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Rules of Engagement

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While FEaT is my professional brand, I do not identify as the owner of any community or directory that may be built under its name. I view the community and directory projects as a public endeavor that impacts our fields as a whole and my involvement with them is as a wrangler.

However, as the owner of the website hosting our directory, I feel accountable to the community and responsible for limiting harm. To this end, I am instituting the following Rules of Engagement (subject to edits and changes as the community does):

Who is this community?

This community is for people who identify as having a stake in the fields of disability, activism, neurodiversity, trauma, survivor services, sexuality, education, justice (as in the concept – not the system), violence prevention, human rights, policy, and/or advocacy.

This EXPLICITLY includes people who live in the identities the fields serve.

This includes people who do not have formal education in the topics. This includes service workers, administrators, friends, family, academics, and everyone else who is working to increase equity on the whole.

About Professionalism

Professionalism and connection are the base of this community. At its core, professionalism is about boundaries. This guideline is not about restricting whose experience matters or police our identities, but rather meant as a safety mechanism for navigating how we interact with each other.

We value respect for others’ boundaries, transparency about expectations and skills, and critical self evaluation. Collaboration, linking those with the right skills to the people who benefit the most, and recognizing our own limitations are all key components of professionalism that can be overlooked in our work.

Example: Professionalism

A potential client may asks you to teach about a topic that you are only a little bit familiar with. You are a proficient educator and can learn the subject matter well enough to teach it to this group. You  also know there are people in your circle of colleagues who have personal, academic, professional, and lived experiences in the topic.

You return to the client with your thoughts on adjusting the topic to something within your wheelhouse, include a sample outline and some learning objectives, but they really are looking for the original topic.

What do you do?

There are a lot of factors that go into making a decision about taking the job, like resources, timeline, location, finances, potential for future work, knowledge of your colleague’s skills, and the needs of the client – and taking those considerations into account is part of figuring out what to do.

However, all factors being equal, the reality is that another person with more knowledge and experience is usually the right person to be teaching the subject. With the definition of professionalism we are using, it is most in line to refer the client to the colleague who is a better fit for the gig and let the person who requested the training know what is in your specific skill set.

[Can I do it? Of Course! Am I the right or best person for the job? Maybe not.]

Harassment

I recognize that there is high potential for harassment from people outside of our fields – publicly working in the sexuality industry for the past 5 years has taught me there is no way to guarantee totally harassment-free spaces. However, harassment between members of the community will not be tolerated. If you want more information about harassment in the field of sexuality research, read this article. It outlines 15 concrete steps people can take to dismantle the systems that allow sexual harassment to flourish.

In an effort to balance believing reporters with a response that leaves room for flexibility based on the needs of those who speak up, I would like to describe this harassment policy as “Visible Zero Tolerance.” In the case a member is named as harassing another member (or is involved in a public accusation of the like), their membership will be suspended and their directory listing will be deactivated, and will remain so pending resolution.

What is a resolution in this case? That depends. Resolution is at the discretion of the person who was harmed and the community as a whole. In my humble professional opinion, we are a group that should be engaging in restorative and reparative justice that centers the individual who has been harmed and seeks to make changes that create safer spaces in the future. That process will probably look different in each case and depend on the situation.

Full disclosure, as an individual, I still get very fired up under what my mom always called, “an overdeveloped sense of justice,” which means I tend go for punishment and excommunication as my gut reaction before my brain flips back on and I remember we are all flawed humans. I am unlearning this instinct.

Communication expectations

Everyone has different communication styles and needs. With this in mind, please use grace in interacting with one another. Another way of expressing this idea is to assume good intent of the person you are interacting with – we are all learning and growing.

DO NOT take this to mean you are expected to rationalize bad behavior or set aside hurt. All this parameter asks is that you take a moment to consider if the issue is based in a mistake but well-intentioned and could benefit from an opportunity to learn a better way.

If you don’t want to or don’t have the capacity to be the person to have that teachable moment, you can contact me or submit a complaint anonymously (this will not necessarily trigger the harassment protocol above, but may in the case of harassment).

March 30, 2019
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