Shared Agreements
DC Trainers Network
November Skillshare
November 5, 2014

Facilitators: Nora and Carmen from Maximize Good 

I. Introduction

Shared Agreements provide ways for groups and organizations to hold each other accountable on shared values and agreements that are integral to the purpose of the group. There are various perspectives on the importance of shared agreements. They provide for the opportunity to hold groups accountable, and work if people agree to them, and there is a culture of accountability to address any violations. A critical component of shared agreements is they are actionable.

  • Intro Activity: Everyone went around the circle and reported the first word that came to their mind when they think of the person that makes them feel special and loved. Everyone shared their word, and those words represented some core values everyone brought to the group. 
  • Communication: Good communication is important in putting people at ease and ensuring that people feel respected and safe. This skill is difficult when people don’t know eachother.

II. Shared Values and Agreement Exercise

Exercise 1: Taboo and Pictionary

Everyone was broken into 4 groups and selected index cards with difficult terms such as justice, white supremacy, forgiveness, and difficult concepts that come up in conversations. The game requires one of the individuals to guess the term and the person who is holding the card cannot use the word or key words that are associated with the term. 

Exercise 2: Connecting with Themes

The second activity included individuals who stood up once they felt quotes and statements on power resonated with them. 

Exercise 3: Honoring our Values Through Shared Agreements

Groups were formed based on shared values and quotes that resonated with individuals. Groups came together to discuss why those quotes or statements resonated with them. Some examples of quotes included:

a. “Treat people like you want to be treated”
b. “Power concedes nothing without demand”

At the end, the entire group came debriefed about the points that were brought up across the group. Some of the points and issues that were brought up included equality, youth incarceration, statements on dignity and power, profit, elections. While none of the quotes explicitly focused on those points, the quotes resonated with others. The point of the activity is to focus on the types of values people bring into spaces informally or formally.

Exercise 4: Drafting our own agreements
There isn’t a consensus among facilitators about whether shared agreements work or don’ t. Nora and Carmen believe shared agreements are important for groups.
The facilitators passed around a sheet that asked individuals to fill out the answers to the following questions:
a. I feel respected when:
b. To feel safe I need:
c. When I have a shared agreement with my peers, I:
d. I would like to create shared agreements with:

Exercise 5: Debrief
The groups debriefed about their responses to those questions on the worksheet. Some key responses everyone mentioned included the following:
a. transparency- people’s motivations and feelings are expressed
b. trust
c. accountability
d. clear expectations
e. there are firm agreements
f. confidence
g. validate
h. accountability
i. acknowledgement and support when you make mistakes
j. when time is honored
k. building trust: asking questions that show interest
l. Redirect attention. Coming in to the space and being aware that there are significant disagreements and there are different personalities, and pushing through their preconceived notions. Trying to use that as an example to heed off conflict.
m. Reminding individuals that they broke off agreement

III. Open Facilitation:

Social justice work requires healing, intimacy, and drawing out forgiveness. Ideally, the shared agreements have to be modeled by the facilitators who can’t talk over eachother, and should hold each other accountable.

IV. Creating Actionable Shared Agreement

How can we respond/ intervene / support as facilitators? (change the topic) (redirect) (assume positive intentions)
- How have we seen these behaviors or experiences honored and redirected?
- How Can This Be Actionable?
- Time: end/start on time
- Transparency: Motivations expressed. Tell people what you expect/want
- Trust: Ask questions/show interest/clarify/name what is said or heard/repeat. Consistent time to hold/hear grievance
- Are there agreements around restorative justice process for facilitators? Using snaps and saying “ouch” to validate.
- “I am not going to give up on the relationship if one engages in incredibly difficult work where there are deep disengagements. Either people shut down, or people leave, and people disengage.

Final Activity: Everyone worked in pairs where they responded to difficult situations as facilitators and how to deal with any conflicts that may arise.

Post Shared Agreements
- Avoid conflating identity with org
- Redirect “we” statements back to group for confirmation
- Redirect conversation from dominant voice
- Acknowledge dominant voice in group
- Tell person they are being accountable in space
- Talk to parties individually
- Take break and convene with affected
- Ask if people want to share in space
- Understand or try to understand by talking to them at break
- Mention input and compliment
- “we have agreed”
- Create agreement
- “How do people feel?”