Esphera Community Agreements

These Community Agreements are intended to create cohesion & clarity and to develop a container that makes safety possible for participants in our online and in-person community spaces. How we communicate and share space is important.

We acknowledge that the process of re-indigenization / decolonization, rooting out causes of suffering and dismantling forces of oppression along with deep internal healing / self realization, can stir up many charged emotions. We would like to provide a framework of relatedness for this process.

Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid. -Bernard Meltzer

1). Multiple truths can be true at the same time“the sky is blue & it is also grey” there can be more than one way of viewing a situation and they may all have merit and be true.

2). Self-care – go slow enough to be self-aware“What do you need to be present?” Drink water, take a break, get some air. You know what you need to be well. You are your best advocate.

3). Take space, make spaceIf you are a person who often finds themselves first to speak or at the front, consider creating space for another. If you are someone who traditionally remains quiet or in the back, consider stepping forward.

4). Speak from the heart: Remain connected to your heart when sharing and participate in a way that is in alignment with your body, not just your mind. Listen to your internal cues.

5). Oops & OuchAssume good intent / attend to Impact – People make mistakes. If you have been negatively impacted by something that someone has said or done signaling to them by saying “ouch” as opposed to a big “Call – Out” “You are Wrong”, gives them an opportunity to make amends. Concurrently use “Oops” if you have said/done something that you realize could cause harm and want to acknowledge your mis-step.

6). Ask Clarifying Questions – Don’t make AssumptionsGive people the benefit of the doubt. And before jumping to a conclusion about what they intended – ask them clearly and politely, ideally without charge. This allows space for a deeper, more nuanced understanding and possible bridge building. “Do you want feedback”?

7). Consent MattersAsk for and receive enthusiastic consent before touching someone, taking their picture, reposting something they have shared (reposting a public event someone has shared is ok).

8). Context MattersWho are we sharing space with? Where are we? Cultural competency is relevant. What privileges am I holding? Be mindful of the potential impact our comments and actions might have on the dynamic of the group. Is this the right time/space for this idea, issue, dynamic to be explored?

9). Embrace DiscomfortGrowth can be accompanied by feelings of discomfort. Even “being triggered” can indicate a growth edge. Does this feel challenging because it is out of alignment for me or is it uncomfortable because it is a growth edge ? Engage with tensions as they arise. Value the process not the outcome – be present to what is emerging without expectation.

10). Practice Active ListeningAvoid formulating your response while another is speaking. Practice curiosity, learn something new, and reserve judgment before immediately reacting to some else’s point of view. “Healing depends on listening with the inner ear… Fear keeps us chattering – It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.” – Marion Woodman

11). See people how they want to be seenHonor the multitude of identities that people hold. respect their wishes around gender pronouns, racial & cultural affiliations, etc. Meet people where they are at.

12). Confidentiality: Take the lessons, Leave the detailsFreedom to be vulnerable and real without fear of gossip, shame, and humiliation, is conducive to a healing environment. It is important to respect one’s sovereignty to tell their own story.

These community agreements are a product of years of organizing and activism. Inspiration was also derived from Allied Media Conference’s Healing Justice Portal Agreements, SOUL Flow Oakland, CLOUD 9, Nawabu, APTP’s Healing Justice Manual.

Follow up Questions:

What agreements would you like to add to feel safe in this space and be able to show up fully in your authenticity?

Which of these are easy for you to practice or embody?

And which of these might be difficult for you today or do you have questions about?

Definitions on “Scale of Conflict”

derived from Adrienne Marie Brown’s : We Will Not Cancel Us

ABUSE: behaviors (physical, emotional, economic, sexual, and many more) intended to gain, exert, and maintain power over another person or in a group. When abuse is present, professional support, space, and boundaries are needed.

CONFLICT: disagreement, difference, or argument between two or more people. Can be personal, political, structural. 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 relationship and/or groups through naming both the differences and the impact of the differences, facing the roots of the issues, and honest conversation, especially supported conversation such as mediation.

HARM: the suffering, loss, pain, and impact that can occur both in conflict and in instances of abuse, as well as in misunderstandings steeped in differences of life experience, opinion, or needs. Harm is what needs healing working with individual healers, therapists, and in community to understand where the hurt is and what it would look like to not be ruled by it.

CRITIQUE: an analysis or assessment of someone’s work or practices. Critique ideally helps us grow collectively by detailed engagement with what comes into the public sphere as writing, creation, behavior. Critiques can help us grow and transform that which can be shaped (though I am not interested in critiques centered on aspects of people that they do not control and can’t change). Critique doesn’t need resolution but acceptance and discernment-you won’t please everyone, take what can grow you and keep it moving. Critiques are part of how we sharpen each other.

CONTRADICTION: the presence of ideas, beliefs, or aspects of a situation that are opposed to one another. Movements are often tense with the contradiction between what we believe and are fighting for and what we feel we must practice to navigate current conditions. One example of a common contradiction in movements is our belief in climate catastrophe and environmental justice, while still believing that we need to come together physically in ways that entail massive amounts of plane rides, high levels of waste at gatherings, and unclear protocols around recycling, composting, not using plastic, and other basic environmental practices.
Another contradiction is to be an abolitionist but call for the arrest of those who hurt us. Contradictions can be handled by widening our perspective, acknowledging that these oppositional truths co-exist

MISUNDERSTANDING: incorrectly interpreting or not understanding what is being communicated. Something that can be resolved through a clarifying conversation, and if not addressed, can fester into conflict.

MISTAKES: when someone straight up messes up. Says something offensive or triggering, mishandles a situation, is dishonest, has a negative impact in spite of positive intentions, or doesn’t think something through. Mistakes can be resolved with an authentic, informed apology.