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Sassafras Tech Collective

Sharing our Guiding Documents: Code of Conduct

Published September 10, 2020

We are sharing our guiding documents for anyone interested in learning more about Sassafras, co-ops, or both. These include our Bylaws, Code of Conduct, Cultural Values and Practices, Basic Worker Expectations, Harassment and Bullying Policy, and Conflict Resolution Policy. Below is our Code of Conduct.

These agreements establish behaviors we are all committed to practicing in all Sassafras spaces (meetings, emails, online chats, Sassy Hour, social events, etc.). We agree they are necessary for maintaining an anti-oppressive space where everyone is respected. To see more about the attitudes and values guiding these practices, see Cultural Values and Practices.

  • Take care of yourself. When you need a break to pace yourself on energy, because you are stressed, must attend to physical needs, feel triggered, etc, please take it. 
  • Support everyone’s access needs. Check in about access needs.1 Share your access needs. Welcome others’ access needs. Collaborate to meet everyone’s needs. 
  • Ask consent. We continually build our skills with consent (see Cultural Values and Practices), and we rely on each other to consistently ask consent and respect ‘no’ before:
    • sharing personal and/or sensitive information (e.g. photos, location, stories)
    • starting a conversation on systemic oppression affecting one anothers’ personal lives (e.g. current events, pay, personal health, discrimination in technology)
    • offering unsolicited advice about personal life
  • Ask questions before assuming. The best way to understand the choices, actions, or intentions of one another is by asking.2 This is especially helpful when raising concerns and/or surfacing conflict. For example “What if we . . . ?” or “Can someone tell me more about why. . . ?”
  • Distinguish between intent and impact. Take responsibility for impact and address impact first. (This can be as simple as apologizing.) Recognize or be curious about intentions in yourself and others. Note: when someone does or says something that causes harm and/or upholds oppression, it is rarely their intention to do so. Using good intentions to deny harm or deflect responsibility for harm causes even more harm and demands even more effort and patience from the people or person harmed.
  • When offering critical feedback, do so with the belief that people can change; when receiving critical feedback, listen to others with a willingness to change.
  • We can’t be articulate all the time. Often people feel hesitant to participate in a workshop or meeting for fear of “messing up” or stumbling over their words. Participate, even if you can’t be as articulate as you’d like.
  • Move up, move up. If you’re someone who tends to not speak a lot, please move up into a role of speaking more. If you tend to speak a lot, please move up into a role of listening more and allowing time for those who tend to take longer to prepare their words. This is a twist on the more commonly heard “step up, step back.” The “up/up” confirms that in both experiences, growth is happening. (You don’t go “back” by learning to be a better listener.) Saying “move” instead of “step” recognizes that not everyone can step.
  • Be aware of internalized power structures. When evaluating and analyzing the words, actions, and credentials of co-workers and applicants, take the time to recognize if any proposed response or action may perpetuate power structures that are in place. Structures such as white supremacy, anti-blackness, ageism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism can all come into play when communicating with and evaluating others, regardless of our intentions, education, or political beliefs. When speaking, writing, and problem solving, be aware of how these structures affect what you say and suggest, and try to correct for it. See Cultural Values and Practices for more. 
  • Do not rely on people from marginalized groups to educate you about their oppression (especially if someone claims that something you have done or said was hurtful or oppressive). Instead, do some research, consult Sassafras resources, or talk to other people not from that group who you suspect might have some knowledge to share. See Cultural Values and Practices for more. 
  • Everyone is responsible for dismantling oppression. Name inequities when you see them, suggest a different structure or practice, make space for everyone. Use anti-oppression language to the best of your ability and continue growing that ability. See Cultural Values and Practices for more.
  • Speak from the ‘I’ and personal experience. Speaking from personal experience, (rather than generalizing with words like ‘everyone’) can go a long way in avoiding assumptions and giving everyone space to be their full selves.
  • No one knows everything; together we know a lot. Each person comes to a conversation with different levels of lived experience and embodied expertise. Each person has something to contribute to the conversation. Practice being humble, look for what you have to learn from each person, share what you know, and share your questions so others may learn.3
  • Avoid slurs, raised voices, and other communication that harms. 
    • Raising one’s voice, particularly when the person doing so holds systemic privilege (e.g. whiteness, maleness, able-bodied status), is a way to assert power over another person. A raised voice can be triggering to bystanders regardless of who is raising their voice. In some cases, raising one’s voice as an oppressed person can be a way to claim dignity and space. At Sassafras, if someone is not respecting what you are saying without you raising your voice, that is a problem in itself. Overall, avoid raising your voice; take a break and seek conflict or harassment/bullying support instead.
    • Never use slurs you are not in a position to reclaim, even in reference or ‘meta’ conversation. When someone requests that we not use a particular word or phrase because it is hurtful or triggering, accommodate that need.
  • Harassment and bullying-free workplace. We are committed to providing a harassment and bullying-free workplace for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, or religion. We do not tolerate harassment or bullying of community members in any form. Please read our harassment and bullying policy and procedure.

Sources and Resources

  1. Infiltration: How the values of oppressive systems tend to arise in co-ops (and what we can do about it) by Aorta Collective.
  2. AORTA Resource Zine by AORTA Collective.
    • “We can’t be articulate all the time” and “move up, move up”, “intention vs impact” are taken from this resource.
  3. Unity Statements by Michigan Women of Color Collective.
    • Part of “Communicate with compassion” is adapted from “Give trigger warnings.”
  4. “Alternatives to using ableist slurs” by Is This Ableism?
  5. “Ableism/Language” by Lydia Brown
  6. Community Anti-Harassment: Policy by Geek Feminism
    • “Harassment” section is based on this resource.
  7. “HOWTO design a code of conduct for your community” by The Ada Initiative
  8. “Code of Conduct evaluations” by Geek Feminism
  9. “TODO Group and Open Source Codes of Conduct” by Nikki Murray
  10. Community Agreements, Allied Media Conference 2020

  1. Access needs are anything someone needs in order to fully participate. This can include technology, time, breaks, emotional support (e.g. patience), reminders, and more.
  2. From Allied Media Conference 2020’s Community Agreements
  3. Adapted from “Facilitate for Freedom: Facilitating with an Anti-Oppression Framework” created and presented by AORTA at USFWC 2019