Ally Skills Workshop

Smiling woman in front of trees

Now that we all know about bias in the workplace, what can we do to stop it? The Ally Skills Workshop teaches simple everyday ways for people to use their privilege and influence to support people who are targets of systemic oppression in their workplaces and communities. This includes women of all races, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ folks, parents, caregivers of all sorts, and people of different ages.

We’ve run the [Ally Skills Workshop] 4 times and the impact has been fantastic. This workshop has been the catalyst for many “a-ha” moments. People who understood bias exists in a very logical way, were able to see, through the conversation with peers about the very relevant scenarios, and connect emotionally with the impact bias has on the colleagues they respect and interact with daily. — Anonymous participant

The workshop is usually 3 hours long, with a 30 minute introduction followed by about 2.5 hours of small group discussion with a short wrap-up. After being presented with a real-world scenario in which an ally could take action, each group discusses what actions to take, followed by a group report-out and discussion led by the facilitator. Each workshop discusses around 6-8 customized scenarios.

The workshop is most productive with 20 – 30 participants. Participants learn ally skills by practicing them during the discussion: listening, amplifying voices, identifying patterns, and more. The best workshops are a mix of people who can act as allies and people with personal experience of oppression. Attendance must be voluntary. The workshop is best as an in-person event, but can also be taught online.

Articulating a company’s core values is a challenging and nuanced exercise. It can be very valuable both for current employees and for job applicants. But, it’s easy to accidentally enshrine dynamics that only work well when the company is very small and that may be unfriendly to people from marginalized groups. Valerie did an amazing job of helping us articulate our cultural values in ways that are true to who we are and also sensitive to the realities that less privileged people face. Her feedback was consistently thoughtful and compassionate. I’m proud of what we ended up with and very grateful for the role that Valerie played in ensuring that we’re representing ourselves both honestly and sensitively.—Gideon Wald, CEO Welkin Health

Our instructors have particular expertise in technology-related organizations and online communities, including tech startups, free and open source software communities, and Creative Commons communities. If you’d like to find out more about the Ally Skills Workshop, including pricing and availability, contact us at

The workshop helped build confidence amongst individuals on the team to take practical everyday steps […] to create an inclusive culture. I would recommend it to any team, as a regular practice, to take the workshop and learn some new skills. — Brandon Philips, CTO and co-founder of CoreOS


All of the workshop materials are freely reusable, modifiable, and redistributable under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.  They are based on the Ada Initiative’s Ally Skills Workshop, originally designed to teach men how to support women in open technology and culture, and now expanded to cover oppression along the lines of race, gender, sexuality, disability, class, parental/caretaker status, and age.

Loved the format, it was super interactive and didn’t feel like a drag, 3 hours just flew by. — Anonymous participant

Slides (PDF) (PPT)
Handout (PDF) (DOCX)
Goal setting exercise (PDF) (ODT)
Tips for online workshops for attendees (PDF) (ODT)
Online workshop co-facilitator guide (PDF) (ODT)
Video, edited to remove participants (YouTube) (Full transcript)
Related talk: Focus on Allies

Ally Skills Workshop Train-the-trainers

We teach people to facilitate the Ally Skills Workshop, so your organization can run the Ally Skills Workshop on an on-going basis and customize it to support your unique situation. Companies that teach the Ally Skills Workshop internally include Google, Square, Airbnb, and AppNexus. All of the workshop materials are freely reusable, modifiable, and redistributable.

Valerie Aurora ran the workshop, and it’s impossible to convey how good it was […] — C. Titus Brown

The class is 6 hours total, ideally spread out over 2 days. The organizations which have had the most success with teaching the workshop internally started with 1 – 3 workshops taught by an outside facilitator to build trust and engagement, followed by training 15 – 20 people to facilitate, along with a plan for training new facilitators on at least a yearly basis. We recommend that two people co-facilitate the workshop.

Slides (PDF) (PPT)
Facilitator’s guide (PDF) (DOCX)

To schedule a private train-the-trainers for up to 20 people at your organization, contact us at

To learn when the next public train-the-trainers opens for registration, sign up to our low traffic mailing list. You can also fill out the expression of interest form to help us decide when to schedule the next public train-the-trainers. Ticket prices vary, but are generally on a sliding scale up to about $2500/person.


We collaborate with several diversity and inclusion experts who also teach the Ally Skills Workshop. In our experience, participants are best served by a facilitator who has experience working in a similar industry, and we will match you with the best facilitator for your organization. To book any of the below facilitators, email

Valerie AuroraValerie Aurora is Frame Shift’s founder and principal consultant. She worked as a software engineer for more than a decade, specializing in operating systems, and co-founded and led the Ada Initiative, a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture. She is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about Valerie here.

Kendall HowseKendall Howse is a senior designer at CoreOS, a software infrastructure startup acquired by Red Hat. At CoreOS, he was co-founder of the company’s Diversity Council, where he worked alongside the CTO to foster a company culture of inclusivity and empathy. He is a member of AIGA San Francisco, the professional association for designers, and Bay Area Black Designers. He is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about Kendall here.

Cynthia TeeCynthia Tee is a senior director of engineering at Nordstrom. She was Executive Director of Ada Developers Academy, which teaches programming to women, trans, and non-binary people. She worked as a software engineer and product manager. She is located in the Seattle area. Learn more about Cynthia here.

Sheila AddisonDr. Sheila Addison is President of Margin to Center Consulting, and a Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist in California. She has a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University and taught full-time for several years before going into private practice. She is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about Sheila here.

Y-Vonne HutchinsonY-Vonne Hutchinson is the CEO and founder of Ready Set, a consulting firm that supports innovative organizations in building more diverse and inclusive teams. She was an international human rights lawyer and a fellow with the International Rescue Committee. She has a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about Y-Vonne here.