Safer Spaces Agreement

Bristol Solidarity Network cannot fully meet its goals if it is not fully inclusive, or if it leaves any people feeling marginalised, unrepresented, or unwelcome.

Members should feel able to contribute to whatever extent they like, and be comfortable doing so, knowing that they will be respected and their views valued. A safe space is a space in which people are protected from any kind or level of abuse.

Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and will be challenged. This includes, but is not limited to: racism, ageism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, sexism or ableism. Prejudice based on class, gender identity, gender presentation, language, ethnicity, nationality, asylum status, activist experience or religious affiliation will not be tolerated.

It is everyone’s responsibility to challenge prejudice & oppression. This list is not exhaustive and it is up to all of us to help create an organisation where everyone feels safe and included.

We have no interest in reproducing the many inequalities of society in our organisation or interactions and recognise that oppression can happen at a political, social or personal level.

We encourage members to be aware of the social space we each occupy, as well as the positions and privileges we may be conveying, including racial, class and gender privilege. With this in mind, we will always avoid behaviour or language that may perpetuate oppression.

We want to create and maintain an organisational culture where we can question our learned behaviours and challenge others and ourselves, in the spirit of mutual respect and learning together.

We need to work towards acting in ways that are respectful and build communities of trust and support.

Real equality, safety and solidarity is both an individual and a collective responsibility.

What can you expect from us?

• All Solnet members will take an active role in upholding the safer spaces agreement. We will engage in constructive criticism if another member, or a visitor says something problematic, and will be willing to listen to criticism of ourselves.
• The maintenance of a safer space will be taken seriously, as will any transgressions. If you feel that your safety has been compromised, you can expect to be listened to, and your concerns acted upon. If you are accused of transgressing the agreement, you can also expect to be heard out, though this may not be appropriate at the very same moment that you are accused if someone else is upset. We will endeavour to offer accessible explanations about any problems, and criticism which is constructive and directed at changing behaviour, acknowledging that the many and intersecting privileges and prejudices of the world we live in do not always make this easy.
• Anyone can leave a meeting room at any time, for instance if they are feeling stressed and want some time away from discussion. This is fine, and we will not belittle anyone for doing so. Another member will step out when convenient to see if you want to talk or find somewhere quiet to sit together or similar – although there is no pressure if you just want to be left alone. When possible, we will also try to maintain a more tranquil area alongside actions when we are out and about. For instance, if we are confronting a landlord about a property at that location, a member may wait outside with hot tea and biscuits should anyone wish to step out for a time or to have some quiet time after the action.

We will respond to any statement that the safer space has been compromised seriously.

Our responses to a transgression of the safer space will vary according to context and severity. They may include:

• Being “called out” in a meeting. Simply, this means that anyone present can question another’s words or action if they are problematic or offensive. This is intended as constructive criticism, and anyone “calling out” someone else should make an effort to word it as such.
• A one-to-one conversation with another Solnet member. Again, this is intended as a constructive step. A one-to-one conversation, outside of the meeting context, enables a more in depth discussion of the problem, which might be difficult in the meeting. The Solnet member may suggest online resources, for instance, that they think might provide an accessible explanation of why someone’s behaviour was deemed problematic, and offer alternatives. This also avoids further upset to anyone directly affected by the safer spaces agreement being broken, should they wish to avoid the person who broke the agreement until the problem is resolved.
• Being removed from a Solnet event. This is not intended to sever all ties with an individual. Sometimes, if a situation arises which is impossible to deal with on an immediate basis, it may be preferable for the individual accused of breaking the safer spaces agreement to be absent for the rest of the meeting/action if possible. This will enable other Solnet members to consult eachother, those directly affected by the breach, and the accused at a more convenient time, with the hope that this will allow for a better resolution of the problem to be achieved. This being said, we will offer an explanation of why an individual has been asked to leave, although in some situations details may be sparse if a person affected wishes to maintain anonymity for the time being. Group force may be applied in removing an individual when other possibilities have been exhausted e.g. if an individual continually refuses to leave or attempts to re-enter an event.
• Being banned from future meetings and events. This is an action we very much hope not to have to take. However, if an individual continually compromises the safer space for others, despite being informed of this on previous occasions, and shows no signs of effort to not do so, it may be that Solnet is not an appropriate space for them to organise within.

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