I don't have much time to get into this, but I heard rumblings, saw a post, and wrote a comment, and now I'm making a post of my own because this information feels worth spreading now. I will not be going into much more details, for reasons that should be obvious.
For those that don't know me, I'm a therapist who has been working in the community for about 5 years now, and has been almost exclusively working with the community since early 2020, though I've been scaling down my therapy practice to focus on other projects like therapist recruitment/supervision, and mental health research. I also do mediation now and then, and in both roles, Community Health has been incredibly helpful.
Another of my major things is teaching at various rationality camps and workshops for highschool age students, as well as some for adults. To say that Community Health has been incredibly valuable here would be an understatement. I've also spoken at a few EAGs, which is relevant insofar as sometimes things happen there which also requires Community Health interactions.
I think it is incredibly easy to undervalue the good CH does, particularly if people don't regularly interact with it or make use of them rather than just having a few anecdata to go off of.
I think it is also incredibly easy to be uncharitable toward CH if you don't interact with them regularly and only have a few anecdata to go off of. There's no appropriate comparison for the work they do, but HR or police with ~most of the responsibility but ~none of the power seems apt as a first approximation.
For people who feel they've been unfairly burned by CH before, I get it. Maybe they made a bad call; it happens, and no system is perfect. Or maybe it's just a difference of opinion, or beliefs, or information, and the CH team did the best they could be expected to with the info they had. Either way it may seem weird to say that they have ~no power, when clearly they have a lot of social power in particular circumstances.
But from my observations, this power is only marginally higher than what any group of people can accomplish by acting as a whisper network, and the label only impacts reach; it doesn't make it particularly easier to try to serve the same purpose with more self-awareness, conscientiousness, and fairness than most would.
What I can say about my own experiences, however, is that CH often does an amazing job of walking the tightwire between taking accusations seriously without accepting them at face value. I have seen them let people know what they've been accused of, so long as they have not promised anonymity to reporters. I have seen them inform people that anonymity in reporting is something that they can do, but also that it directly trades off against investigation/consequence level. That shit isn't easy to navigate, and I've seen them spend many hours investigating stuff to try and reach a fair and balanced conclusion.
There are some situations that take up hundreds of hours of grueling emotional labor by people working in organizations like the ones I've been part of, and sometimes CH only helps a little with that, but other times they help a lot. They help resolve many issues that could grow into bigger ones by being a mediating force. I can't actually tell you how many hours they've saved me; I can only tell you how relieved I've been after spending dozens of hours dealing with some thorny issue to have people I could hand the issue to as a useful "next step," and know it will be handled at least as well as I would be able to.
And basically no one knows about any of those times they do things well, because why would they? I get that transparency is good, but so is privacy, and one of the points of having a CH team is to not turn every event into a massive drama that sucks in thousands of hours from hundreds of people. Sometimes that's appropriate, but sometimes it's not, nor wanted by the parties involved.
As for people worried about being talked about or blacklisted from things without their knowledge... again, I get it. But I promise you, whisper networks will not disappear if the Community Health team isn't around, and from those I've participated in both in this community and outside it, they're not made worse from the existence of CH. Quite the contrary.
So yeah. I need to get back to work, but it felt worth at least raising a flag on the hill of "My life would be much harder without Community Health in many hard to explain ways, and I think yours would too."