Exploring Systemic Racism with Systems Thinking

“Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produce and normalizes racial inequities.” ― Ibram X. Kendi

Anti-Racism Training Guide

This training guide is intended to help trainers, facilitators and coaches facilitate Anti-Racism discussions. This training explores how Systems Thinking can be used to structure these discussions and identify systemic solutions.


You will find here all the materials you need to facilitate these important discussions.

Training Purpose

This Anti-Racism Training workshop aims to help participants understand the systemic nature of racism. In particular, how often solutions implemented fail to solve the systemic problem. Also how these "quick fixes" can have unintended side effects.


After the workshop participants will be in a better position to avoid the side effects of quick fixes and better tackle the deep-rooted systemic issues.

Training Outcomes

  1. Understand how systems thinking can help with problem-solving.

  2. Identify factors that influence racism and how these factors are interconnected.

  3. Recognize potential side effects of “Quick Fixes” 

  4. Identify systemic solutions that better address the problem in a long term sustainable way.

  5. Agreement on actions the participants can take to make progress within their context.

Antiracist: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea. 

Ibram X. Kendi

Time: 3hrs

Participants: 4 - 20

Facilitators: 1 - 4

Training Slides



Opening and Safety Check - 10min

  • Share the outcomes for the session and walk through the agenda.

  • Run a safety check

    • If safety is low, discuss what could be done in the group to increase safety

Defining Terms - 10min

  • Talk through the key terms to be used within the session. Definitions from Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be An Antiracist are great examples.


Why Systems Thinking? - 10min

  • Introduce the topic of systems thinking by sharing an extract from John Powell’s workshop on Systems Thinking and Race.

  • After reading the segment encourage participants to share their thoughts.

  • Finally share a simple example of challenges with traditional problem-solving


What is Systems Thinking? - 15min

  • Share a brief overview of Systems Thinking. The key point is to highlight the interconnectedness of systems. Systems Thinking is a big topic so don't go too deep.

  • This video is a great way to share the concept in a simple way. To check for understanding ask participants how they think Systems Thinking can help address racism.

A Simple Systems Example - Coffee and Caffeine - 20min

  • Expand further the simple coffee and caffeine example. Talk through the three core concepts:

    • Symptomatic/Quick Fix solutions

    • Fundamental/Systemic solutions

    • Side effects of Symptomatic Solutions

Break - 10min

Choose a Racism Problem to explore - 10min

  • At this point ask the group to identify a Racism problem to explore. Try to find a problem which is relevant for your context. This step may generate good discussion as participants look to agree on a problem statement. To make it easier you could propose a problem for them.

Breakout Sessions - 60min

Recommended Group Size​: 5

These sessions can be done in a few ways. You can keep it simple and ask participants to discuss the topic. Another approach is to use a tool like Miro and ask participants to draw out the model of their system. If you do the drawing you may need extra time to explain the diagrams and allow participants to get familiar with the tool

  • Breakout Session 1 - What are typical Quick Fixes and Side Effects? - 12min

    • Debrief - Share output from the discussion - 8min

  • Breakout Session 2 - What could be some Systemic Solutions? - 12min

    • Debrief - Share output from the discussion - 8min

  • Breakout Session 3 - How could we start implementing these Systemic Solutions? - 12min

    • Debrief - Share output from the discussion - 8min

Retrospective - 20min

Using a tool like Miro will help you do this as a whole group.

  • What did we learn?

  • What does that learning change?

  • What will we do now?

Training Diagrams

Systems Maps - General (15)

Traditional Problem Solving

Systems Maps - General (21)

Identifying Feedback Loops

Systems Maps - General (24)

Exploring Systemic Solutions

Systems Maps - General (25)

Identifying Unintended Side Effects

Systems Maps - General (23)

Problem Solving Example

Need help?

Drop me a message and I'm happy to help with any questions or further guidance you need to deliver this Anti-Racism Training

Thanks for submitting!

Planning Template

My Workshop Planning Template may help you prepare for this Anti-Racism workshop. The template covers the 6'Ps of Preparation:

  1. Purpose

  2. Participants

  3. Practicalities

  4. Principles

  5. Process

  6. Products

The Ultimate Facilitation Planning Templ

Anti-Racism Resources

Systems Thinking Resources

Facilitators will benefit from a foundational knowledge in Systems Thinking. You don't need to be an expert but should be familiar with the following:

I would recommend sharing these links with participants as pre-work prior to the training


If you have found this Anti-Racism Training guide helpful please donate to Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust


Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds aged 13 to 30 to inspire and enable them to succeed in the career of their choice. They also influence others to create a fairer society in which everyone, regardless of their background, can flourish.