Image of three fists, with one of them raised higher than the others

Ally Signs

Justice, Equity & Inclusion


This activity facilitates a reflection on participants’ motivations for practicing social justice work and learning their peers’ motivations. It is intended for a group of people that are already doing social justice work and have already shared with one another the work that they are doing. This should not be done as an introduction to social justice or the concept of allyship.

This activity facilitates the discussion of people’s motivations to be an ally. It jumps right into this conversation and therefore should only be run with a group that already has a clear understanding of what the term “allyship” means. 

Allyship: is a practice of unlearning and relearning, and is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals or groups. 

  • Allyship is not an identity, it is an active, consistent, and challenging practice
  • Allyship is not self-defined, our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with

See sources for in-depth information on allyship.

It is important everyone in the group is aware of this definition and understands that simply calling oneself an ally does not make them an ally. In the context of this activity participants will not be talking about what work they do for allyship and focusing on why they do it. Therefore before beginning this activity, other activities must proceed it that establish that everyone in the group is actually doing the work. 

  • To have participants reflect on their motivations for practicing allyship.
  • To discuss why we practice allyship and how those reasons influence our practice.
  • Participants will be able to label at least one reason that motivates them to practice allyship.
  • Participants will be able to reflect on at least two different ways that people are motivated to practice allyship.
  • Participants will be able to identify at least one way motivations play out in the ways someone shows up as an ally.
  • Full size sheets of blank paper or scrap paper (1 per participant & facilitators)
  • Markers, crayons, or other bold writing implements.
  • Place the scrap paper and markers in the middle of the participants or on a table to the side.


“We are going to be doing an activity to dig into some of the reasons that we all practice allyship.  Doing social justice work, work against oppression or discrimination is often emotionally, spiritually, and even physically challenging work.  This activity will help us explore out some of our own motivations for doing social justice work and get to know others’ motivations as well.”

  1. Provide instructions for how the activity is going to unfold.
    • “In a moment I’m going to ask everyone to take a piece of paper and a writing implement. You’re going to have 2 minutes to finish the statement, “I work to be an ally because…,” or “I do work rooted in justice because…”  
    • I want you to write your response to those statements on your piece of paper, which is going to be your sign. 
    • This sign should be able to be read at a distance so perhaps think of it like a sign for someone you’d be picking up at the airport; you want it large, legible, and concise.  
  2. Allow everyone to get their supplies.
  3. Give a 30 second warning before time is up.
  4. Once everyone is done, ask the group to hold up their signs in front of them, and then to move around the room to read everyone’s sign. Typically, this is a silent activity to allow everyone to have time and space to take in and process the different signs.  
  5. Once everyone has read all the signs, ask participants to take a seat to debrief the activity.
  • What did you think of that activity?  What was it like to do the activity?
  • Was it hard to narrow your understanding of your motivations for doing allyship to just one sentence?
  • Does anyone want to expand or explain their motivations?
  • Does anyone have any questions or comments about anyone’s sign they’d like to ask?
  • Why do you think it is important to reflect on why we practice allyship?
  • What did you learn about others’ motivations from this activity?
  • How do you think our motivations to do allyship show up in our practice of being an ally or our dedication to addressing issues of injustice?
  • How do you think your understanding of allyship has changed over time?  How would your sign have been different in the past?
  • How would you explain your understanding of allyship to others who did not have this language? Do you think this activity was helpful?

To close out the activity it is often a good idea to summarize what the major points were that were brought up by the group or the major take-aways that you learned from the processing questions.  Or perhaps just share again why you thought it was important to do the activity in the first place.