What to expect from a conflict support process
Our role as conflict support team is not to find a solution to the conflict at hand but to mediate and help generate the necessary conditions, for all parties involved, to identify the harm, stop it and heal as individuals and as community.
This process is based on that shared by Philly Stands Up collective as part of the book Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement and uses tools aligned with the principles of Nonviolent Communication.
The process consists of the following steps:
Step 1: What is the situation?
This first session is held between the Community Keeper (conflict support team member) and the person/people that have been harmed. It is a space for feelings to be expressed. Acknowledge the impact on them and listen with compassion and humility. It is also a place to ask about what their specific needs, wants, hopes and fears are related to this situation.
Step 2: Why has this situation occurred?
The Community Keeper calls on the individual(s) who have been named as causing harm to do the work of making repairs. This is also a place for feelings to be expressed and for specific needs, wants, hopes and fears to be identified related to this situation. The direct impact of their actions are to be explained and they will be encouraged to try to determine how the community is impacted by their actions.
Step 3: Take action to repair the situation.
If the harm is determined to be the result of behavior that lies within the stated boundaries of Animal Rebellion, the Community Keeper should work with all parties and the community to repair the harm with the aim of strengthening relationships and deepening mutual accountability. If appropriate, the person/people named as the one(s) who caused harm should:
- Regulate their own physical and emotional response to causing harm so that they can focus on the needs of those they harmed
- Acknowledge the behaviors that caused the harm and the impact of those behaviors
- Apologize for the behavior and ask if the apology can be accepted
- If the apology can be accepted, ask what can be done to repair the harm
- Work with the Community Keeper to repair harm
If the harm is determined to be the result of behaviors that violate the boundaries set by Animal Rebellion or if the person who has caused harm continues to engage in harmful behaviors after multiple attempts to “call-in”:
- A direct reminder will be made to that person that they have agreed to hold themselves accountable.
- The person causing harm will be informed that if another harmful behavior occurs, the consequences outlined in the community agreements (P&Vs/Constitution, to be handled by the Conduct Team) will be enacted.
- Group members will be encouraged to support both those harmed and the person who caused harm in ways that lie within the stated community agreements.
- Enforce the consequences stated in the community agreements
- Avoid calling out in ways that shame, blame or punish.
When people are upset, they often need empathy before they can hear what is being said to them. It is important to apply de-escalation tactics to stop the immediate harm but it is also important to support all the individuals involved to create the conditions necessary for them to engage in self-accountability. (Regular check-in sessions, support meeting essential physical and mental needs, etc).
This humbling and more fundamentally “human” work has helped Philly Stands Up to see what it truly means to acknowledge that we are all in community together, that a politics of trust depends on everyday support and interdependence, and that nobody rests outside of these principles in a just society.
Accountability can’t be forced, real accountability comes from the desire to transform our own behavior. If the person/people causing harm can help brainstorm our objectives, timeline, and tactics to make amends, then they feel more invested in the process to come. As collaborators in a process rather than participants in an externally imposed program, they might be more reluctant to bail on commitments.
Step 4: Reflect on the process.
The Community Keeper or another volunteer can lead the group through a process of reflection by asking these questions adapted from Kai Cheng Thom in the Loving Justice Framework:
- Were we completely honest with ourselves and each other? What questions still remain?
- Did we approach the process with humility? Have we taken time to address the way we may have contributed to harm?
- Were we brave in our efforts to work through tensions and name harm? Did we confront our own biases and the possibility that we have replicated oppressive norms?
- Were we kind and compassionate to all members of the group while honoring our boundaries? Did we respond in ways that reinforce positive behaviors and avoided shame and punishment?