Our goal with these documents is to build a safe community for all our members by making sure any interpersonal harm is appropriately dealt with and encouraging harmed individuals to reach out to us. This is a collection of all the documents we created for EA Germany during the Community Health Project (March - July 2023). We were asked to share these with the wider community. We welcome others to use and adapt them and invite feedback.
We created two types of documents:
- Public: to inform our community about our Code of Conduct, event standards, ways to report misbehaviours and ask for help, processes for evaluating and responding to reports, confidentiality, professional contact points, and Awareness Workshop results.
- Internal: description of the role and responsibility of the Community Health Contact, their interaction with the Equal Opportunities Officer of our association, and handover processes.
Why we need this
Last week, Ninas, a new group organizer, was alerted by group member Sayat about allegations against a long-term member. Unaware of any past issues, Ninas informs Sayat, causing Sayat to feel belittled and cease work on a promising Biosafety camp. After confronting the accused and mistakenly revealing Sayat as the source, retaliation against Sayat ensues. Ninas, now shocked and believing Sayat, uncovers additional troubling stories about the long-term member after further inquiry. Ninas regrets not knowing earlier, as this knowledge could have prevented Sayat's distress and withdrawal from their project due to harassment.
Imagine if Ninas, the hypothetical group organiser, had a starter pack of information about Community Health and previous incidents in their group. Imagine if they didn’t botch their first conversation with Sayat and were better informed about confidentiality procedures.
As part of the Community Health Project, which started in March 2023, we created a series of documents to inform our members about our offers and to document internal processes for the team. These documents exist to support us in staying in line with our vision and values. They further help identify areas for improvement and serve as the foundation for action.
Setting in Germany
To appreciate how these documents work, here is an overview of the system in and for which they’re created. Other communities will have to adapt the processes for their own structure, culture and laws.
Our structure: The German EA community has 27 active local groups. EA Germany is organised as a membership association Effektiver Altruismus Deutschland (EAD) e.V. with over 100 members. We currently have a team of five employees, some full-time and some part-time. The association also elects an Equal Opportunities Officer who checks our processes and important documents for discrimination. They also provided us with feedback on these documents.
Part of our strategy for 2023 is to provide a trained Community Health Contact, implement standards and offer documents for Community Health. With the support of colleagues, the Equal opportunities officer, CEA’s Community Health team and experts, I assessed our options to create a safer community. This assessment is ongoing. Here is the summary of what needed to be done and the results so far:
- Community Health Contact
- Code of Conduct
- We added avenues of reporting violations and responses to reports, an alcohol and drug policy and anonymous contact forms.
- During our annual meeting at the start of June, we asked the members to vote on our Code of Conduct. Getting it passed by the association’s members ensures that members are aware of, accept and follow the Code of Conduct.
- Applies to all EAD events and many retreats organised by local groups: We offer liability insurance for retreats. To get insurance, enforcing our Code of Conduct at the event is mandatory.
- Minimum standards for events that EAD holds are published on our website
- Awareness Team resources with contacts to professional help in Germany for serious situations
Documents 1-3 are available in German and English. Other documents are in English only.
- Internal guide for community health matters:
- Contents: limits of responsibility and influence, processes and lines of communication with the rest of the team, confidentiality, possible responses to reports of misconduct, process for hand-over of the position.
- We will not publish the whole resource for now as we have to adapt it for publication. If you are interested, reach out to us.
- We stay in regular contact with group house organisers in Germany to spot potential community health problems early. There is little influence we have over what a group house does apart from offering support.
- Awareness team training is offered to people for larger/overnight events.
Further steps for EAD
- Receive legal advice for risks associated with dealing with community health cases.
- Clarify the definition of 'consent' in the Code of Conduct due to questions raised after its publication.
- Define how to engage with perpetrators.
Further steps in cooperation with the global community
When I presented preliminary versions to other Community Health Contacts at the EAG London, I was asked to share my work once it was presentable.
I am sharing our work here for other Community Builders, Community Health Contacts and Liaisons to use and adapt to their needs. This could be a basis for standard procedures and documents for EA groups. If you have any feedback, I’m keen to read it.
Megan Nelson from NYC and I also want to organise an online Contact Person/Community Health person meetup in the future. People who are interested to co-host and/or join, please reach out to me.
I am not a psychologist, social worker or professional for group well-being and harassment prevention. I have a long-standing interest in these areas and asked several professionals, such as social workers and psychologists, for feedback, and am still looking for more feedback.
As an organisation that works for a volunteer movement without a protected brand, we have limited options to monitor and regulate people’s behaviour. We rely on the active cooperation of the majority of our community. Thus most processes aim at education and prevention, and responses to misbehaviour might seem mild compared to, e.g. workplace policies.
A big thank you to my team and our Equal Opportunities Representatives for helping me write this! And to the people at the Community Health meetup at EAG London for encouraging me to share what we created.
Photo credit for the preview goes to Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash.
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