and how to collaborate with us, please visit /openseeds/. For any enquiry and details please email team[at]

About Ally Skills

Often, when we witness oppression, we are so busy being shocked that we can’t quickly react. Other times we have plenty of time to react but can’t figure out what to do, or we do something but it turns out to be more harmful than helpful. This is true even for people who have a lot of experience and education in supporting members of marginalised groups in their communities.

The solution is education and practice. Ally Skills workshop is an opportunity to learn and discuss real-world scenarios ranging from creating a friendly environment to confronting overt harassment. By coming up with answers in a friendly environment at this workshop, our participants have a better chance of responding in the real world. We also learn how to make long-term systemic changes to prevent bias or oppression from happening in the first place.


OLS Ally Skills Workshops aim to equip participants with actionable, practical skills to use their societal advantages to support others in their workplace and communities, thus creating and contributing to a more inclusive workplace.

Diverse perspectives and collaboration drive better research and innovation. Meaningful collaborations require careful thinking about pathways and potential barriers to participation. If your suggestions to a project get continuously ignored, or if key decisions are made in conversations that you have no access to, chances are you will stop contributing to that project. For science to be truly collaborative and accessible, we should learn to recognise inequities in science and act to change that. It is important to support researchers in embedding ethical values in scientific projects and discuss the societal impacts of their work. OLS Ally Skills Workshops facilitate such discussions where we can explore our privileges as well as harms in different scenarios.

Target audience/requirements

The Ally Skills workshop is focused on teaching people with privilege how to support members of marginalised groups in their daily lives by taking small, simple, everyday actions—and then learning to make systemic changes to prevent oppression in the first place. We use ally skills instead of “allies” because it emphasises that actions are what make a difference, not self-identification as a supporter by itself.

This workshop is designed for

  • People who are voluntarily attending the workshop.
  • Those who already agree that oppression exists, that it should stop, and that they personally would like to help end it.
  • Members of marginalised groups who would like to learn techniques for when they can act as allies and contribute their experience of being marginalised to the discussion.

The scope of the workshop does not include teaching members of marginalised groups how to respond to oppression targeting themselves.

Workshop Format, Content & Logistics

OLS Ally Skills workshops are offered to external organisations and collaborators for a fee. Please email the OLS team ( to express your interest to host and request a quote. Since the OLS team members manage two 16-week long training and mentoring cohorts each year, it is important to get in touch with them several weeks in advance to share your plan and identify potential dates for the workshops.

Customisation of our workshops: Our training is designed for researchers and scientific communities. We are happy to discuss if specific customisation in our workshop materials might be required for external organisations to represent their workspace culture.

The workshop is delivered in English. Nonetheless, we are very interested and welcome the possibility to work with a sign language interpreter or translator, please discuss this further with the OLS team.

Format and Accessibility

  • Duration of each workshop is 3 - 3.5 hours with breaks
  • The workshop will be hosted online via Zoom

    This will not be recorded or broadcasted

  • 2-3 trainers and co-facilitators will be available (trainers are trained by the Frameshift Consulting Train-the-trainers programme).
  • 20 participants make an ideal size for a single online session to allow safe space and open discussion.
  • Workshop format will combine training, scenario-based group discussions and share outs.
  • We use live transcription to enhance the accessibility of our workshop.

    This means that participants can see an automated live transcript (provided by during presentations and discussions held in the main room.

  • Discussion sessions are facilitated in spoken and written form allowing active contribution by all participants.
  • Slides and handouts can be shared ahead of the workshop to participants who may have to miss parts of the workshop.
  • Different perspectives and experiences of participants enrich the discussion overall, however, participants will not be forced to share their thoughts.
  • We are happy to discuss individual needs with participants.


  • Learn what ally skills are and explore terminologies such as privilege, oppression and intersectionality.
  • Understand different types of privileges they may have.
  • Have the opportunity to practice, in small groups and a safe space, handling realistic scenarios they could encounter.
  • Discuss how they can respond to a real-world scenario, as well as systemic responses they can learn about to create change in their workplace.

After the workshop, we would like to understand the impact of the workshop as well as gather any feedback from participants about the workshop-style and content. Please clarify with the OLS team in advance if this will be handled by your organisation or the OLS team directly.

Logistics for the external organisations

Here are a few more considerations to help plan this workshop at your organisation:

  • Ally skills training needs to be opt-in registration

    It’s fine to encourage people to come, but important that no one reluctant or ambivalent is asked to attend. This is to ensure that the session remains productive and on-target, as well as ensuring people can state their expectations from the workshop in the registration form.

  • If you expect more than 20 members, please let the OLS team know.
  • For the session to be effective we recommend no more than three levels of hierarchy attending the workshop, for example, employees, managers, and their managers. Ideally, one level only is better.
  • We recommend organisations hosting the OLS Ally Skills workshop create a registration page that requires interested members to state their personal motivation to attend this workshop.

    The OLS team will be happy to provide a dedicated Eventbrite page for handling registration.

  • Participants should have access to internet bandwidth for video conferencing.

    We recommend that the event organisers check if their members may require any audiovisual equipment that can be arranged for them in advance.

Ally Skills Materials