Brigade Day Breakout: Community Agreements

For posting notes from the Brigade Day Breakout Session on Community Agreements!

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These were taken from Slack, posted by @mhorowski

  • Please be respectful and generous with one another. No personal attacks

  • Assume good intentions

  • Be aware of the space you take up. If you’ve dominated discussion thus far, take a step back and let others share their perspective. If you haven’t contributed but have something to share, please do consider weighing in.

  • Use “I statements” to center your own experiences and feelings, rather than presume others’ experiences.

  • Frame your comments and questions in where we might go from here, as opposed to what’s already happened. “How might we…”; “What would it look like if we…” are good prompts to encourage more productive outcomes.

Some fit what we’ve discussed but seems like a good place to document them.

Identify pronouns:

Leaders can model behavior on pronouns by, when introducing everyone in a group setting, mentioning name and pronouns.

Example: “I’m Em, I live in Portland. My pronouns are they/them.”
Common pronouns are: he/him, she/hers and they/them
Someone may have different pronouns than the ones listed here.

Pronouns are not exclusive to in person events. When onboarding new members, you can ask for pronouns (in intake forms, for instance). You can have pronouns stickers for name badges. And you can model by putting your pronouns in: your slack profile, your twitter bio, any company bio or anywhere that might also include your bio or intro.


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This book was shared as good reading on the “discussion before perfection” agreement: Do Better Work: Finding Clarity, Camaraderie, and Progress in Work and Life

The first line in the description is maybe a better way to state this value:

Share before you’re ready

But I think our community agreement needs to be about not just doing that, but also actively creating an environment that welcomes and encourages others to

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¿? "Love the questions themselves"
There is such a thing as “good awkward” sometimes. Accordingly, let questions linger. You can release the compulsion to answer them, or to have them answered immediately. Another riff: “the deeper the urgency, the deeper the pause.”

3️⃣ "Come by three times " – at Code for Boston we try to give new folks a way to gracefully opt out of joining a group on their first visit so they don’t take up group’s capacity with on-boarding. As a part of this, we encourage new members to expect to come at least three times in a row to contribute productively. That way, they’re less likely to weigh down forward progress unduly.

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  • This stand for “Why Am I Talking?” and “Why Ain’t I Talking?”
  • The idea is for everyone to identify whether they are a person who tends to talk more than their share or less than their share. You might talk more or less depending on context. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if you’re dominating, but asking others privately can help you get a sense.
  • A discussion where a few people dominate is not very fun and tends to have low quality of results.
  • So, it helps if each person knows their tendency and comes towards the middle.
  • Finally, as a facilitator, you might even want to use a time keeper or something to help people self-regulate, but be prepared to deal with people who even when they see they are talking more will clam they deserve to because of their experience or knowledge around the subject.
  • This has also been called “Step up / Step back”, but that is using ableist language.

Don’t Yuck My Yum

  • If someone expresses excitement or support for something, it is ok if you don’t share their enthusiasm, but it is not ok to try to ruin it just because you don’t feel the same.
  • Often, when people feel differently about something as simple as whether the group should prioritize or assign tasks first, there is a solution that works for everyone. It may be as easy as breaking into groups based on preference.
  • However, if someone’s “Yum” is offensive, dismissive, or mean, your Code of Conduct still applies. Even then, it is usually easiest for the person to receive feedback if it can be handled carefully and privately to avoid publicly shaming anyone and to give all parties a chance to express themselves.

Use Active Listening

  • Active Listening is about trying to really understand, engage, and make room for the person who is talking.
  • It is an affirmation that listening is more than not talking (just as peace is more than the absence of war). For example, if you’re spending the entire time someone is talking, thinking about what you’re going to say, then you’re not actively listening.
  • To help practice active listening, you can take notes on what the person is actually saying. This can help you capture all of it, so you don’t just forget the parts that you didn’t understand or were less interesting to you.
  • It can also help to practice pausing after someone finishes speaking to give everyone including you and the speaker a chance to process what they said.
  • Leaders and facilitators can model active listening by taking notes and refusing to answer questions during open discussion. This affirms the fact that everyone has a right to speak and that if we (talkers especially), wait, then there’s usually at least one other person ready to say the thing we’re thinking. It’s better if it doesn’t always come from the same people, particularly from those in charge.

Screen Down When Necessary

  • For some people, it is hard to pay attention when they have a screen such as their phone or laptop up. And for others, it may be hard to trust that someone else is listening if they have a screen up.
  • In either case, you may want to use this community agreement for certain discussions where people agree not to be distracted or where trust is important.
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I want to add another that was modeled by the DEI leaders (Atica Helms Thomas & Barbara R. Gunn Lartey) of the 2019 CASA Davidson County Summit:

What is shared stays. What is learned, take.

  • We were sharing personal stories, perspective, and reactions on topics of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • The point of this Community Agreement was not to share people’s personal stories or comments outside the group, but to take the things you learned with you.
  • I think an important part of this is taking responsibility for how you interpret, react to, and make meaning (or learn) from others’ sharings. We need to recognize that we always shape a story in ourselves beyond what people meant. We should take responsibility for that.