Virtual community

Clog’s Guide to Making Virtual Community Agreements

Each week this summer, a group of students involved with The Daily Californian have come together on Zoom to discuss ways to make our organization a more welcoming space for people of all backgrounds. Formally meeting as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, we have decided on a set of agreements to follow in our virtual meeting space.

Developing a set of community agreements was an important part of the agenda for our virtual meeting. The space we keep together needs to be safe and welcoming, which is why we made it a top priority in our early meetings by formalizing the process of writing community agreements. At Clog, we consider this valuable insight, so here’s a guide to writing community agreements for your virtual team.

Recognize your space as vulnerable

Everyone comes from different experiences and backgrounds, so some people may have knowledge about certain things that others don’t. This makes people in shared spaces vulnerable. Establishing agreements can protect team members, foster boundaries, and create space for growth.

Discuss the needs of your community

Not all spaces are the same, so be sure to make your agreement-drafting process a collaborative one. This will allow people to come up with deals that could only be suggested by themselves. It doesn’t matter if an agreement applies to one or a few people; it allows underrepresented people to feel heard and welcome.

Update your agreements over time

People change, and so do your agreements. When new people join, allow them to add their own deals. You can also set up a process for changing old agreements as a team. It may sound redundant, but it’s very important in maintaining a safe and welcoming space.

Respect them and follow them

Creating agreements is an important task, but the most essential part of the process is holding each other accountable for the agreements you have all collectively made. Remind your teammates of your agreements at the start of meetings, and don’t be afraid to offer praise when people are actively sticking to them.

Learn from other communities

Many organizations create publicly available agreements that you can access online. Consider updating your agreements with those established by other communities.

Here are seven of the foundational community agreements we use for the Daily Cal’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee:

  1. Take space, make space.
  2. Practice active listening – listen to understand before you are understood.
  3. Normalize by admitting that you are wrong or have been misinformed.
  4. Make room for people to learn and grow. Recognize that people are at different levels of information and avoid judging them on their lack of knowledge.
  5. Assume good intentions.
  6. Own your impact.
  7. Zero tolerance for hatred, discrimination or prejudice.

I hope this guide has given you some guidance on creating your own Virtual Community Agreements. We urge you to take the time to formulate these agreements, as they can foster a more open and free space for the people you find yourself with in a virtual community.

Contact Sera Smith at [email protected].