All parties involved in an event can take proactive actions in preparation for handling a harassment issue that may arise: from staff and volunteers working together to ensure all necessary and proactive preparations are made, to participants planning to/and eventually attending the event.
Event Organisation Team (EOT)
- Designate responsible parties who will handle an issue, should it arise. This is one of the key tasks in preparation for an event. Who accepts reports? Who adjudicates them? Who handles the in-person situations like escorting someone out? Establishing the chain of command, deciding on an escalation protocol and assigning those kind of responsibilities in advance can make a big difference to the way a situation is handled on the ground.
- For example, the EOT may set up an emergency Response Team (RT) in advance of the event, that will be responsible for handling safety incidents and concerns. If the event is large, ideally the RT members may be solely tasked with RT-related responsibilities. If the event is small, the RT members may have to wear other hats too. Some thought should be put towards conflicts of interest, for the unlikely event of a incident report that is about an RT member.
- If possible the RT should be assigned in groups of at least two team members: one person that may handle the incident and one person that will take over the main responsibilities of the main handler towards the event and the attendees.
- Advertise RT to the rest of the EOT. If the EOT is large enough to assign an RT, it is important that the rest of the EOT know who they are. Awareness of the reporting structure is essential in successful handling of issues.
- Make RT or EOT members easy to recognise. This can make handling of an issue faster and save affected individuals from added frustration. Different coloured t-shirts (than other attendees), special badges indicating team assignment, different prints on a unified colour t-shirt, different hats, etc. can be considered as options. If different colour coding is used, ensure that colors are friendly to visually impaired participants.
- Get adequate training. Being ready to react quickly and appropriately is crucial to the handling an issue while on the ground. The EOT should ensure that the designated RT members receive sufficient training in advance of the event so that they are better prepared and nerves do not take over. It may be a good idea to hold a refresher session on the day, with brief reminders of processes and key information. Though focused on online interactions, the Training Module for handling online harassment has good materials on working with harassment victims and handling reports that apply to in-person issues as well.
- Inform venue officials/security of admission restrictions. Working with them can greatly assist, especially in the event of having to escort an attendee out, reviewing escape routes, creating fallback plans, etc. If the event and therefore the venue is not large enough to have designated security, it may be worth for the EOT to perform a risk assessment to determine if additional security service should be considered and outsourced for the duration of the event.
- Prepare important information so it is readily available during the event. This can be a variety of information such as details on the venue's security, escape routes, police contacts, hotlines, etc. This can help the RT deal with an issue faster than it would be if this type of information is not readily available.
- Plan event/room use layout (for instance, a quiet room, etc). Make sure there a safe space with reasonable sound insulation/barriers from the rest of the event space, that can be used for the harassment victim to regain composure, calm down, and feel comfortable sharing important details of the incident they experienced.
- Review sign up list. Sometimes participants not permitted to attend an event may be detected as early as the registration phase. Keeping an eye on the registration list can lead to early action where needed, and avoid headaches at later stage.
- Request agreement to behavior standards and policies (ie Friendly Space policy) during registration process. This can act as a reminder of the standards participants are expected to adhere to.
- It may also be helpful that printed safety material that includes a copy of the Friendly Space policies applicable to the event is prepared. This can be handed out to the attendees as they receive their event information pack, event IDetc.
All the above can be considered for larger scale events. If you are holding a smaller event, some of the above steps may not be applicable or may not be possible. Make a reasonable effort to have practical processes and protocols in place should a harassment incident occur; you can only do what you have capacity for.
- Keep an open mind. Do some research on the culture you are about to enter and consider cultural differences. Something that is considered normal in your city/country may not be standard practice in the city/country where the event is held. Since you are the guest, a level of respect should be shown towards the local culture, even if you don’t personally agree with it. Preparation for dealing with harassment does not exclude preparation of how to avoid (unintentionally) becoming the harasser yourself.
- Read the behavioral guidelines applicable to the event you are attending. Those may sometimes vary from one event to another, and from one culture to another. It’s of great benefit to be aware what standards are expected of you before you enter the event.
- Be ready to report an issue. In some cultures, reporting harassment or abuse issues is not always received well, deterring victims from reporting in the future. There is zero tolerance of abuse on Wikimedia events, and you don’t have to put with abusive behavior towards you. There is no shame in reporting witnessing or being subjected to harassment and your report will be handled confidentially to the extent possible.
- Identify the EOT/TR members, so you can easily spot them if you need to report a safety issue or concern to them.