Ally Skills Workshop and Train-the-trainers

The Ally Skills Workshop teaches simple everyday ways people can make their workplaces more inclusive. Participants love this practical and highly interactive online workshop, which teaches them how to recognize when they have power and influence—when they can best act as an ally—and how to take effective action to make their workplace better.

We are the leading provider of ally skills training and train-the-trainers worldwide. We have taught more than 150 workshops to more than 4000 people and trained an additional 350 people to teach ally skills. Learn more about our qualifications here.

Use our contact form to get a quote for an Ally Skills Workshop or a train-the-trainers at your organization.

Workshop format and materials

Workshops are taught online or in person in a highly interactive format using breakout rooms, exercises, and open Q&A. The length is 2-3 hours, including frequent breaks. After a 20-30 minute introduction, participants discuss 3 -5 customized real-world scenarios in which an ally could take action in small groups. Each group shares their solutions in a group report-out led by the facilitator. The workshop ends with each participant setting specific goals for their future ally work and an open Q&A period.

The Ally Skills Workshop works best with 20 – 30 participants. Attendance must be voluntary only. We limit attendance to individual contributors, their managers, and their managers’ managers.

Learn more about our facilitators.

Train-the-trainers format and materials

We teach people to facilitate the Ally Skills Workshop so that your organization can run the Ally Skills Workshop on an on-going basis and customize it to support your unique situation. All of the workshop materials are freely reusable, modifiable, and redistributable under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

The train-the-trainers is 8 hours total, spread out over 2 days. Organizations are most successful when they begin 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 a yearly basis. We recommend that two people co-facilitate the workshop.

The train-the-trainers materials are freely reusable, modifiable, and redistributable.

Learn more about our facilitators.

Free ally skills training video

Focus on Ally Skills is a 30 minute introduction to the concept of ally skills. This video explains why teaching ally skills to people with power and influence is more effective than changing the behavior of marginalized people. It then describes a dozen specific ally skills such as listening, amplifying marginalized voices, and speaking up when it is uncomfortable.

Video (YouTube) (slides) (transcript)


Can we get more training like that?—Anonymous workshop participant

“Val and Kendall were incredibly warm, welcoming hosts that made me feel comfortable enough to speak up about what are typically uncomfortable topics.” — Anonymous workshop participant

Armed with the very actionable tools supplied in the workshop I feel empowered to address things which I might in the past have let go. The strategies from co-workers as well as Valerie and Kendall were simple to implement and will become easier to use with practice. ” — Anonymous workshop participant

“Overall, I thought this format was great and appreciated the opportunity for small-group break outs, as well as coming back together to sync up as a larger group guided by a facilitator. I found myself taking a lot more notes than I expected because there were so many phrases and strategies that I wanted to remember and apply to my daily life. I also really liked both [Kendall and Valerie who] both had very thoughtful responses to all of our questions and it was clear that [they were] both subject matter experts.”— Anonymous workshop participant

“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

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

“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 session was fun, welcoming, and intuitive. The experience of the trainer and depth of information provided in the materials gave me confidence that I could, with practice, also offer this training. — Amy Sawyer

The train-the-trainers was intimate and hands-on. I got to practice the skills I’d need to teach while benefitting from Valerie’s and others’ experience with presenting. I also made connections that I hope may mature into opportunities for collaboration in the future. — Dr. Sheila Addison, professional ally skills trainer


Do you teach the Ally Skills Workshop online, in-person, or both?

We prefer teaching online using breakout rooms in videoconferencing software, usually Zoom. Participants rate the online experience only slightly lower than in-person. It is much more economical and easier to schedule. We also teach in-person workshops for an additional fee plus travel expenses.

How long is an Ally Skills Workshop?

Participants are most satisfied with the workshop when it is 3 hours long (including short breaks every half hour and a 10 minute break every hour). It can be as short as 2 hours but participants will complain. If your organization wants 3 or more workshops, we can record a custom introduction and ask people to either watch a video (15 minutes) or read a short summary (5 minutes) before joining the workshop.

How many people can attend an Ally Skills Workshop?

The maximum number of people is 30. The ideal number is 20. A workshop can be run with as few as 8 people. There is usually at least a 10% drop-out rate, so we recommend 35 sign up slots for each workshop.

Can we require people to attend the Ally Skills Workshop?

No, the workshop format only works when all the people are attending in a completely voluntary manner and already agree that diversity and inclusion are good, we need to improve it, and they personally want to do something about it. There should be absolutely no other incentive to attend: no “strongly encouraged,” no “check a box on your quarterly goals,” no peer pressure. If participants attend involuntarily or do not agree with the basic assumptions, we cannot guarantee the quality of the workshop and may have to remove people or end it early.

Who in my organization can attend the Ally Skills Workshop?

In general we recommend individual contributors, their managers, and their managers’ managers, but no one above that in the reporting chain. For small organizations, this often means everyone can attend. This is to limit the difference in organizational power between workshop attendees. We also recommend bringing in people with as many different perspectives as possible, so recruiting from across different departments is a good idea.

Can you lead a workshop for my executive team or top leadership?

We don’t offer this service for organizations with more than two layers of management,. There are different dynamics in the leadership teams of larger organizations that make the workshop a poor format for learning ally skills.

Can you customize the Ally Skills Workshop?

Based on feedback from you, we customize the introduction of each workshop to the cultural context of the participants. We choose and customize scenarios to be specific and relevant to the participants. The more workshops, the more customization we are able to do. We can facilitate discussions of race, gender, sexuality, disability, class, body size, parental/caretaker status, age, and others.

Can you change the terminology in the Ally Skills Workshop?

Language is continually evolving, and in most cases we can make changes to the terms used for the concepts we teach to help make the workshop easier to understand. We can’t remove the concepts underlying ally skills: power and privilege exist, systemic oppression is bad, and people with more power and privilege should do more work to fight it.

Can you teach an Ally Skills Workshop aimed at changing the behavior of marginalized people?

No. Other training providers can help you.

Who will facilitate the Ally Skills Workshop?

Kendall Howse is our lead workshop facilitator and teaches most workshops, while our founder, Valerie Aurora, teaches primarily train-the-trainers. Other facilitators are sometimes available or a better match for the audience. Learn more about Kendall’s experience here.

When can we schedule an Ally Skills Workshop?

We usually can find a date for a workshop with 4 – 6 weeks advance notice.

Can we use and modify Frame Shift’s ally skills workshop materials?

Yes, you can use and modify all our materials as long as you follow the terms of the Creative Commons Sharealike Attribution 4.0 license. This means that you must credit Frame Shift in the materials and allow other people to use and modify any materials that are derived from them.

There’s really no fee for reusing the materials?

Yes. We charge for training other facilitators but not for the materials. Even the Facilitator’s Guide is freely reusable and modifiable.

I can’t afford or can’t attend a Train-the-trainers. Can I teach the Ally Skills Workshop anyway?

Several people have become successful facilitators through self-study of the Facilitator’s Guide and other freely available and reusable workshop materials.

Do you teach the Train-the-trainers online, in-person, or both?

We teach primarily online using breakout rooms, usually in Zoom. For an additional fee and under specific conditions we will consider teaching in person.

How long is a Train-the-trainers?

The class is a total of 8 hours, split over two consecutive days. This includes short breaks every half hour, 10 minute breaks every hour, and a 30 minute break after 2 hours.

How many people can attend the Train-the-trainers?

The maximum number of people is 20. The minimum is 5 people.

Can you customize the Train-the-trainers for our organization?

Yes. Based on your feedback, we choose from a variety of different in-class exercises to go in depth on specific facilitation skills. During the scenario facilitation practice, participants choose from a variety of pre-written scenarios or can write their own.

Do you teach Train-the-trainers that are open to the public?

We do not teach public train-the-trainers.