A few days ago I stumbled upon this powerful list of principles for creating resilient communities, compiled by Sophia Horowitz from TheColab.info:
- Provoke curiosity and wonder by connecting with people in their everyday environments
- Ensure that there’s real need and authentic intent to engage. Be transparent about what people can change.
- Understand the landscape and situation of the place
- Use the arts and various learning styles and dream together
- Power of the everyday
- Living systems will only respect that which they are part of creating — think interactive, experiential, and participatory
When you take a closer look at these principles, their essence can be boiled down to this: it’s all about designing meaningful, shared experiences based on humanity, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Any collaborative effort needs this to truly thrive and cultivate resilience. When you think about a community, this definition of resilience provides a great lens to analyze its state:
“The ability of a system to survive, adapt and thrive in the face of chronic stresses”, a system that also has the capacity to transform when required. — (adapted from the Resilience Fellowship Program by CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism)
Take a minute and think about all the communities you have been part of, either as a founder, leader, supporter or participant. Now think about what made them grow, what tore them apart, what kept you engaged and what drove you or others away. More often than not, the success or failure of these communities depends on their capacity for resilience and the mutual understanding of their values and collective expectations.
For instance, a resilient community should have a shared code of conduct, i.e. a framework of values, collective promises and expectations that define the identity of that community, its vision and its view of the present.
In a way, codes of conduct are like a biopsy of a community. Not only do they reflect the overall health and commitment to a certain set of systems, principles and values, but they also serve as a time capsule of different moments and learning opportunities within that community. These guiding principles are not set in stone though, they most likely evolve alongside the community itself.
Getting started with codes of conduct
To foster resilience, codes of conduct should ideally be co-created, which helps build equity, a sense of purpose, and a mutual understanding of the need and contents of this code of conduct.
While there are many methods to approach this, I personally recommend these two:
a. Mozilla’s Science Lab - Getting started with codes of conduct: This beginner-level activity takes about 90' and walks you through the essential questions you need to address as a community when putting together your code of conduct. It’s especially useful to address anti-harassment and accountability policies.
b. TRIZ method from Liberating Structures: This method creates a safe and collaborative space to practice creative destruction or “heretical thinking”, i.e. having complete liberty to question, evaluate and/or rethink every current practice.
You can remix this method to fit your needs, but here’s a roadmap I’ve personally experienced with an amazing community of Agile Team Facilitators and saw really positive results:
- Set the scene. Start with an Impromptu Networking. Divide participants into smaller groups and ask them to discuss these three questions:
a. Why do you think codes of conduct are important in a community?
b. What do expect to have as a takeaway from this session?
c. What could you contribute to the community?
- Open the conversation. Take a few minutes to discuss your findings in a large group share-out.
- Map your values. Go back into smaller groups (3–5 participants) and take about 15' to co-create value maps, identifying both individual and team values. Ask participants to chose the most relevant values, the ones they consider are non-negotiable in a community. The result should be about 3–5 values per group. Combine and merge them into a single list.
- Prioritize these values. Using a rating method, such as Borda counting, ask participants to prioritize the values listed in the previous step. At the end of this activity, you should have a set of 3–4 main values.
- TRIZ method. Now that you have worked together to identify the most important values for your community, it’s time to play “the bad guy” and think about what could sabotage these values. To do that, you’ll use the TRIZ method:
a. Go back into smaller groups and brainstorm about this challenge: How might we sabotage these values?
b. Take a look at that list and ask yourselves: Is there anything we’ve experienced or that we are currently doing that in any way, shape, or form resembles these items?
c. Finally, go through the items of that second list and think about actions: What guidelines or steps do we need to protect these values?
- Discuss your findings in a large-group share out and consolidate your list of actions and principles.
- Finally, take a few minutes to brainstorm your individual commitment or pledge to protect these values. Ask yourselves: What can I commit to doing to protect these values and guidelines?
Voilá! You now have a shared code of conduct for your community. Remember to refer often to this living document and check if they’re still relevant and well-protected. Having a wonderful community is, above all, a collective responsibility.
Gaby Brenes is a multimedia journalist dedicated to addressing two questions: How might we tell useful, relevant and compelling stories that cut through the noise? And how might we cultivate resilience, agility and inclusion in news organizations? In a Venn diagram with digital strategy, social research and multimedia literacy, she’d be right where the circles overlap.