When an community decides to adopt a Code of Conduct, one of the first things they should ask is “Who will enforce this Code of Conduct?”
For most events and online communities, enforcement falls to one person. Typically the person is an event organizer, or a leader in the online community. It’s someone who cares deeply about making the event or community a welcoming place. They want to do things “right” but aren’t sure whether they need to have more people involved.
It’s important that every event or online community, no matter how small, has at least two people who enforce a Code of Conduct. Here’s why.
When you’re an event organizer, you rarely get to enjoy your own event. Most of your time is spent helping others, ensuring the event stays on track, and dealing with last minute fires.
It can be hard if you’re an event organizer and you’re the only point of contact for people to make a Code of Conduct report. You’re running from place to place, talking quickly to other people, and you look… busy. Someone who wants to make a Code of Conduct report may decide that they don’t want to bother you.
It can be helpful to have two event volunteers whose only job is to take Code of Conduct reports. You can have one incident responder available in a fixed location, while the second incident responder walks around event space, ready to take a report on the spot.
If you’re involved in Code of Conduct enforcement in an online community, it’s typically because you care deeply about the community. You want to make the community a welcoming place. You probably know a lot of the community members.
Unfortunately, it can cause problems if you’re a leader of an online community and you’re the only person enforcing the community Code of Conduct. If one of your long-time friends in the community were reported, you would be biased towards them when you evaluate the report. If your online community includes your clients or co-workers, you also have a bias towards them.
Having two to three people involved in online community Code of Conduct enforcement allows the committee to address conflicts of interest. If one committee member has a platonic, romantic, or employment relationship with a reported person, there are two other people who can evaluate and follow up on the report.
Whether you run an event or an online community, you shouldn’t have only one person who evaluates Code of Conduct reports. Why? Because that one person has a specific life experience.
The one person in charge of the Code of Conduct may not have experienced discrimination based on race, gender identity, or disability. They may face marginalization because of one part of their identity, but have privilege in other parts of their life. It can be hard for them to understand the impact of harassment or microaggressions if they’ve never experienced that type of discrimination before.
Having multiple committee members evaluate a Code of Conduct report means everyone can contribute their lived experience. Having a diverse set of people enforcing a Code of Conduct is key to making a welcoming community for all people.
Whether you have one, two, or ten people taking Code of Conduct reports, it’s important to train them!
Otter Tech provides online training for Code of Conduct enforcement. Our Incident Response workshop teaches people how to take a Code of Conduct report, how to evaluate a report, and how to follow up with a reported person. If you’re adding a new Code of Conduct committee member, now is the time to get them trained.