Every week this summer, a group of students who are involved with The Daily Californian met on Zoom to discuss ways we can make our organization a more welcoming space for folks of all backgrounds. Meeting formally as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, we decided upon a set of agreements to follow in our virtual meeting space.
Crafting a set of community agreements was an important part of our virtual meeting agenda. The space we hold together should be safe and welcoming, so we made it a top priority in our early meetings by formalizing the process of writing community agreements. We at the Clog see this as valuable insight, so here is a guide to writing community agreements for your virtual team.
Recognize your space as vulnerable
Everyone comes from different experiences and backgrounds, so some people may have knowledge about certain things that others don’t. This makes folks in shared spaces vulnerable. Setting agreements can protect team members, foster boundaries and create a space for growth.
Discuss the needs of your community
Not every space is the same, so be sure to make your agreement-writing process a collaborative one. This will allow people to offer agreements that might only be suggested by themselves. It’s OK if an agreement applies to one or a few people; this allows space for underrepresented folks to feel heard and welcome.
Update your agreements over time
People change, and so should your agreements. When new people join, allow them to add their own agreements. You also might want to set up a process of amending old agreements as a team. This might seem redundant but is super important for maintaining a safe, welcoming space.
Respect and follow them
Creating agreements is an important task, but the most essential part of the process is holding one another accountable to the agreements y’all have collectively made. Remind teammates of your agreements at the start of meetings, and don’t be afraid to give praise when people are actively respecting them.
Learn from other communities
Many organizations create publicly available agreements you can access online. Consider updating your agreements with those set by other communities.
Here are seven of the foundational community agreements we use for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee at the Daily Cal:
- Take space, make space.
- Practice active listening — listening to understand before you make yourself understood.
- Normalize admitting when you’re wrong or that you were misinformed.
- Make space for people to learn and grow. Recognize that people are at different levels of being informed and refrain from judging them on their lack of knowledge.
- Assume good intentions.
- Own your impact.
- Zero tolerance for hate, discrimination or prejudice.
Hopefully, this guide has provided you with some direction in creating virtual community agreements of your own. We definitely advise that you take the time to formulate these agreements, as they may foster a more open and free space for the people you find yourself in a virtual community with.