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Increasing trust and disrupting behaviour

This is the last in our series of posts celebrating the launch of our new exercise book, ‘Anti-racism and the Arts’. Every week, we’ve taken a key theme from the guide and shown how it can help you to reflect on your leadership (whatever position you hold in an organisation or group).

So far, we’ve looked at ‘power’, ‘accountability’, and ‘connection’. This week, it’s trust. We’ll look at:

If you would like to explore these issues further, remember to download the full exercise book here.

What is ‘trust’?

Trust is more than a personality trait or a state of mind. It is also an important lubricant of social relationships. For instance, it helps individuals and organisations in the arts sector to connect with communities and audiences and to create art together. With this social function in mind we define trust as…

an expectation that another person, group or organisation will behave in a particular way (e.g. a way that is morally ‘right’ or a way that protects a person’s interests)

Beyond personal accountability

In addition to taking personal accountability for behaviour, leaders also play a critical role in setting the tone in the workplace. They help to create trust and psychologically safe environments by questioning and challenging beliefs and behaviours that marginalise and exclude people. They can surface the subtle values and beliefs that shape the culture of the places they work. While there may not be lots of ‘overt’ examples of discrimination, there may be more subtle behaviours and views that people hold about inclusion and diversity that serve to reinforce the status quo for people who face discrimination. Noticing this and bringing attention to it is something leaders can do. It supports others to question and discuss these issues too.

Here’s a list of beliefs that can sustain racism in the arts sector.

Look at some of the beliefs and views on the list above.

  • Do you recognise any of them within your own places of work?

  • Any beliefs we have missed?

  • As a leader do you permit behaviours that reinforce / maintain these beliefs?

Over the next few weeks and months, consider:

  • Which of these beliefs and positions are talked about openly and which are ‘below the waterline’/ more implicit and covert?

  • To what extent are these normative views and cultures disturbed or challenged in your organisation?

  • What role could you play in challenging them? What would be the ‘cost’ to you of raising these issues?

Disrupting established norms

Have there ever been times when you witnessed racism but let it pass? Where you experienced something was wrong but felt like a bystander that couldn’t do anything about a topic so engrained and challenging to talk about.

There might be lots of reasons why – fear of becoming a target, lack of knowledge of what can be done and so on.

But leaders play a really important role in building a culture where those around them can actively challenge racism. Often this is about how leaders ‘show up’, how they act in the moment when there is conflict, disagreement or when there are instances of racism that are not being challenged.

This is just as true for leaders of organisations as it is for individuals working on artistic projects with partner agencies and local communities. Through their actions, leaders help to build safer and more trusting environments for colleagues and communities who face racial discrimination.

The following diagram may help you think how about how you ‘collude’ with or ‘disrupt’ racism either individually or with others you work with.

Start with the ‘collude’ cycle. Are there examples from this cycle that you have noticed when playing a leadership role. Now look at the ‘disrupt’ cycle. Are there examples of where you have done this?

Consider the following: if you were to consciously stay in the ‘disrupt’ cycle zone more than you are now…

where could you start in order to disrupt existing patterns of inequality
what does it require of you in terms of your leadership?
what risks are you prepared to take?
what support might you need to get you there?

Remember, these questions are part of a series of resources and exercises in the full Anti-racism and the Arts guide. If you would like to reflect on these questions further, download the complete document here. The full guide has a series of case studies that will help contextualise these questions and help generate discussion with your colleagues and others.

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