Code of Conduct: instructions for creating a framework for caring and safe interactions

What’s not important to you may be important to others.

At Sud Web, we assume that people are sensible and thoughtful, and we don’t try to tell them what to do, especially since in the french conference landscape, Sud Web appears to be among the most welcoming. However, organizing this event in a safe 1 environment seems important to us.

We have therefore decided to propose guidelines that will make everyone feel comfortable.

Why a Code of Conduct?

In each community, group or assembly, there is a dominant primary culture and people who do not belong to that culture. These people are therefore under-represented in the context, and of course they are more likely to be “oppressed” by the mainstream community. Often, this oppression manifests itself in hurtful behaviours or attitudes that are adopted without realizing it.

This is where these instructions are used to create a safe environment for those who are under-represented by highlighting an issue.

These instructions are a precautionary approach that allows us to anticipate uncomfortable situations that are inherent in a context.

Adopting these guidelines creates a trusting and caring relationship and invites those who are under-represented to join the community safely. This contributes to fostering and promoting diversity.

How does it work?

To safeguard and encourage the framework we aspire to, we have defined what works for us, and what does not:

Encouraged behaviours:

Hospitality! Let’s make sure that people (of all backgrounds and identities) are welcomed, that they feel accepted in an open and warm environment. This includes, but is not limited to, members of any ethnic group, culture, nationality, colour, immigration status, economic and social class, level of education, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, size, family status, political belief, religion, and mental and physical ability.

Benevolence and care! Let us approach each other with kindness, that is to say, the willingness to aim for the good and happiness of others, and let us make sure that we are caring by making sure that our way of acting is based in kindness.

Behaviour we would like to discourage

What happens if I experience an uncomfortable situation that refers to these instructions?

First of all, know that you are totally legitimate in saying that you are not comfortable with what is happening.

Depending on your comfort level, there are a few options to choose from:

  1. You feel secure and empowered: you are encouraged to report what happened to the organizing team.
  2. You don’t feel secure and/or empowered:
    • talk to a person you trust who is there. He or she will report what happened to the organizing team;
    • call a trusted friend;
    • go to a place and/or to people you feel comfortable with

What can I do if I observe an oppressive situation or other CoC violations?

Although the options are multiple and often depend on the context and people involved, we recommend the following behaviour:

  1. With the person who experienced something uncomfortable:
    • make sure that it was indeed a bad situation experienced by the person
    • If so, make sure they feel good
    • If you feel comfortable doing so, ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. If so, ask them how they want to deal with the situation, or how they want you to deal with it
    • in any case, what’s important is to adapt your behaviour to the needs and requests of the person you are supporting.
  2. With the person causing the uncomfortable feeling (after the “victim” has given their consent):
    • Call them out;
    • Check if they’re willing to talk about the situation that you observed
      • if so, ask them “how they feel about the situation[describe the situation]”;
      • If not, propose to talk about it later on and/or report what happened to the organizing team.

This is, of course, a non-exhaustive proposal that does not take into account multiple contexts and people. Our objective is more to define a framework than a strict method 2.

What happens if the instructions are not followed?

Assuming we are informed about the situation, the organizing team’s purpose is to do something while being well aware that each situation is different. First and foremost, we want to support people who have experienced something uncomfortable.

The first thing we’re going to do is to make the person who experienced something uncomfortable feel better. Ideally, we build the resolution with them to make them feel that something is done, but everything will depend on them.

Regarding the person who caused the situation, exclusion is possible but not automatic. There is a whole range of intervention options and we are determined to find the right solution every time.

1 : Here, a “safe” environment embodies an atmosphere of trust, tranquillity and harmony in which I feel “cared for” and in affective and emotional security. This is an environment in which I don’t need to be on guard. That is to say, I am exempted from fears such as “What if the other person judges me? What if they laugh at me? What if I’m wrong? What if the other one asks me to justify myself?”.

2 : As David (fr) points out, we recall – for all intents and purposes – that there is already a legal framework in France to tackle discrimination. US readers, to learn more about how French people culturally perceive freedom of expression, here is an explanation