While this blog will address several important areas in the new code of conduct, it won’t cover everything. It’s strongly recommended that all members of the Code for Philly community take the time to read the code of conduct in full.
Why A New Code of Conduct
Well, for one thing, we have a new leadership team. The transition is a good opportunity for the people fostering a supportive environment at Code for Philly to review what they are now charged with enforcing.
Being responsible for the collective health and wellbeing of a community like Code for Philly is as exciting as it is stressful. As a queer woman who has experienced toxic communities, I feel driven to do what I can to help make Code for Philly a safer space.
First, we’ve added more details regarding expectations for our community members and volunteers to help foster positive experiences. We’ve also outlined specific actions and behaviors that won’t be tolerated. As much as we may want to make sweeping generalizations like “don’t be an asshole” — there’s weight that comes with calling hurtful and inappropriate actions exactly what they are. Anyone who has witnessed the media use vague and waffling words to report on sexual assault or racist attacks can attest to that.
Job Advertising Policy
It’s a good thing that people want to share job postings with Code for Philly. It’s a sign of a healthy, respected community. However, we don’t want any of Code for Philly’s platforms to become overly spammy or predatory. We’re asking that anyone who wants to share a for-profit job opportunity to do so in our dedicated #jobs channel on slack. You don’t have to request to join the jobs channel, but you may have to search for it.
Political Action Policy
The previous version of the code of conduct described Code for Philly as “non-political.” Our parent organization, Code for America, currently describes itself in their code of conduct as “non-political.” To quote the Princess Bride:
The fact is that when we as an organization stress our belief in open source code, open data and government transparency—we are being political.
So, we’ve omitted that descriptor in this new version of the code of conduct. That doesn’t mean we’re suddenly a political action committee. As an organization, Code for Philly will not endorse any candidate running for office. If time and a platform is ever given to a candidate by Code for Philly, every effort will be made to give equal time to their opponent as long as doing so doesn’t depend on us betraying our institutional values of inclusivity.
Reporting a Violation
You can find more information on what to do if you need to report a code of conduct violation in the code of conduct but I wanted to touch on two things in this blog.
First, we want to stress that if you are on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior that violates the code of conduct our first priority is your safety and comfort. Do what you need to, first, in order to feel secure, and then start the reporting process.
If you witness a situation that is making another Code for Philly member feel uncomfortable or is a violation of the code of conduct you are not required to take action, but if you feel safe enough to do so, you certainly can. I recommend reading up on bystander intervention, specifically Laurenellen McCann’s excellent resource “Accountability is a Form of Care,” which they presented at the 2018 Code for America Summit. Laurenellen’s workshop of the same name was a big influence on changes we made to the code of conduct.
While we hope you never need to experience our code of conduct violation process first hand, it’s also important for you to know that we have one should you need it. Over the course of the violation process, we’ll stress community accountability. This approach feels the most appropriate for us and aligns with our mission as an organization to create effective change with technology. Below is a helpful graphic from INCITE National that shows the different aspects of community accountability when it’s put into action.
If an individual found to be violating the code of conduct is not an immediate threat to the community, they will be issued a warning. That warning will name specifically how the person has been found to be in violation and what they need to do to be held accountable for their actions (private/public apology, behavioral change, etc). The goal is to allow space and opportunity for someone to change their behavior. At the same time, we will not allow the safety of the community to be at risk. If a person refuses to take part in the violation process, violates the code of conduct a second time, or is an immediate threat to the community, they will be expelled from the organization.
As important as it is for us to have a well-defined process for violations, it’s equally vital that we allow room for leadership to cater their response to a violation to best fit the nature of the violation. Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) promotes a degree of what they call “jazziness” when implementing community accountability and I think it’s an important piece to all of this.
That Was Heavy
I know. But it’s super important. And I appreciate you reading this far and giving your time to think about how we can make Code for Philly safer. If you have any feedback for us on the new code of conduct, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Leadership has to be held accountable too, we’re not immune to getting things wrong, and it’s important that this document reflect the concerns of the community.
I want to thank the leadership team for being so thoughtful in their work on this. I did a great deal of research when we started the code of conduct revision process and I also have to take a moment and say I’m indebted to the work, in particular, done by Laurenellen McCann, and the organizers and activists at INCITE National, SURJ DC, and CARA.