Creating safer spaces: Facilitation, intervention and community guidelines

When we engage in complex issues, potential exists for misunderstandings and communications breakdowns to lead to hurt and offense, as does the potential for people to voice discriminatory thoughts. And we recognize that appearing and speaking your mind publicly brings different levels of risk for people depending on their privilege. 

We cannot guarantee a perfectly safe space, but we can do everything in our power to convene safer spaces by investing time and resources into facilitation and appropriate planning with our partners.

With our online and hybrid events, this begins with thinking about the infrastructure of the digital Zoom environment. Will the chat be open for comments? If so, will it be moderated? Will there be a Q&A section? If so, will all participants get to see the questions, or will they only be seen by the moderator and speakers?

We have learned to work through these questions and more with our partners, as each engagement will have different considerations based on who is involved, the sensitivity of the topic and our capacity to moderate.

Facilitation and intervention

We work with trained facilitators, and our staff participate in professional development so that we are prepared to intervene when discrimination occurs. With our partners, we decide on an escalation approach to guide our responses based on the severity of the comment or action. This can range from sending an online participant a direct message to encourage them to step back to allow others to participate, to publicly addressing a comment with a warning, to asking someone to leave an in-person event or removing a person from an online event.

Community guidelines

If we are going to tackle complex issues in a shared space together, we all have to agree on a few basic principles. We use community guidelines to foster honest, socially accountable dialogue at our events. We post these guidelines on our event pages, ask people to agree to them as part of the registration process, and go over them at the start of the program.

We sometimes adjust the guidelines based on the event format and topic, but here is the template we use, which has also been adapted by other SFU units and community partners:

Our community guidelines are intended to ensure the safety of all guest speakers and event participants, and to foster honest, socially accountable dialogue at our events. Thank you for respecting these guidelines!

  • Above all, there will be zero tolerance for those who promote violence against others on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or disability.
  • Don’t assume anyone’s gender or pronouns based on their name or appearance. Please refer to people using the names and/or pronouns they provide.
  • Take space, make space: share your perspective, and make space for other voices to be heard too. Recognize that we are all here to learn.