A note from Kyle Sawyer, founder of Building Allies and creator of The Active-Ally Model.
In April 2018 I posted Introduction: Privilege and The Three Phases of Active-Allyship, which was meant to be a four-part blog series. After the introduction was posted the fear of vulnerability was so great I struggled to write the next parts of the series. I was able to speak on it, be in conversation with others about it, offer it to different individuals and groups, but struggled with writing to post it. Much has happened since then, the model has grown and clarified, and I feel excited and proud to share this work. I believe in it deeply. So, let’s begin again.
Each week, over the next six weeks I will post the next piece for understanding and unpacking The Active-Ally Model. I invite comments, questions, and thoughts from you. It is important that this work be done in conversation with others. Without doing so we run the risk of stagnation and an inability to see beyond where we are.
What is The Active-Ally Model?
An Active-Ally is someone who witnesses an injustice and responds to it in any situation.
The Active-Ally Model is a guide to a process. It is not prescriptive. It is not a step list or a how-to guide. It was developed through my experience of becoming. Through questioning my ways of being. Through the challenge of living in the gray, the middle, the margins, and the otherwise. The Active-Ally Model offers a way to think differently, to move and be differently. It does not offer a destination. It offers a different lens to do life through.
This model is an ask to live and show up differently. To engage with relations differently. To spend time in the awareness of our being – from the ugly to amazing.
It asks us to live in a space of curiosity and to risk vulnerability.
To step into the realm of possibility and becoming. It requires us to sit in the discomfort of change and the constant movement of the in-between. It asks us to live in the honesty that is not about locating Truth.
To, more often, exist in the space between. To be honest and vulnerable. This lens requires sitting in the unknowing, the discomfort of not understanding, the fear of being witnessed; to reject the understanding of right or wrong. It asks us to acknowledge and love ourselves in ways many of us have never experienced. To love others in ways many of us think we are not capable of. This model asks us to hold grace for ourselves and for others. It asks us to risk intimacy and embarrassment.
The Active-Ally Model is a cyclical process, in three phases which are in conversation with each other.
The three phases are:
(Image Description: A large, black circle with three words and blue arrows placed around its edge. Each word is purple, framed by a thick, black lined rectangle. At the top, where North might be, is the word AWARENESS. Where Southeast might be is the word ACTION. Where Southwest might be is the word INTEGRATION. The blue arrows between Awareness and Action, Action and Integration, and Integration and Awareness indicate a clockwise movement around the circle through each word. Another black line, on the inside of the circle, curves outward between AWARENESS and ACTION, with another blue arrow indicating clockwise movement between Awareness and Action. The same type of line and arrow, facing in the opposite direction, is between Awareness and Integration, also indicating a clockwise movement between the two. The model is meant to represent the conversation between the three phases, as well as the way Awareness is a space to come back to during Action and Integration.)
Before we can intentionally and thoughtfully unpack the model there are other elements to dive into first. Next week we’ll look at The Five Tenets of Active-Allyship and the following week we’ll look at The Three Foundational Understandings.
Kyle Sawyer (he/they) is an anti-oppression facilitator and educator specializing in working with individuals and organizations on how to turn privilege into change. He is a trans, queer, mixed-race, white-passing individual. With over a decade of experience Kyle founded Building Allies in 2013 and developed the term Active-Ally, someone who witnesses injustice and responds to it in any situation. Kyle has worked with teachers, nonprofit organizations, students, therapists, social workers, community members, family members, and many others on learning how to be Active-Allies through an intersectional lens. He has received over 400 hours of training in the experiential cycle and has worked throughout the United States and abroad. Recently Kyle was invited to the ULEX Centre in Catalonia as an international facilitator to train transgender identified individuals on collaboration and teamwork. Through their work Kyle has facilitated workshops for: The Los Angeles Probation Department, Department of Mental Health, Department of Children and Family Services, The Museum of Tolerance, Capistrano Unified School District, National Center for Trans Equality, Lambda Literary Writers Retreat, UCLA, USC, Harvey Mudd University, Antioch University Los Angeles, multiple national conferences, and many more. Kyle has also worked as a facilitator for Training for Change, TransCanWork, and The Transgender Law Center. Kyle’s organization, Building Allies, is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to sponsor continuing education for mental health service providers. certified Continuing Education Provider through the CAMFT organization. Building Allies maintains responsibility for this program/course and its content.