Community Agreements or Group Guidelines are most effective when co-created by a ‘the group’ (a class, workshop, organization etc). early on in the process. Agreements help to create a safer and braver container to hold ‘courageous conversations ‘. The process looks differently in different settings, but it typically begins with questions to the group like:
- What helps you feel comfortable/safe sharing in group settings?
- What do you see as some of the essential ingredients of group conversations about ‘hot topics’ that are candid, generative, and ideally transformative?
This could begin as a whole group brainstorm, a solo activity (people writing their comments on sticky notes) or as a ‘pair/share’ activity. However it begins, the collectively agreed upon guidelines would ideally be posted somewhere prominent throughout the workshop / class discussion.
In the case of a workshop that is bringing together people from different walks of life for the first time, the co-development of guidelines is the group’s first collaboration. It helps set the tone for working together respectfully and effectively, and it also gives folks a chance to reflect upon their needs, share values, assert boundaries, and develop agency.
Collaboratively developed Community Agreements are helpful to refer back to if/when conflicts or problems arise during the inevitable ups and downs of meaningful and transformative dialogue. (e.g. Let’s remember that at the beginning of the process we ALL agreed to try to be accountable for the impacts of our words and actions—however unintentional–but to also try to assume positive intent.)