Drawing it out project

The University of Birmingham EDI team has won an Advance HE Good Practice Grant for an innovative arts based project "Drawing It Out". The aim of the project is to develop a toolkit that can be used by Higher Education institutions to highlight the impact of microaggressions and to find ways to address them.  

The EHRC investigation into  racial harassment in universities found that microaggressions are a widespread, significant and persistent issue for staff and students and one which institutions struggle to respond to. The Commission's report also noted that one of the key requests from universities is to have more support in dealing with microaggressions and less obvious instances of racism and harassment.  

Birmingham's project, which forms part of the Race Equality Charter action plan, was developed with the help of our Staff BAME Network and the Guild. The work, is based on a four stage framework developed by Professor Derald Wing Sue et al in "Disarming racial microaggressions: Microintervention strategies for targets, white allies and bystanders"* 

The framework provides a way for targets, allies and bystanders to work together to combat microaggressions with microinterventions. Although the article focusses on racial microaggressions, it is applicable to other contexts. The framework four stages:  

  • making the invisible, visible,  
  • disarming the microaggression 
  • educating the perpetrator and 
  • seeking external reinforcement or support.  

Drawing it out is particularly concerned with the first two stages of the process, "making the invisible, visible and disarming the microaggression. The EDI team are working with values based cartoonist, Dr Pen Mendonca, (who previously created the graphics for the Careering Through Your Day** project, which explore barriers to women's career progression at the University). Pen's work specialises in representing complex and sensitive issues.  

DPVC, for ED&I, Professor Jo Duberley said:

“Understanding the impact of microaggressions and learning how to deal with them effectively is essential if we are to advance race equality, not just here at Birmingham, but in the sector more widely. I am delighted that our commitment to doing this has been recognised by a Good Practice Award  from Advance HE, which enables us to work with a visual artist Pen Mendonca. The project is called “Drawing it out” as Pen’s artwork is designed to stimulate an online conversation which will literally “draw out” our experiences of, concerns about and reactions to microaggressions. I hope that as many people as possible will take part.”

Press Pause microaggression image

To start the project, Pen has created a drawing which invite us all to "Press pause" for a moment, to think about microaggressions and to start an online conversation with two questions: 

  • Which perspective do you identify with? 
  • What is missing from this drawing? 

Get involved: 

  • Follow the project on twitter and instragram at @PressPauseHE.  
  • Get in touch at equality@contacts.bham.ac.uk
  • Respond to the questions 
  • Upload your thoughts and ideas in words or drawings 


*2019 American Psychological Association 2019, Vol. 74, No. 1, 128 –142  http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000296



Professional Services