Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Reports/Movement Strategy Playbook/Prioritize trust and psychological safety

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Prioritize trust and psychological safety
Emna, Aboubacar et Diane à la WikiConvention francophone 2019

There’s a psychological and interpersonal component to doing this work that many cited as important and often under-acknowledged. Responding to criticism, dealing with conflict, building relationships — all of this was a crucial part of the work in building collaborative strategy across a diverse movement.

  • “Building trust with the community was critical, and was much of the 'invisible work.'”
  • “There’s a trust deficit towards the organized part of our movement. Building good will was a huge part of the work.”
Salon stratégique des membres de Wikimédia Côte d'Ivoire, Juillet 2019

Emotional labour and invisible work[edit]

For many, Wikipedia is a crucial part of their identity, not just their work. This creates an added strain and weight for many participants.

  • “Pushback becomes more painful and personal.”
  • “There is a tremendous honor, privilege and burden doing this work which impacts the world in such a profound way. I think the reality of that sometimes 'weighed on' people. It’s a lot of emotional labour.”
  • “This is not only a job. We also want to change the world and make it a better place. So pushback becomes more painful and personal.”
  • “There are different tolerances for discomfort and uncertainty.”
  • “It may be painful along the way, because we have to let go of things and be open to new things.”

Fear of loud voices and conflict[edit]

Criticism and pushback are a frequent part of the process. Many participants expressed a desire for more tools or coaching in how to deal with this.

  • “We need to stop being afraid of the loud voices, and not let us be driven by their pushback. This probably goes for everything that movement organizations do.”
  • “We often hesitated to do any communications because we were fearful of blowback. We also felt the need to over justify or over explain things, for the same reason.”
  • “We weren't always comfortable with pushback and the discomfort of others. The capacity to sit in the discomfort of transition is a skill, and making it explicit that it is okay to be uncomfortable would have helped.”
  • “Often complex dynamics / emotions from others can get surfaced simply as: ‘I don't like that!’”
  • “Learning to sit with the discomfort would have been really helpful. With a coach, etc. This is especially difficult if your own job or career is not secure.”
ESEAP Strategy Summit Day 1 - Discussion 08

The need for interpersonal tools and practices[edit]

Many participants spoke to a desire for greater access to tools, practices and capacity-building for difficult conversations, conflict resolution, and interpersonal communication. In many ways, this is a huge source of invisible labour or work in any movement organization, and one that could be more fully acknowledged, resourced, and trained around.

  • “Having skills in depersonalizing conflict and tension would have been useful. It was very ugly at moments.”
  • “This was also perpetuated by taking blame or blaming colleagues rather than having difficult discussions."
  • “It's not just about knowing you need to do it, you need to be skilled to do it. There are specific techniques and practices (eg, non-violent communication practices) that can help.”
  • “[In the absence of this training and practices], people instead respond by staking their own personal social capital and good will to overcome difficult situations. People put their name, credibility, and good will at stake every time there was a crisis.”
  • “Onboarding everyone who works in the Foundation on the role of Trust + Safety should be mandatory and done very early on in someone's onboarding. Including: how to handle crisis, harassment or abuse."
  • “This is a skills gap in the Movement. Luckily, the movement strategy recommendations recommend some of that, but it will take a lot of time.”
  • “I know this kind of training is expensive, and these kinds of decisions often boil down to cost. But we need to consider: what does it cost, in a bigger sense, not to do it? What did it cost people in terms of their well-being, efficiencies, and quality of the finished product? This should be considered in terms of the value of investing in this area. This is about: what kind of culture do we want to build, and what is the training we need for that?”

The importance of a universal code of conduct and clear boundaries[edit]

Others spoke to the need for clear boundaries to support these practices, arguing that conflict resolution and other non-violent communication practices only work when they’re supported by clear boundaries for trust and safety (eg, a Universal Code of Conduct, Trust and Safety guidelines, etc.).

  • “These kinds of practices only work if there is also a basic red line to call out and stop abusive behavior. Otherwise, we risk simply training victims of abuse how to be abused better. That requires commitment and courage.”

Tools and examples for increasing psychological safety[edit]

Do you have tools, methods or ideas that you, your community or organization use for this? Add them to this section for others to see.