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5 questions with Jane Bryan and Puja Laporte – winner of the ED&I award

Tell us a little more about the Active Bystander Initiative

The active bystander approach was originally developed to help tackle sexual misconduct and abuse but can also be applied to other types of unacceptable behaviours such as racism, homophobia, and transphobia. At Warwick, the Active Bystander Initiative aims to equip students with the knowledge, confidence, and skills to recognise and safely challenge behaviours which may be contrary to our shared values.

All incoming students are offered an ‘Introduction to Active Bystander’ workshop online (supported by their department) which introduces them to the principles of the approach (notice the problem, interpret it as a problem, feel responsibility to act, and possess the skills to act) and discusses the five intervention strategies (Distract, Delegate, Direct, Delay, and Document) through practical scenarios.

We then offer the longer active bystander intervention course (register here for Be An Active Bystander) that addresses sexual misconduct and abuse in more detail. We are also developing new and additional content based on staff and student feedback, partnering with other teams (such as Report and Support) where relevant.

What roles do you have within the University?

Jane is the Academic Lead for Community Values Education Programme (CVEP) as well as being a Reader in the Law School. Jane drives the strategic direction of the project, ensures that activities are evidence-based, and aims to promote learning from the project in academic spaces (and beyond).

Puja is the Programme Manager and works on the development and the implementation of CVEP activities full-time. She enjoys co-creation activities, developing relationships with departments and other teams, and working with the Students’ Union (SU). Sam Parr (Senior Tutor) is another core member of the team, delivering activities and supporting our link with the SU. Sam was also involved in the initial development of the initiative.

We are supported by a dedicated team of Tutors who deliver the active bystander workshops and courses, contribute to the development of resources and identify opportunities for promotion. Each tutor wears multiple hats and is engaged in other roles/studies at the University, bringing different expertise and perspectives to their role.

Meet the CVEP team.

How did this initiative come about?

The project started in 2019 as a collaboration between the Students’ Union and the Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL, who also funded the pilot), later moving under the ‘Community Values Education Programme (CVEP)’ umbrella in the Dean of Students’ Office. The Students’ Union and the University agreed that introducing and embedding educational interventions of this nature were of vital importance and would benefit the community. The initiative and the wider programme have continued to grow each year.

We are grateful to the many staff and students who contributed to development and implementation of the Active Bystander Initiative (and the wider CVE programme) over the past few years. We also acknowledge the original Intervention Initiative work upon which our activities are based.

What’s the most important outcome of this initiative?

There are many:

  • We’ve been able to raise awareness of the active bystander approach and introduce students to a community-led strategy for responding to unacceptable behaviour.
  • Feedback from students who have engaged with activities so far has been positive and we’ve been acting on feedback to help improve resources.
  • Over 2000 incoming students have received the Introduction to Active Bystander workshop this term so far. We are thankful to each department for helping us to facilitate this.
  • We have established a good partnership with the Students’ Union so at least two members of the executive committee from each Club and Society attend the Active Bystander Intervention course.

Do you have any plans or further ideas for the future?

We hope to increase our reach through new and additional activities. We are currently exploring the use of a text-message-based course as a gateway activity into more detailed content (in partnership with the Social Inclusion team). Our team is also growing to support us to increase our reach. In October, we recruited a team of Student Engagement Officers to develop and deliver outreach activities. All current students (UG and MSc), they are already busy developing a social media presence. The Student Champions Group was also recently established. These are ‘graduates’ of the longer active bystander intervention course who are volunteering to promote the course with others.

This September saw the launch of the ‘We Act’ digital campaign, raising awareness of what being an active bystander can look like and to help people become more familiar with the concept. Readers are directed to the CVEP website to explore how they can get involved further. Our ‘Active Bystander in the Teaching Space’ project has just received funding from WIHEA and will help us support those in a teaching role.

We also recently launched the Kindness on Campus Award to recognise and celebrate acts of kindness shown by our staff and students. All too often kindness is undervalued yet even small acts have the power to overcome differences, break down prejudice, and bring us closer together as a community.

There are also other projects under the CVEP umbrella, all of which support the promotion and everyday understanding of the Warwick Values (such ‘Say My Name’ and ‘Bystanders Can Save Lives’). And we welcome collaboration and encourage others to contact us to share their values-based activities, so we can help to promote them and share good practice via our platform.

 

Photo: See below an image of winners of the inaugural Excellence in ED&I Award Puja and Jane accepting their certificate and trophy from Ant.