Getting Started with Codes of Conduct
This exercise is part group brainstorm, part writing. This is best done in person with a group or online.
Open science project leads and Mozilla Study Group leads seeking to attract and grow communities of contributors around their projects.
- Sticky Notes, Pen & Paper (if in person)
- Collaborative document (ie., etherpad, Google docs) (if online)
Code of conducts serve a number of purposes. One is to help establish and clearly communicate the sort of behaviors prioritized in your project or at your event, like being respectful to others, or making sure your event is accessible to others.
They also serve a functional need, in communicating to participants that should someone happen to violate the code, there’s a process and support from organizers in place. This alone signals that you’re serious about the well-being of your community members, and are taking steps to ensuring the event, project or workshop is an inviting, welcoming, and safe place.
Think of communities you identify with, be they a set of friends, a group of peers, or an organization you feel a part of in some way. What sort of values or characteristics do you associate with being part of that community? What makes that a community you come back to, and how does it welcome others to participate?
Whether you’re leading a project or running an event, there are certain community dynamics that can help boost your work and provide a welcoming environment for others to join. This exercise will walk you through how to build a Code of Conduct with your community.
Steps to Complete
This exercise can be done individually or in a group. Involving other members of your community in the creation of your Code of Conduct helps others feel a shared sense of responsibility. We find the best codes of conduct emerge from real discussion with the community it's aiming to serve, and when it's reflective of the issues they're facing. We encourage you to work with other members of your, if possible. This can be done in person or through circulating an editable document that others can participate in virtually.
Whether in person in a group or online, start by reflecting on the following questions. Take notes about the answers. Try to give yourself 5-7 minutes per question.
If working in a group online, share the questions for others to work on with you. One way to get started is to put the questions in an editable document (ie, etherpad, Google Doc, etc), and circulate to a group of community members for their input. Once you've recieved their feedback, move on to the additional steps below. We find this works best when the group of peers represent the diversity of interests and opinions within the community, even if a subsection of a larger group.
(Here's an etherpad of the questions to get you started.)
What core words would you associate with your community?
These could be values, ideals, or characteristics. Try to keep these to one word answers, if possible. If you are working with a group, it might be useful to do this as a silent sticky note exercise. Have participants jot down their ideas, put up on a wall, then see what words overlap. Take note of any common terms, outliers and surprises.
(Examples: welcoming, safe, inclusive, open, vibrant).
What behaviors do you want to encourage? .... and what do you want to discourage?
Be specific enough to be useful here, but try not to linger only on the negative.
(Examples: Encourage: active listening, being welcoming, asking questions; Discourage: unwanted physical contact, sexist comments)
How does someone elevate an issue, should someone violate the code?
Be explicit in these steps, and keep in mind various elevation options. It's OK (and encouraged, even) to have a few options.
Examples: Set up a Safety/Code of Conduct committee, and advertise a bit about each person (general information, bios) including a photo. Talk to or email Safety/Code of Conduct representatives at an event or email them with your concern. Note that all discussions or correspondences are confidential. Call or text a Google Voice number, set up specifically for the event.
What consequences are there for violating the code?
(Examples: Asked to leave the event. Removed as a contributor from the project.)
How can you make others feel safe and supported?
Code of Conducts aren't only about reporting bad behaviour, and the responsibility for creating a welcoming and safe environment is one that all attendees and participants to share. Take a few minutes to reflect on how you can better support your peers, and model the behaviour you want to see.
Who decides what does and does not violate the code? What's an example of how this might be done?
Brainstorm some ideas for what the process would look like for participants. This could include response times, how decisions on reported events will be handled, where this will be posted etc. Articulating a clear process for attendess and participants often helps show your commitment to providing a safe experience.
Refine and Remix
Using the information and examples listed above, create your own Code of Conduct. You can also remix ours to get started.
Share and Discuss
Share the version created with your community for feedback. Make sure your community knows about the Code, those there to help, and feel a shared sense of responsibility to report any behavior that feels off. It helps make sure communities are inclusive, welcoming and human.
A fictional user, based on real-world observations of actual or potential users. personas are used to test and shape the design of a product or experience, so that the final design responsive and relevant to user needs.
Code of conduct
a set of rules outlining the social norms and rules and responsibilities of, or proper practices for, an individual, party or organization.
Elevation / escalation
the process of flagging an issue or violation to be addressed by the Safety/ Code of Conduct behavior.
covers a wide range of behaviours of an offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behaviour which disturbs or upsets, and it is characteristically repetitive. It also includes behaviours that are threatening or disturbing.
treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit. types of discrimination include race, color, religion, sex, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, public assistance status, disability, and age.
the process of moving from elevating an issue to be addressed, to acting on resolving that issue.
a state of being valued, respected and supported. often referred to in terms of an event or community, as in an "inclusive event", meaning one that's welcoming and a respectful environment.
Follow-up Resources & Materials
- Why You Want a Code of Conduct & How We Made One (Erin Kissane)
- Codes of Conduct 101 & FAQ (Ashe Dryden)
- Conference Anti-Harassment Resources (Geek Feminism Wiki)
- Familiarize yourself with an example of a short, medium and long Code of Conduct>(Geek Feminism Wiki)
- A great list of ways event attendees can help support anti-harassment policies (Geek Feminism Wiki)
- Contributor Covenant: A Code of Conduct for Open Source Projects
- What Makes a Good Community (Sarah Sharp)
Erin Kissane, Ashe Dryden, Aurelia Moser, Geek Feminism, Ada Initiative (RIP), Kaitlin Thaney, OSFeels Conference, and many more for their work in this area, help revising and for serving as a model for others (including us).