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Revisioning Omni's Safer Space, Conflict Resolution & Bans policies (2021).


July and August 2021 delegates' meetings brought to the fore a lack of familiarity with and conflicting interpretations of Omni's safer space, conflict resolution, and bans policies.

Subsequently, open calls for participation to collectively rethink and refresh these policies were put out on 8/23/21 (mediators list) & 8/29/21 (consensus list).

On 9/10/21, respondents to these calls met and began to design a three-month workshop-able process of intensive community engagement in which gaps/failures in and improvements to the current polices could be identified, with the aim of ultimately presenting a revamped version of these policies for delegates approval.

A critical inclusionary aspect of this process is its effort to engage voices not typically chiming in on these issues, either on omni lists or at delegates / WG meetings (ie, to hear from the plurality of omninoms). It was also recognized that the task of versioning policies around identifying, preventing and resolving harms in Omni's physical and virtual spaces is closely bound up with ideating positive statements around what might realistically make omni a more welcoming, safe and inclusive space to spend time in - and, in the process, hopefully begin to concretize what core elements of shared social and political solidarity meaningfully exist between groups and individuals at omni as a basis for all sharing the same building.

On 9/11/21, the rough outlines of this planned process was announced to the consensus list, inclusive of the sections that follow. On 9/13/21, this wiki page was created.

OVERVIEW: Participatory structure & schedule

Round 1.

Spend the first month getting direct feedback “one on one” from individual member collectives, sponsored projects, WG’s, and frequent users of omni. To this end, emails requesting to meet with each omni member collective / related project will be sent out shortly.

The discussion topic would be agendized into member group meetings and email lists, wherein we could hear from each group in a setting they felt most comfortable to freely speak on these fraught issues without too many other voices in the room. In order to facilitate frank discussions, all requests for anonymity of feedback, be they at an individual or group level, will be honored.

The qualitative feedback received in these discussions would gradually be aggregated and gathered into a wiki page or gdoc (anonymized to whatever degree requested) for communal review, so we as a community can all see / hear what we are all individually thinking on this topic. This would form the basis for moving forward with round 2:

Round 1 Discussion Prompts (proposed/wip):

The following prompts are a work in progress, but are primarily intended to open up conversation on these fraught topics.

1. Do you think of omni as a ‘safe space’? Why or why not? What incidents might you have experienced that felt oppressive or uncomfortable?

2. What is your understanding of Omni’s policies (‘safer space’, ‘conflict resolution’ et al), in your own words?

3. What are the problems if any, that you have experienced with these policies - in principle and in practice? (When have you felt unsafe or uncomfortable at Omni, or in an omni-related email list / virtual meeting?)

4. What might be examples of others' behavior you personally could not tolerate at Omni?

5. To what degree do you feel problematic behaviors at omni might sourced in the widespread socializations of white supremacy or other systemically-oppressive norms?

6. For temporary bans, is there a better term we can come up with than ‘bans’?

7. What do you think would make omni a more welcoming, safer space for you to do your work?

Round 2.

Spend the second month discussing the aggregated feedback from across omni within each group, and identifying / solidifying points of centrality or common agreement between member groups with respect to what the problems or gaps are in the current policies.

We would also spend this second month beginning to explore and articulate what prescriptive remedies and architectures of improved individual accountability, conflict resolution, and day-to-day rule-enforcement might be preferable / achievable, as opposed to the present status quo.

Round 3.

Spend the last month concentrating squarely on working up and formalizing new and specific language with respect to these policies, hopefully with additional inputs from professional mediators and RJ / TJ experts who have mediated omni conflicts in the past. This last stage would be inter-collective, ie, not via meeting separately with each member org, but in the form of larger inter-collective meetings and threads.

(Time permitting, this stage could also (entirely optionally) include additionally defining ‘community agreements’ to be agreed to by every omninom with respect to accepted standards of behavior and conflict resolution, and/or defining a ‘community accountability statement’ for omni as an org, or other typical restorative steps / tools used by community organizations out there doing work similar to omni.)

At the conclusion of the third month, settled language and revamp of the policies is put forward as a proposal to consensus.

Note: If this process proceeds with significant engagement more quickly than three months, that would be even better. (Organizers of this effort are just trying to be conservative with time projections here, given what we believe to be some wide differences in opinion relating to these topics.)

Omni policies under discussion (links)

Non-omni policies (for comparison)

Helpful texts

Below are some frequently-cited texts that speak to similar struggles within activist and community organizations in general, that could function as resources to help codify new policies.

Note these texts are not 'endorsed' in whole or part per se, however the fact is for many in the activist world, they form important touchstones for these issues and will have aspects that are relevant to Omni.

The basic idea behind referencing these texts is that Omni can only benefit from learning how other socially-conscious communities compassionately sought to address conflict and safety without fracturing. The approach of the organizers of this revisioning effort is that Omninoms should feel free to pick through these texts for the most useful or resonating aspects in the service of enlightening and improving our own policies.

Fumbling Towards Repair (workbook, 2019)

This a practical Transformative Justice workbook by Mariame Kaba and Shira Hassan. It is likely that at least some of the discussion prompts in our own effort will be drawn from this text.

Note that to support the important work of these authors, we are not posting the PDF publicly (omninoms should contact organizers if you wish to review this text, which we encourage. Members of the public should procure a copy at the link above.)

The Tyranny of Structurelessness (essay, 1972)

by Jo Freeman. One of the 'classics' discussing how power circulates in activist communities.

Liberatory Design (slide deck, c.2020?)

by Tania Anaissie, Victor Cary, David Clifford, Tom Malarkey and Susie Wise for the National Equity Project. Posits a relatively new framework for safely discussing these age-old problems.

Dismantling White Supremacy Culture (Still Here) (essay, 1999/2021)

by Tema Okun of SURJ. This is a 2021 update to another 'classic' essay, one used widely within countless organizing communities to identify various damaging social practices. They also have a less-linear, more-annotated hypertext version entitled: '(Divorcing) White Supremacy Culture' at their website.

Against Innocence: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Safety (essay, c.2015)

By Jackie Wang, from Lies (journal) #2. Our focus within this essay is on the ‘Safe Space’ section. Above is the PDF, click here for an html version

Generational Differences in Racial Equity Work (article, 2021)

by Dax-Devlon Ross.

Turning Towards Eachother (workbook, 2020)

by Jovida Ross and Weyam Ghadbian.

Progress to date

  • Call for initial participation: completed 8/23-29/21.
  • 1st meeting: completed 9/10/21
  • Email announcement of planned workshop process: completed 9/11/21
  • Initial wiki page creation: completed 9/13/21
  • Emails requesting participation to omni member groups: In-process.