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RWG Communication and Decision-making Guidelines

COMMUNICATIONS GUIDELINES


Background:

The movement towards the creation of Safe Spaces began out of trauma-informed therapeutic work. Many organizations, recognizing the traumatic impacts of colonialism, racism, and other forms of discrimination and oppression, have adopted this approach in their anti-colonial, anti-racist and other activist work.


This approach has often been modified to recognize that Safety is relative, and not everyone feels safe under the same conditions. The term Safer Spaces is intended to recognize and grapple with this fact.


The movement towards the creation of Brave Spaces, or Braver Spaces, developed among anti-racist activists who noticed a tendency for white people to use the idea of Safe Spaces to avoid feeling uncomfortable or challenged in group settings. Requests from white people that conversations about race feel “safe” and that everyone in the conversation “assume best intentions” have resulted in BIPOC feeling that they could not discuss racism openly, were stereotyped as angry, and silenced. The Braver Spaces approach challenges people in positions of privilege to accept the risk involved in open discussions about their privilege and its effect on others. It also recognizes that safety and bravery are relative and will not mean the same thing to people from different groups.


The concept of Cultural Safety originally was developed in the health sector in New Zealand, and grew from an understanding of the social determinants of health, including racism, colonialism, and inequality. Cultural Safety training is designed to build on cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity training. The focus is on the individual understanding and interrogating their own culture and bias and recognizing the role of power relations in their interactions with people from other cultures or groups. Cultural safety requires strong communication, recognition of the impact of colonization, respect for oneself and others, and celebration of diversity.


These Communication Guidelines are based in this previous work (see links below) on Safer Spaces, Braver Spaces, and the concept of Cultural Safety.


Preamble:

These are guidelines, not rules. They are a way to create and clarify agreements and expectations that allow everyone in the group to feel safe enough and brave enough to participate.

Despite our best intentions, we recognize that in our conversations with one another we will sometimes have defensive reactions, inconsiderate moments, and blind spots. There will be occasions for disagreements as we learn from each other. These guidelines will help us to be mindful of this, and will be a place to return to when we need to find ways to agree again.


Guidelines:


1. We acknowledge our colonial context, and the power relationships this will likely create in our own group.

  • We will recognize and investigate the continuing impact of colonization on Indigenous peoples.

  • We will work to recognize our privileges (class, race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and others) and honor the different experiences we all bring to this space.

  • We will try to see things through an intersectional lens

  • We will acknowledge and critically reflect on relationships and imbalances in this group as well as in the larger society, and understand that they should be examined, negotiated and changed to be equitable.

2. We respect and care for each other.

  • We will treat each other with courtesy and fairness, and refrain from bullying, harassment, shaming or belittling.

  • We will actively challenge unsafe practices and interactions including stereotyping, discrimination, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or other demeaning and harmful commentary.

  • We will respect each others’ right to privacy, and not push anyone to answer questions they don’t want to answer.

  • We will respect each others’ physical and emotional boundaries.

  • We will respect each others’ time and commitments.

3. We respect and care for ourselves.

  • We will refrain from shaming, belittling, or unfairly blaming ourselves.

  • We will take breaks when we need them.

  • We will assert and maintain healthy boundaries.

  • We will take the time we need to be prepared and do our work, and pass on or delegate responsibilities if we need to.

  • We will say yes and no when we mean it.

4. We welcome multiple points of view and we value diversity.

  • We will remember that not everyone knows everything we know, and that we don’t know everything other people know. No one of us knows everything, but together we know a lot.

  • We assert that we all have the right to be different.

  • We will actively seek to learn from everyone else.

  • We will also share what we know (when appropriate), as well as our questions, so that others may learn from us.

5. We will take responsibility for our words and actions and their impacts, even those that are unintended.

  • We will speak for ourselves and from our own experiences.

  • We will seek to understand differences of opinion and ask questions to help us understand how conflicts can be resolved.

  • We will acknowledge that we can be the cause of harm even if we don’t intend harm.

  • As long as we feel safe, we will let others know if we have a strong reaction to something or are unhappy with the way something is being done or talked about.

6. We commit to learning together.

  • We cannot all be perfectly articulate all the time, and we will not expect that from each other.

  • We will be generous with each other because we all have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.

7. We take responsibility for the group and its dynamics, and will be accountable for how the group is working or not working.

  • We will strive for direct and open communication, transparency, and an equitable distribution of power.

  • We will share speaking time and try to speak after others who have not spoken.

  • Those of us who tend to speak a lot will try to listen a little more and those of us who tend to listen more will try to speak up a little more.

  • We will strive to listen actively, to pay attention and to think about what is said before responding.

  • We will strive to notice and name group dynamics in the moment, to be aware of how others are responding or not responding.

8. We will have the courage both to disagree with others and to be open to challenges from others.

  • We will notice when defensiveness or denial arise in ourselves.

  • We will strive to find ways to respectfully challenge others and be open to challenges of our own views.

  • We will work to build a critical knowledge about controversial issues that makes space for different views and a nuanced understanding.

9. We will allow these guidelines to be flexible and dynamic, and to change and evolve as necessary.


References:

The Anti-Oppression Network --- "In Conversations About Race, ‘Safe Space’ is a Cop Out" --- Mental Health Commission --- Immigration Partnership Winnipeg's --- Te Kaunihera Tapuji o Aotearoa/Nursing Council of New Zealand --- YouthLine --- Solar Community Housing Association --- AWARE-LA --- one.n.ten --- Safe Space Alliance



DECISION-MAKING GUIDELINES


  1. Items that involve changes or approvals to timeline, budget, project activities, produced documents or other important decisions will be sent to the group by the Co-secretaries or the member initiating a resolution at least one week before the virtual meeting.

  2. All decisions will begin with discussion. Consensus will be the main method of decision-making, allowing members to voice their opinions and thoughts until a resolution can be made. If the group cannot come to a consensus, then a majority vote will take place in order to move forward and make a decision. Those who cannot make the meeting, but want to participate in decision-making, will have one week to review meeting minutes/recordings and engage in the discussion by email. In the case of a vote, votes will be tallied at the meeting and members not in attendance have one week to cast their vote over email after the meeting. All members are voting members.

  3. For items that involve public-facing documents and recommendations to the CAC organization, or other matters the members would like advice about, the RWG Co-secretaries will bring the RWG approved item to the advisory council for additional approval. For items that directly affect the CAC organization (i.e. budget), approval from the CAC board will also be required.