Written by Kajsa Persson, Law BA

What is an Active Bystander?

An Active Bystander is someone who understands how and when to use the power of dialogue to inspire change around the community. It is someone who reinforces powerful messages about poor behaviour, even if no one else seems to be doing so. Active Bystanders go the extra mile; in understanding what problematic attitudes look like, they learn and develop practical skills for safely intervening when they witness such attitudes.

The emphasis on practical skills, rather than theoretical knowledge, is what makes the Active Bystander Programme very unique in its approach. This is best encapsulated by our ‘catch-phrase’ of the 4 D’s - Direct Action, Distraction, Delegation and Delay. This phrase highlights the skills that students need in order to challenge harassment when they witness it, which should be a main takeaway from our workshops.

"Initially, my main takeaway from the programme was that an Active Bystander is someone who challenges poor and unacceptable behaviours. However, since working as a Workshop Leader, I have come to realise that the definition of an Active Bystander is a lot more multidimensional."

Why should I become an Active Bystander?

I believe that we should all hold ourselves accountable for creating a supportive community here at UCL. Being a part of such a community is rewarding, but it does not come without the effort of students who are actively involved in challenging inappropriate behaviour's and attitudes.

I first attended an Active Bystander live workshop during my first year at UCL, as completing the programme was a requirement for my specific department. I was really surprised by the quality of the workshop, which had been delivered online during COVID restrictions, a time when we were all struggling to adjust to hybrid learning. The presentation of difficult scenarios combined with a variety of interactive tasks made the content in the workshop very memorable for me.

As a student, I would highly encourage you to attend one of our many Active Bystander workshops. Even if your department does not organise its own sessions, I would still advise you to take your own initiative to train yourself to be an Active Bystander. The practical skills that you develop from the programme can be applied anywhere, and so will be useful beyond your time at UCL.

Lastly, one of the best ways to become an Active Bystander is to actually become a Workshop Leader. Through this job, I have been able to take time to properly educate myself about different forms of unacceptable behaviours and how I myself can model the values of an Active Bystander. In addition, this role has enhanced my presentation skills and increased my attention to detail, both of which are skills essential for future jobs.

Whether it may be through applying for a role as a Workshop Leader or through participating in a live workshop, my hope is that we can strengthen the message of what it means to be an Active Bystander.