SSW Community Agreement in support of building a compassionate, accountable community
This community agreement was created by SSW faculty, students and staff to communicate our vision and our expectations of the collective responsibility to build and support a compassionate, accountable community. As we strive to fully embrace our five Core Principles in our work across the school, there are specific and concrete actions that each of us are being asked to take to bring these principles into reality.
Specifically, this agreement is made in support of Principle 2:
Ensure accountability at the individual, program and institutional levels and that there are meaningful processes for repair and reconciliation: In a complex organization like the SSW, we understand that there will be occasions when actions at the organizational, programmatic or individual levels may cause harm. It is essential that SSW take responsibility for creating and sustaining processes of accountability, for the impact of our policies, decisions, actions and words on the experience of Black faculty/staff/students/alumni, that of other folks of color, indigenous folks and folks with identities that have been marginalized. In recognition of our interdependence, SSW is responsible for ensuring that there are processes for repair and reconciliation following harm.
This agreement acknowledges that harm has occurred and continues to occur to Black and Indigenous students, faculty and staff, other students, faculty and staff of color, and/or those who hold other marginalized identities in our programs and through our operations. This agreement is required because we have failed in the past to realize promises to be an organization that lives its values of anti-racism at both the institutional and individual levels and have not created adequate processes of organizational and community accountability.
This community agreement is necessary to communicate that building a caring accountable community is each of our responsibility - individually and collectively. This agreement is part of a legacy project to bring all areas of the SSW organization including its programs and operations into alignment with our five Core Principles. Our success or inability to do so will carry impacts over further generations of SSW community members.
We acknowledge that there are differential impacts of socialization, oppression and privilege that shape our lives. This means that the responsibility for a compassionate, accountable culture is held differentially as well. The administration of SSW and those holding power within SSW’s programs hold particular responsibility to bring alignment of the School with its Core Principles. But each community member holds individual level responsibility for being a good ancestor of this School. We must all recognize the connection and interdependence that we have to each other in this School and in the world. It binds us together as a community. Consequently, our collective health and well-being is a community responsibility. To disenfranchise one of us is to disenfranchise all of us. Our actions or inactions affect our well-being and that of our community.
Finally, confronting social injustice is both joyous and painful. Liberation is possible. Building a compassionate, accountable community means that we must create spaces for joy and celebration, to notice when we have had success at the individual, collective and organizational level. This is an equally important part of healing and building together.
If you are a member of the SSW Community, you are committing to this community agreement and to being active in contributing to a compassionate, accountable community.
We thank these inspirational sources in the writing of this agreement: The writing of A.M. Brown (2017). Emergent strategy: Shaping change, changing worlds, AK Press; East Bay Meditation Center, Institute for the Development of Human Arts; Instituto Familiar de la Raza Mission and Vision
The following assumptions underlie this agreement.
- SSW originated and was founded on the values and assumptions of settler colonialism and whiteness and as such they are inextricably incorporated into our systems. Our work to align our programs and organization with the five Core Principles occurs within the power structures of higher education (e.g., faculty and students; faculty hierarchy, SSW being situated within a larger Smith College system). It occurs within the context of the teaching and learning of social work as an academic and professional discipline, which is historically and continues to be a colonial project. We are working to align our programs and School on our Five Core Principles recognizing that our success will always be constrained by the colonial values and assumptions upon which our School and programs operate.
- While we acknowledge the importance of all identities and their intersections, through our accountability process we give primary importance to addressing anti-Black racism.
- We recognize that this agreement requires the engagement of every community member - staff, students, faculty and administration.
- Each of us will misstep because we are all constantly learning.
- This agreement is actionable. We ask all members of our community to work actively to meet the items of this agreement.
- These agreements themselves are iterative and will adapt over time in response to changing circumstances and lessons.
I agree to demonstrate the same compassionate and ethical behavior within this community as I demonstrate and is expected of me in my professional work with clients and/or colleagues. This requires that:
- I participate in this community from a place of openness to ideas and difference.
- I am self-reflective.
- I bring awareness when I move into the mindset that there is one right way, pushing others to agree with me or punishing others when they do not.
- I examine the possibility that my perspective is limited or incomplete.
- I continuously expand my tolerance for ambiguity, expanding my ability to hold the tension between the needs of different members of the community, and between the individual needs and the health and equity of the community.
- I practice mindful listening and avoid planning what I want to say as I listen to others.
- I work from the perspective that everyone in this community brings their own expertise and we all can gain from and respect each other’s various expertise. We each have our own histories, traumas, experiences, strengths, triggers and joys.
I agree to actively do my own work so that I am able to participate in an accountable community. This includes being actively engaged in processes of self-learning as well as the work of self-care. This requires that:
- I am proactive in identifying my areas of growth and needs required for me to meet the terms of this agreement and address them.
- I take responsibility for my beliefs, feelings and actions.
- I am knowledgeable about the varied impact that socialization, oppression and privilege brings and how this shapes my and others’ participation in accountability processes.
I agree to be aware and mindful of the space I occupy in meeting spaces, discussions and conversations. This requires that:
- I am aware of the extent to which I am sharing the floor with others.
- I create the conditions to allow those who are not speaking to participate.
- I am open to someone else speaking their truth.
- I value the process as much as, if not more than, I value the outcome.
I agree to receive feedback from others in the community as the gift of an opportunity to repair and grow. This requires that:
- I understand that conflict can be generative. Difference does not have to mean division. I can grow in my understanding and my capacity when I “indulge dialogue, not drama.”
- I grow my capacity to be able to stay in a hard conversation in ways that honors the humanity of every person involved.
- I learn and practice how to receive feedback from others without criticizing another for who they are as a person.
I accept responsibility to be knowledgeable of and to fully participate in SSW accountability practices. This requires that:
- I operate from an understanding that each of us is capable of perpetuating power dynamics and oppression, even those of us who have been harmed by those same dynamics.
- When harm is committed, I ask why and explore the root causes. I center the behavior, not the person.
- I speak up in ways congruent with this agreement on behalf of members of our community who have experienced marginalization. If I witness harm I will speak up in ways that hold the humanity of all.
Created by and for the SSW community:
Cynthia Cuellar Ajanel
Joanna Beltran Giron