Policy Example: Community Agreements Team

Community Agreements Team (CAT) Proposal

Intent:
This is a general proposal, meant to cover all situations involving conflicts and breaches of community agreements amongst neighbours at Windsong CoHousing.  The following  2-part proposal is intended to create an agreed upon Windsong process that supports community members to resolve conflicts and uphold agreements that nurture and protect the community fabric , as recommended and described by Diana Leafe Christian at Windsong's community building workshop in Feb 08:
It's especially painful for community groups when someone consistently violates agreements or behavioural norms, or refuses to make changes repeatedly requested by other community members regarding behaviour or communication style. One remedy is to agree on and implement negative consequences for such offenses.  In order to protect a community, it's possible to design a graduated series of fair, compassionate consequences, from mild to increasingly serious, that treat people with respect while inducing them to make necessary changes - DLC

 

Background & Concerns Identified:
Windsong’s past experiences of dealing with conflicts and broken community  agreements demonstrates a need for a reliable accountability system that can provide consistent follow-up and community access to full information about unresolved conflicts and breaches, particularly for ongoing long-standing intractable issues.
This system would neutrally track and follow up with all concerns that affect community well being to avoid past damaging experiences of some members having some info with the rest of the community being outside the info loop.  This info gap has resulted in people turning against each other; some people think that nothing is being done to address an important safety issue resulting in some members feeling that they have to do something, simply because they don't know what or how the issue is being addressed.

An example of an accountability system Windsong now uses that helps the community fabric is the established Community Contribution System - CCS.   CCS reports are made available for anyone to see what is being done, and how people have chosen to contribute to the overall community’s daily functioning and well-being.  This system has helped nurture the community by preventing unnecessary interpersonal conflict previously generated because of a lack of a transparent neutral tracking system. This is a perfect example of how CCS helps Windsong avoid the chaos of unknown info and minimizes interpersonal conflict as analyzed by Diana Leafe Christian in her work around structural conflict.

 

This proposed system would need to minimize possible misuse of power by an appointed individual or team to handle conflicts or breaches of agreements. One proposed solution is to have the community decide upon any course of action about how the situation is to be handled and by whom.

This system needs to be simple, easily implemented, and respect both the privacy and the agency of individuals for handling issues that do not need to be involved at the community level.  At the same time any proposed system needs to balance the need of the community to have full information on issues that have not been able to be resolved privately, and which continue to negatively impact the community at large.

 

Proposal  1: Windsong approves the appointment of a Community Agreements Team (CAT)
The CAT will primarily be responsible for monitoring, documenting and reporting back to the community on all efforts made to resolve interpersonal conflicts and breaches of community agreements, and  provide any follow-up needed to ensure the issue is resolved.  The team will not be responsible for enforcement as it will be the community who sits and decides upon any enforcement efforts.

The CAT will consist of 6-8 Windsongers with the following criteria:

  • Windsongers from at least 5 different households
  • A range of ages, life situations, living space (N or S atrium) involved
  • Ability to keep confidentiality when appropriate to the process
  • Good communication skills
  • Volunteers/invitees with a minimum commitment of one year & notice of 3 months to allow time to replace.

 

  • For simplicity, one CAT member will be the designated CAT recorderperson (aka CAT recorder) whom the community will bring documentation to for record-keeping.
  • Other CAT members act as back-up as needed and/or may be asked by the community to specifically follow-up on a particular situation as deemed prudent by community decision.

 

  • Anyone with a conflict of interest in a particular case should sit out from following-up on that case.

Proposal  2:  Windsong approves, in principle, the following proposed 3- STEP CAT accountability process for a  trial period of 3 times before being reviewed at a community meeting.

1. Initiate private conflict resolution process:
In keeping with the value of self-responsibility, Windsong holds people able to deal with their own interpersonal conflicts, which also include breaches of community agreements.
Individuals are encouraged to try to directly address the party involved (aka WMC – Windsong Member whose behaviour has caused Concern).   If individuals do not feel comfortable approaching the WMC by themselves, they can enlist a neighbour to help out with the communication.  Individuals are encouraged to document and keep track of all efforts made to address the issue.  If the issue gets resolved, the individual may choose to hold onto their own private documentation for reference if needed and life moves on.  The individual may also choose to submit a copy of their documentation to the appointed CAT recorder. 
This CAT recorder is specifically designated by the community to keep records and track and report back to the community any follow-up actions taken to address conflicts and agreement breaches which the community has asked to be followed.

2. Enlist Team Support:
If the individual has been unable to resolve the conflict or agreement breach on their own, they can approach any team that they feel would be helpful in getting support to deal with the situation beyond just their own individual attempts.  The team works with the individual to whatever capacity level they feel able to deal with.  The individual continues to maintain their own documentation records of all suggested team recommendations and any actions taken to try to resolve the issue at the team level.  The individual again may choose to submit copies of their documentation of ongoing attempts to the appointed CAT recorder for reference only.
An individual can approach any Windsong team or team leader to request help with resolving a complaint with a Windsong member.  The team member(s) supports the individual to deal with the issue/conflict preferably directly with the WMC, or may make recommendations to the individual for resolution of the issue.  
If the CAT team is approached for support by an individual with a concern, its primary role may be to discuss the possible relevance of the concern to community agreements, and if it is felt to be relevant, to discuss with the complainant possible options.  Such options may include interpersonal communication amongst the parties involved, or it may include recommendations to the community to clarify or modify the particular agreement.

3. Request Community Involvement:
If after attempts with the team still fail to address the issue, the individual requests the team to take the issue to a general community meeting  (or in time sensitive issues request that the team call a community meeting to address the issue as deemed necessary). The individual submits all documentation that they have kept to this point outlining the issue, and any actions taken to try to resolve the issue at both the individual and team level to the CAT recorder.  This CAT member now informs all parties concerned that the issue is now being taken to a community meeting, and recommends that the person/s whose behaviour has caused concerns (WMC) attend that meeting to address the issue with the whole community in attendance.

At the community meeting, the CAT recorder reports to the community about the background history on record.  The community discusses and decides upon an action plan with clearly agreed timelines to resolve the issue with the parties concerned.  All decisions and action plans are recorded in the community minutes which are distributed as per usual for community meetings.

The community appoints a specific task team of community members to work with the parties concerned to create resolution.  The parties concerned may request specific community members be involved in that task team.  The community might request the CAT team to be the task team, or appoint a whole different team. 

Regardless of the team appointed,  a designated CAT recorder is appointed by the community to follow-up with the task team to ensure that the community's recommendations are being implemented, and to report back to the community via e-mail about agreements , actions and decisions made by the task team in collaboration with the parties involved within 1-week of the community meeting. 

The CAT recorder continues to follow up with the task team, recording all outcomes, further decisions and agreements formed, which will then be presented at the next community meeting for information to the community.  At the next community meeting, after hearing reports back from the CAT recorder, the community decides what if any further action needs to be implemented in maintaining the integrity and harmony of “the community fabric.”

 

Possible  Community  Decisions:

The community ideally resolves the issue at the community meeting with the individuals concerned and might use the following 3- or 4-part agreement forms at its discretion to document and help clarify expectations.  It appoints a designated CAT recorder to follow-up and monitor progress made with upholding any agreements drafted, and to report back to the community at the next community meeting.

misc
3-Part Agreement

  • Agreement willing to be honoured:__________________________________________
  • Plans for upholding the agreement (specific supports requested of individual community members if any):______________________________________________________________
  •  Plans for reparation to property/people and by when____________________________

 

misc
4-Part Agreement

  • Agreement to be honoured:________________________________________________
  • Plans for upholding the agreement (specific supports requested of individual community members if any):______________________________________________________________
  •  Plans for reparation to property/people and by when:___________________________
  • Voluntary consequences that I agree to, if I fail to uphold the agreement:___________________

If the Windsong Member Concerned (WMC) does not attend the community meeting:

If the WMC chooses not to attend, the case will still go before the meeting for discussion and the community may draft its own agreement outlining its expectations for how the issue will be handled.  

The community appoints a designated CAT recorder to communicate the community’s expectations to the WMC, and requests this CAT member to report back to the community via e-mail, the outcome of the WMC’s response to the community’s request within 1-week of the community meeting.

The CAT recorder continues to track outcomes for future reporting at subsequent community meetings until the issue has been resolved.  The community may choose to use this 4-part plan for attempting resolution:

 

misc
4-Part Agreement

  • Agreement to be honoured:________________________________________________
  • Plans for upholding the agreement (community may recommend strategies or suggestions):__________________________________________________________________
  • Plans for reparation to property/people and by when:_______________
  • Community consequences for future lapses in upholding this agreement to be presented to WMC on behalf of the community by the CAT recorder with a timeline for a written response from WMC:__________________________________________________________________  

 

 

Possible  Community  Actions  if  community  attempts  for  resolution  fail:
If all community efforts fail to resolve the situation within the designated timeline agreed upon, as monitored and reported by the appointed CAT recorder, the recorder  will inform the community by calling for a community meeting.  The CAT recorder reports all community efforts made to support the WMC to uphold the agreements, and asks the community to review the situation and to recommend next steps.  The community may choose to use any of the following actions to influence the WMC:

  • Increase community consequences, including  fines, increasing loss of privileges 
  • Employ legal action, either through the courts or through a lawyer
  • Inform the WMC  that the community has decided to ask the WMC to consider leaving Windsong CoHousing
  • In case of an emergency situation, the community develops a safety plan to involve appropriate external community services such as police, 911, or appropriate emergency response as deemed necessary to ensure community safety and integrity.

 

Recommended  Documentation  &  Communication  Guidelines:

    • Communication - in all phases are to be neutral, factual and respectful to all parties.
    • What is documented- Team member(s) involved, dates of contact, person bringing concern forward (PBC), Windsong member whose behaviour has caused concern (WMC) and all agreements made at each step of the process.
    • Storage- All records to be electronically archived in a password protected Google group and paper-signed agreements to be stored in a file in a suitable locked storage system.
    • Access- to records is available only on a need to know basis by active CAT team members.
    • Confidentiality-    CAT members are not obligated to offer a guarantee of confidentiality on any concerns or complaints brought forward, and will inform the community as needed of any urgent risk or safety concerns at any time.
    • E-mail- CAT discussions or minutes are not to be sent out on WindSong or WindSong.biz.  All community wide e-mail communications are to be factual only, “without shame and blame” and will follow the guidelines of the existing WindSong  e-mail agreement.
    • Reports- Appointed CAT recorders will provide regular follow-up and reports to the community for ongoing situations as decided by the community.

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