Building a Thriving Compassionate Community (BTCC) Working Agreements

Why Working Agreements?

BTCC has a set of working agreements to guide us as we create and hold spaces together. These norms help us to facilitate spaces that aim to be welcoming and supportive while also allowing for- and sometimes drawing out- the discomfort and challenge necessary for growth. We chose to adopt “brave” rather than “safe” space agreements, as we acknowledge safety is not distributed equitably and striving for it can favor and conform to those who already benefit from our current systems.

The bolded working agreements came from AWARE-LA’s “Brave Space Agreements,” with our interpretations below. Interpretations inspired by the AORTA Resource Zine.

● Welcome multiple viewpoints

○ We enter into spaces with our own experiences and histories. Remember and recognize that our truth may not be the truth and approach different perspectives with curiosity.

● Own your intentions and impacts

○ As we seek to push ourselves to acknowledge and address systems inequities, we are open and willing to learn from others. Rather than judging right/wrong or good/bad we strive toward effective, compassionate communication.

● Work to recognize your privileges

○ Acknowledge the ways in which we are complicit in maintaining the status quo. We have to own and name it to use the privileges we have to help create new narratives.

● Take risks: lean into discomfort

○ Growth can be uncomfortable and is almost always messy. While we might not always be able to embrace the mess, we can strive to acknowledge it and its role in our learning process.

● Move Up, move up

Moving from comfort to stretch zone, whatever that looks like for you. Move up to listen or move up to speak.

● Notice and name group dynamics in the moment

Address tensions, confusion, clarity – all the things – in the moment to prevent stress and keep us on track. We can’t learn if we are in the emotional weeds. We are working to embody our values not just with others, but within the group, too. Let’s avoid carrying stuff out that festers.

● Actively listen

○ Listen with curiosity to hear the person who is speaking. Resist the urge to formulate a verbal response while someone is sharing. Pause.

● Challenge with care

○ Be kind and respectful even when confronting. It’s okay that we have conflict, but not okay to dominate or ridicule.

● Break it down

○ Acronyms and jargon can be distancing and inaccessible. Context is important, language matters, and clarification is good thing.

● Acknowledge the role of trauma in all our lives

○ We are all holding, carrying, and processing trauma. We know that some populations, however, are more vulnerable to trauma exposure.

● Be generous with/for each other. Be generous with ourselves.

○ Know our limits. Ask for help.

● Reflection is action

Value the intentionality that can come from slowing down, processing, and synthesizing.

Both/and instead of either/or

○ Complexity rarely yields clear-cut responses and it is easy to see choices as conflicting. Challenge yourself (and the team) to identify the subtleties- the ways the polarities are “complementary and interdependent.” How can we recognize and hold the both/and in spaces when we often see either/or? Remember “breathing isn’t a choice between inhaling and exhaling.” (https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/are-you-facing-a-problem- or-a-polarity/)

AWARE-LA, www.awarela.org. AORTA Resource Zine, Spring 2014, info@aortacollective.org, www.aortacollective.org