Alliance Against Displacement Accountability Process
Note: This process was established in 2014 and is under revision to reflect the lessons we have learned since its establishment and our current organizational structure.
The Alliance Against Displacement is committed to ending oppressive and dominating forms of power in the world, our communities and in our groups. We recognize that many of the behaviours each of us brings to our groups can undermine our organizing work and have serious negative effects on each other.
To end oppressive and dominating forms of power within our group, the Alliance Against Displacement document describes the accountability process, including:
1) The principles and motivations underlying our accountability framework
2) Summary and example of an accountability process
3) Step-by-step guide for how to undertake an accountability process from beginning to end
4) Conflict resolution and anti-oppression resources
PRINCIPLES OF ACCOUNTABILITY FRAMEWORK
Living in a violent and oppressive society
We live in a society that teaches us to compete with each other to meet our basic needs. We learn to find our own power by taking it away from others, and to carry out oppressive behaviour to maintain our individual sense of control. As survivors, we learn to cope with abuse in our own lives because it can be harder to speak out than to remain silent. We experience oppressive power in our daily interactions with police, government officials, families, schools, bosses and managers.
Our own oppressive behavior ranges from the language we use (including the language we sometimes do not use in our silences) to physical acts of violence. All forms of abuse are real even when a physical assault has not been committed. Oppression and violence are often expressed along the lines of class privilege, race, gender, sexuality, ability, language and culture, and education. The Alliance Against Displacement recognizes that these forms of oppression are reproduced within our groups, in ourselves and in society at large.
Transforming ourselves and transforming the world
TheAlliance Against Displacement maintains that we cannot transform the world outside without also transforming our groups and ourselves. All too often abuse committed by one person against another person is seen as a personal conflict. This is a mistake. Personalizing abuse makes it harder for survivors to speak out, and allows abusers to hold their power over others. The Alliance Against Displacement understands individual acts as signals of the beliefs and values held by the collective. This means they must be dealt with collectively.
Our groups can undermine oppressive power relations by: 1) supporting and trusting survivors’ experiences and accounts; 2) addressing concerns as collective problems and not individual ones; and 3) challenging ourselves to break the abusive behaviours, beliefs, and values we have learned. At times we must be willing to give up oppressive power too, and work instead to develop and exercise our resistant, collective, and transformative power.
Committing to accountability principles as a condition of participation in Alliance Against Displacement
A central part of an accountability process is being open to criticisms and to confronting acts of oppression that we commit as individuals and as a group. It means actively upholding the principles and process set out in this document. It also means taking and sharing responsibility for pushing the accountability process forward, across lines of gender identity, ability, colonialism, class, sexual orientation, language, and racialization. Participation in the Alliance Against Displacement requires agreement with these principles.
Confidentiality and who can access the process
The Alliance Against Displacement places the safety and confidentiality of the complainant first. We will prioritize their active role in determining how information about their complaint and accountability process is shared within AAD and, if necessary, beyond. In all cases, the name of the person who brings complaints forward, and the nature or specifics of the complaints, will not be shared outside of the accountability committee and steering committee, unless permission is given to do so.
The accountability process can be used to address conflicts that might extend outside of the group if it affects current or potential members ability to participate in the group.
SUMMARY OF ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESS
- A complaint is brought to the steering committee.
- Steering committee strikes an accountability committee.
- Accountability committee investigates the complaint, including meeting with everyone affected (multiple times as necessary).
- Accountability committee makes recommendation to steering committee.
- Steering committee decides on appropriate action in individual and collective ways.
- In case of action impacting a member’s status in the group, the steering committee and accountability committee brings a recommendation for action (with one week’s notice to affected members) to the general membership for decision.
- Steering committee reviews accountability process and reports to the general membership.
THE ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESS STEP BY STEP
The accountability process provides a broad framework that can be adapted for different situations. The guidelines are a work in progress and will change as we advance our struggle, deepen our consciousness and gain new insights. The steps are as follows:
- Requesting an accountability process: Members and non-members are welcome to approach the steering committee (through individual steering committee members, the steering committee email contact account – firstname.lastname@example.org – or by attending a steering committee meeting directly) about initiating an accountability process. All concerns about member/s of AAD, whether they seem big or small, are welcome and will be treated with respect and confidentiality.
- Deciding to begin the process: The steering committee will decide if the process should go forward or if there are other and better options for addressing the concerns. This discussion should take into account whether the person wants a complete accountability process or would rather pursue other options for addressing the concerns. Person/s who the concern is about will not be involved in this discussion. If the steering committee cannot decide whether an accountability process is appropriate to the concern, they may strike a committee to perform initial investigations and report back. During this initial investigation, point 3 (mandatory leave) shall apply.
- Mandatory 2 week leave for AAD members against whom a complaint is received : If the person/s against whom a complaint is brought forward is an active member of AAD, they are asked to take a step back from organizing for at least two weeks until a committee is put together and steps 4 and 5 are complete. This two-week leave will apply in all situations.
- Striking the accountability committee: The steering committee will make the accountability process a priority and will strive to put together an accountability committee within a week of the complaint. The exact composition of the committee might vary from case to case, but it should consist of at least three people. One should be a steering committee member and, in most cases, one should be someone not involved in AAD. The persons involved in the complaint and especially the person who has brought the concerns forward should be comfortable with the accountability committee members.
- Speaking with the complainant: Within two weeks, the committee should have an initial conversation with the person/s bringing the concerns forward. The goal of the initial conversation should be to 1) establish an understanding of the concerns, and whether it is necessary and possible to offer the complainant immediate support (and if so to make that support available), and; 2) establish on what terms the accused member can participate in AAD after the two week leave period. For example, should they withdraw from organizing for the duration of the process or can they participate on certain conditions.
- Reporting back to the steering committee every 2 weeks: The accountability committee will report back to the steering committee within two weeks of being struck. It will give a brief update on the process even if the committee is still working on step 5. During the process, the accountability committee will give reports to the steering committee at least every two weeks for outside support and guidance.
- Accountability committee gathers information: From this point on, the accountability committee will decide how to best carry out the accountability process in consultation with the steering committee. In most cases this will entail multiple meetings with all affected parties. For the duration of the process the committee (as a group) shall communicate on at least a weekly basis with key parties involved.
- Final report to the steering committee: When the accountability committee has determined that the process is complete, it will report back to the steering committee. The final report shall map key problems and concerns brought forward through the process. It shall also include recommendations for how to deal with the concerns and how to report back to the general membership. Recommendations might include membership education, awareness raising, collaboration with other groups or creating stronger structures and policies within AAD. While the nature of the concerns will vary greatly, the goal should always be to politicize the conflicts, rather than focus on strictly personal aspects of the conflict, engaging the individuals involved as responsibilities of the group as a whole.
- Report to the general membership: In most cases, the decision of whether (and how) an accountability process should be reported to the general membership will be part of the recommendations of the committee and decided by the steering committee. However, in case of an accountability/steering committee decision that will involuntarily alter or end someone’s status as a member of Alliance Against Displacement, the decision must be referred to the general membership. The affected members shall receive no less than one-week’s notice of motion, including the details of the recommendation.
Notice of motion, with general (not necessarily specific) information shall also be included in the announcement for the general membership meeting. At the general membership meeting the motion shall be introduced with a ten-minute presentation from the accountability committee or someone they delegate to present. The member facing disciplinary action shall also have ten-minutes to respond to the report. The membership shall have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the accountability/steering committee recommendation. The power to involuntarily expel, suspend, or modify the status of a Alliance Against Displacement member shall rest with the general membership.
Evaluating strengths and weaknesses of the accountability process
The final report by the accountability committee should be followed by a debrief and evaluation of the accountability process. Participants in the process as well as steering committee and general members should consider any changes to AAD’s accountability guidelines, and identify weaknesses in the current process. The accountability process document is a living document and will be revised as it is put into practice.
Zine from The Revolution Starts At Home Collective: Confronting Partner Abuse In Activist Communities: http://www.incite-national.org/sites/default/files/incite_files/resource_docs/0985_revolution-starts-at-home.pdf
Community Accountability Resource Website: https://communityaccountability.wordpress.com/resources/
Creative Interventions Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Stop Interpersonal Violence: https://communityaccountability.wordpress.com/creative-interventions-toolkit/