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Far In Far Out: Structural Discrimination and the System Edge

– Pulling on the invisible thread –

Project leader: Joy Warmington, Birmingham, UK

Project description

Joy Warmington’s project addresses a profound need across society. Her work seeks to uncover and transform the recurring systemic dynamics that perpetuate dynamics of structural racism.

‘Pulling on the invisible thread’ is Joy’s attempt to describe the often unseen impact of structural discrimination and also our inability to be able to locate ways that (we) as facilitators can use our skills to address it.

This project is positioning the opportunity for those who facilitate anti-racism to find in themselves a ’thread’ to pull on.

This is not in an attempt to ‘blame’ facilitators for a perceived lack of skill and in doing so negating the power of institutional discrimination, but to enable facilitation of this issue to be undertaken in a spirit of hopefulness –  to find threads to pull and threads to follow.

By way of an in-depth study of her own work as facilitator, and as a Black woman, Joy will pull together and pass on her learning from decades of practice. Joy says her work ‘centres on the belief that it is possible for things to change – despite everything that we experience that would indicate that things stay stubbornly the same.’

Joy speaks of Derrick Bell’s ‘fifth rule’ of racial standing:
‘True awareness requires an understanding of the rules of racial standing. As an individual’s understanding of these rules increases, there will be more and more instances where one can discern their workings. Using this knowledge, one gains the gift of prophesy about racism, its essence, its goals, even its remedies. The price of this knowledge is the frustration that follows recognition, that no amount of public prophecy, no matter its accuracy, can either repeal the rules of racial standing, nor prevent their operation.’

Understanding racism, its causes and how it is maintained – rather than helping to address it – increases frustration. Joy speaks to challenges and disappointments, as well as glimpses of progress. It is hard for White presenting people to learn, feeling exposed, disconnected, frightened to immerse themselves, for fear of being labelled ‘racist’. Progress feels clunky, slow, and when there is not enough ‘movement’ it is disappointing for the learners and those who facilitate this stuff. That can lead to white silence, and ‘black’ silence and frustration.

But, not working on racism isn’t an option. Believing that this can all land better has to be an option!

The first stage of this ‘Far in Far out’ project involves collecting data from 20 sessions, from Joy’s facilitation practice. This might include complex dynamics surrounding challenging and transforming moments, thoughts and feelings as facilitator, and capturing learning themes and insights. Participants will be from a number of public and voluntary sector organisations, who wish to work on racism. Further stages of this project will include reflections on facilitation of personal and collective ‘edges’ of growth, and bringing out this learning, as a handbook, or perhaps podcast.

Joy Warmington is CEO of brap, a leading UK Charity, addressing issues of equality, diversity and human rights, since 20 years. Joy is in constant practice as a skilled facilitator, focusing on organisational facilitation, leadership, conflict resolution and anti-racism training, always with a dedication to stretching what’s “possible”. 

About Joy

Joy is the CEO of brap ( a charity committed to transforming how we think about and practice equality. Joy also spearheads their work on learning and change. Joy’s area of expertise is leadership and organisational development, and she applies this lens to the work that brap does with organisations, boards, individuals and leadership teams. Joy first engaged with ”Process Work” in 2015, after participating on a Global Leadership programme facilitated by the Deep Democracy Institute and went on to study with them to achieve a Certificate in Process Orientated Psychology.  Almost immediately,  Joy became hooked on process work and recognized the possibilities presented by the approach to support work on discrimination, and actively sought to introduce the learning into brap. Upon happily discovering CFOR in 2017, Joy engaged in a number of intensive programmes, the Facilitation for Leaders Programme, before commencing the Diploma programme in 2019 . brap and CFOR began work together to use their respective skills and insights to explore how we might facilitate seemingly intractable issues.

Joy is a qualified teacher and facilitator and throughout her whole career has led on the design and delivery of anti-discriminatory work, with a focus on race inequality. Over the last two years in particular, working on anti-racism has been very much in vogue. In addition to designing and delivering a range of anti-racist programmes, some of which are directed at senior white presenting participants in the NHS, Joy also coaches and supports Black colleagues who ‘suffer’ the affects of racism within their careers.

Joy has the opportunity to work practical with process work in the delivery of training and also in real life situations. She has written a chapter in a due to be published “ Birmingham Book on Education” which describes the use of process work interventions in a heated dispute between parents and teachers over the teaching of LGBT curriculum in school. Joy and her colleagues, facilitated this dispute during 2019.

As a lifelong learner, Joy holds many qualifications including a MSc in Organisational Development and Learning, a Certificate in Education PGCE, a Postgraduate Diploma in Multicultural Education, and a and is a certified DPI coach.