Member Guidance and pathways for disagreement, harm, and conflict resolution

Drafted by: RG Staff Conflict Resolution Subscope

Context:

  • During Feb 2021 staff retreat we discussed the need for more guidance and clarity for members of RG on navigating conflict within chapters, with staff or with nationally made decisions, a team of 4 staff formed to begin addressing the need with input and review from the organizing team. 
  • This is a living document that is not comprehensive but is meant to be a starting place and to evolve based on learnings. You can share input here.
  • This work is to be held collectively. The conflict resolution subscope formed for a finite amount of time and is dissolving but can be called upon in the future as needed. 

Outcomes: 

  • Internal-facing document for chapter organizers to understand their role, expectations, and resources available to them related to chapter conflicts.
  • External-facing document for members on process and resources available to them. (this doc)
  • All staff trained on interpersonal tension clearing, restorative communication, and conflict resolution through a transformative justice lens
  • Get feedback from chapter organizers and chapter members about how to make these processes most supportive, accessible and responsive.

Staff Commitments / Request for member, volunteer, and partner commitments

We agree to show up for ourselves and one another to the best of our abilities in these ways during conflict. We recognize that within the organizational hierarchy there may be different risks involved in conflict and seek to hold one another with care. (2018 RG Organizing Team)

  • Hold many truths as true.
  • As much as possible, speak from the I.
  • Recognize intent, tend to impact.
  • Conflict is rarely flat, assume complexity.
  • Attempt to avoid absolute language & give specifics as able.
  • Commit to self reflection on personal patterns and behaviors in a conflict. 
  • Commit to seeking and asking for accountability, not perfection.
  • Recognize that these processes impact parties differently based on race, class, ability, gender, relationship to organization and other forms of positionality.

See also, mutual code of conduct  and culture shifts (from 2019) for members and staff. 

Relevant Terms:

Conflict: Disagreement, difference, or argument between two or more people. Can be personal, political, structural, and/or opposing wants and needs. There may be power differences, and there will most likely be dynamics of privilege and oppression at play. Conflicts can be direct and named, or indirect and felt. Conflicts rooted in genuine differences are rarely resolved quickly and easily. Conflicts can be held in a relationship and/or group through naming both the differences and the impacts of the differences, facing the roots of the issues, and honest conversation, especially supported conversation such as mediation. It has the possibility of being generative or transformative in a way that abuse does not. Disagreement can often transform into conflict when all parties are trying to shift themselves or others. Definition adapted from adrienne marie brown in “We Will Not Cancel Us” and Spring Up

Harm: Negative impact or injury to a person, group or community. This injury can be of many types: physical, financial, emotional, sexual, spiritual, environmental and so on. Harm can occur in the context of conflict and misunderstanding, though it is often an abuse of power. Definition adapted from Creative Interventions, Spring Up, and “We Will Not Cancel Us” by adrienne marie brown

Relevant inquiries:

  • How do I understand the difference between conflict and harm?
  • How do I understand the difference between conflict and hurt?
  • When I feel hurt, how do I respond?
  • When I hurt someone else, how do I respond?
  • What supports might make new responses possible?
  • How does race and class inform my expectations around comfort and conflict? 

*Definitions were generated through a group process in February 2021, additional terms, definitions and backstory can be found here

Pathways for responding to different scenarios 

For member to member interpersonal tensions:
As possible, we ask that members address one another directly and work to cultivate a culture of thoughtful and direct feedback within chapters which allows for tensions (moments of interpersonal strain) to regularly surface without escalating. Member leaders can ask chapter organizers for support and suggestions on how to integrate feedback into chapters. An additional tool available that we modified from Collab is to do a tension clearing. All staff are trained on tension clearings and can be available to help answer questions, train others or to help mediate the process. Note: We do not consider principled struggle or political disagreement the same as conflict and harm, and thus might use different tools and discernment for working through these differences.  

If the interpersonal tension/difference is negatively impacting the collective work of the chapter and cannot be resolved between members directly:
Discuss with your chapter organizer to make a plan together on how to address the issue. If you jointly deem it helpful, RG will hire a paid transformative justice/conflict resolution facilitator to support in the situation. Also, consider as a chapter reviewing and committing to/adapting these recommended culture shifts

If the level of conflict rises to harm or the process of holding internally (by members and/or staff) isn’t moving towards repair:
Discuss with your chapter organizer or other staff member to make a plan together on how to address the issue. If the harm happened in formal RG spaces and outside support would be helpful, RG will hire a paid transformative justice/conflict resolution facilitator to help move the situation towards repair. If the conflict is existing in personal life outside of RG spaces, staff will still support to connect members with meaningful support and resources and check in on how things are going and what’s needed related to chapter spaces. 

Member political disagreement with RG national:
Specific concerns can be brought directly to the scope that is leading on the area of work or relayed via local chapter decision making body, which will then be flagged to chapter organizers. The scope leading on the area of work (ex-comms, programming, c4 etc) will add to scope agenda, to discuss and respond to concerns jointly. If a chapter has a concern about a national program, decision, policy, or pattern, they can ask their National Member Council rep to raise this tension and it would be addressed in regular meetings. Depending on capacity, individuals may also reach out directly to a staff member to set up time to chat. 

Member conflict with RG staff member:
If in a conflict (a disagreement, difference, or argument between two or more people) we encourage members and staff to address this directly with each other. This can be in the form of feedback (review of or sharing of an opinion and/or an experience of someone else’s performance, product, or behavior) that results in a behavior change, or interpersonal tension clearing (which can be facilitated by a third party who is not involved in the conflict). 

Member experiencing harm from RG staff:
Harm, defined as “some form of negative impact or injury to a person, group or community. This injury can be of many types: physical, financial, emotional, sexual, spiritual, environmental and so on.” Members can request an interpersonal tension clearing process or with staff which centers their experience and is a facilitated space that gives them an opportunity to be heard, validated and deepen mutual understanding. This interpersonal tension clearing can be facilitated by a third party on staff or by an external facilitator. If the behavior falls more into pattern rather than a specific incident the member is encouraged to set up a feedback session with the staff member or contact the staff member’s supervisor to express concerns. Members can also opt to anonymously communicate harm via a staff’s supervisor. List of staff members and their supervisors can be found here

Member experiencing harassment from staff, member, or volunteer:
Official language on harassment from our HR manual: The law does not permit, nor will we tolerate, harassment of Resource Generation staff members by other Resource Generation staff members or by our members, board members, volunteers or vendors. Likewise, we will not tolerate any harassment of a member, volunteer or vendor by a Resource Generation employee. This policy is critical to our work. Actions that are inappropriate, even if they do not reach the level of illegal activity, will not be tolerated. Full policy and complaint process can be found here.

If a member experiences harassment from another member, staff, or board member and reports this harrassment to their staff Chapter Organizer, the Chapter Organizer must inform their supervisor, who will then take the formal steps in the process to inform the Executive Director who will launch an investigation. 

If a member is experiencing harassment from their staff Chapter Organizer, they should report the harassment to the Chapter Organizer’s supervisor or to the Executive Director, who will launch an investigation. If a member is experiencing harassment from the Executive Director, they should inform the board chair.

On mandatory reporting: Any staff person who has a supervisory or management role is mandated to report the Executive Director if they receive a report of harassment.