Community-Informed Process to Create a BayNVC Ethics Policy

Short version

BayNVC is beginning a process of creating an ethics policy for our trainers, facilitators, and coaches. We want to find ways of supporting clarity for ourselves and those we serve about how to engage in relationships that support all involved, recognizing that we are not therapists and yet the relationships we form with our students and clients include intimate sharing and rest on a lot of trust. We also want to embody, in whatever policy we arrive at, a full commitment to the transformative principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and related practices, so that a clear focus on needs and restorative responses is woven through the entire policy. We anticipate having meaningful ways for our community to inform our process through letting us know your needs and your feedback.

Background

Recently, some concerns were brought to our attention about Nancy Kahn, one of our longest-time trainers. In engaging with this situation and learning about what has transpired, it became clear to us, as the board serving this organization, that concerns and confusions in relation to BayNVC trainers or assistant trainers have come up several times before. All of them were about the nature of the relationship that exists between NVC trainers, facilitators, and coaches as they interact with participants and clients. We are aware of at least four different  representatives of our organization in separate incidents over the years within BayNVC alone, including Roxy Manning, our current Executive Director and board member, and many trainers within the NVC community at large in the world.

BayNVC has never had an organization-wide policy about how to navigate these relationships except for an agreement that asks trainers and assistant trainers in yearlong programs to refrain from entering sexual relationships with participants. We are not aware of any NVC organization in North America that has such a policy.

We on the board recognize that this absence of policy is a significant lack that can and has resulted in confusion for many and significant pain for some over the years. We are mourning our own and previous boards, staff, and the BayNVC Collaborative Trainer group’s lack of action to attend to this, and we are now committing to taking action.

We want to move forward with collective responsibility instead of putting the responsibility on any one individual. We see these incidents, in their totality, as the result of the newness of our collective endeavor and our neglect of our collective responsibility to tend to this topic with enough time and focus to create clarity for all of us and those we serve. We had been erroneously and implicitly assuming that for everyone to follow their own integrity in discerning their personal values, and for dialogue to come in if disagreements arise would be sufficient. It hasn’t been.

We have no intention or desire for any one person as an individual to be seen as “the problem” or to suffer any particular individual consequences beyond what we are going to ask all BayNVC Collaborative Trainers to take on. This is an organization-wide issue, and we want to address it as such.

In doing this, we are hoping that the specific concerns that have come to our attention this time will serve as an opportunity for us to take a significant step forward as a community of practitioners, and model an open approach to such difficulties that is caring for all — our hope for the world and part of what we intend to bring to the world through our work.

As these recent concerns have come to our attention already a few months ago, the move towards collective responsibility has already been going on for some time. Members of the BayNVC Collaborative Trainer group has begun a process of research towards developing an ethics policy for the group concerning many elements such as dual relationships, confidentiality, and more. They are already reviewing policy statements from practitioners and organizations doing similar work to NVC teaching, facilitation, and coaching. Details of this process will be released as that group continues its work in consultation with staff, board, and the BayNVC community at large.

We are also aware that individuals who have expressed concerns to us did have a unique experience with a specific individual, and are planning to attend to those relationships in parallel with what the BayNVC Collaborative Trainers take on as a group.

We also want it known that BayNVC operates on the basis of trust and self-management, among other values we share. Since 2012, the BayNVC Collaborative Trainer community has been a self-managing entity deciding for itself who is and isn’t part of the group and how they want to respond to anything happening that’s related to the work of its members. The board has never once been involved before in anything related to the operation of that group, and we continue to uphold this form of operating.

Specific Actions

Having considered for several hours the situation, we have reached the following set of actions that we want to take as a board:

  1. Nancy Kahn is resigning from the BayNVC board effective immediately. The rest of the board has accepted her resignation.
  2. Nancy has volunteered to be a member of the committee who drafts the ethics policy, based on the input from the community process and the research currently being done, to be reviewed by the BayNVC community at large, the Board, the Collaborative Trainers and BayNVC staff.  The Board has accepted her offer.
  3. Based on multiple conversations over the years and recently, here are some of the elements that the board is recommending this group consider (if it’s not already considering them):
    1. Guidelines for how to navigate dual relationships, especially given that participants and clients are likely to have a harder time making the shift in full, given the power difference.
    2. Peer support for handling any confusions, emotional charges, and challenges that arise for any trainers, facilitators, and coaches, especially as relating to dual relationships.
    3. Establishing forms and procedures such that all our participants and clients are fully aware that the relationships we are engaging in with them are not therapy.
    4. Guidelines for responding to future complaints in a way that fully honors the pain and suffering of the person complaining while maintaining integrity with our restorative processes and thus staying away from punitive measures.
  4. Initiate a format for community members to offer input, express their needs, and provide feedback on the ethics policy as it’s developing. We are establishing a permanent email address: ethics@baynvc.org that anyone can offer feedback now and in the future.
  5. Continue to engage with the people who have approached us with their concerns to learn more and to reach an outcome on the specific concerns that is workable for all.

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