At its core, OpenCon is a community, and healthy communities are only possible when the individuals within them feel safe. Because of this, we have been working continually to strengthen the OpenCon code of conduct—both the code itself and the guidelines around its enforcement. We feel it is essential that the code make clear the expectations of community members, provide a variety of options for reporting, and effectively address incidents when individuals don’t live up to the values of the community and others are harmed as a result. Like broader efforts around equity, diversity, and inclusion, improving OpenCon’s code of conduct and our policies to make the community as safe as possible is a continual process, not an end point.
Following the 2016 OpenCon meeting, we became aware that OpenCon’s code of conduct was not supporting the community in the way we feel is necessary. We heard informally that behavior that violated our code of conduct and negatively impacted participants had occurred, but we were unable to confirm key details surrounding the specific behavior and the individuals affected. No reports were filed by participants that year (or previously). This made it very clear to us that simply having a code of conduct was not enough and that a code of conduct could only help keep our community safe if people felt comfortable using it. It is our responsibility as organizers to use all of the tools available to us to support individuals in coming forward to report inappropriate behavior and to avoid incidents in the first place by making clear what is expected of participants.
Driven by these concerns, we focused on making improvements last year in how we communicate the code of conduct, in the options for making a report, in our process for responding to reports, and by attempting to reduce alcohol consumption at the flagship event. Those improvements include:
- Adding an anonymous reporting option to the code of conduct
- Revising the summary at the beginning of the code of conduct to more clearly explain what is expected of participants and what behaviors are inappropriate
- Adding more detail about our plans for supporting those submitting reports and potential sanctions for those who violate the code of conduct
- Highlighting the code of conduct and expectations for appropriate behavior both before and during the flagship meeting
- Establishing a code of conduct committee with representatives from the community to respond to reports
- Creating detailed internal guidelines for responding to potential reports in various scenarios
- Limiting free alcohol provided at social events
During and following the 2017 meeting, we received our first reports through this updated process. Actions were taken during the meeting to respond to incidents, support those making the reports, and address the inappropriate behavior with the individuals who violated the code of conduct. In the process of responding to these first reports and in follow up conversations with the human resources team at our fiscal sponsor, we identified areas for improvement in the code of conduct itself, in how we respond to reports, and in how we close reports and notify everyone involved of the outcomes and relevant actions taken.
Initially, we believed these updates should be in place before taking further action on reports and focused first on these areas for improvement. It became increasingly clear that we should be working through these two areas—improving the code of conduct and closing reports that were opened—in parallel rather than sequentially. Upon realizing this, we have worked, and continue to work, as quickly as appropriate to review actions taken, consider with our code of conduct committee if additional actions or sanctions were needed, and inform all of those involved of the result. We commit to learning from these challenges and continuing to improve how we handle any reports in the future.
We are consistently in awe of the positive impact that members of the OpenCon community have—locally, nationally, and internationally—and we believe that working our hardest to ensure participants’ safety and an environment free from harassment is fundamental to OpenCon and any efforts to build a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive community. As part of that commitment, we will soon release an updated version of our code of conduct, its enforcement processes, and a blog post explaining the key improvements in the new version. We would welcome your feedback on this revision, which we will consider when making future updates to the code.
The safety of the OpenCon community is always our top priority. If at any time you need to make a report, please contact us at the email addresses below or via our anonymous submission form here.