Creating A Safe Space Agreement

Why Do We Need A Safe Space Agreement?

It’s important that everyone in your team has a positive experience, feels safe and comfortable to be themselves and have their identities respected. There are steps that can be taken to minimise the likelihood that people feel unsafe or disrespected within their teams. One important way is to create a safe space agreement.

  • Safe space agreements are basically a set of ‘guidelines’ that the group creates to help build trust and develop a clear picture of what respectful behaviour looks like for that group.
  • A safe space agreement isn’t a set of rules. If someone steps outside the bounds of an agreement, they don’t get punished! It just means that a conversation can happen using the agreement as a guide.
  • Facilitating a safe space agreement involves asking members what kind of language, behaviour and procedures will make them feel comfortable and safe. Language refers to types of language use, behaviour refers to the way an individual conducts themselves and procedures refers to group actions conducted in a certain order or manner. For example:
    • A student who uses they pronouns may ask that people try hard to get that right or simply correct themselves and move on if they don’t (language/behaviour).
    • A hearing impaired student may request that people raise their hand before they speak to help them identify who is speaking and better hear what is being said (behaviour).
    • A student who feels intimidated to speak in front of a group may ask that writing thoughts down and passing them to the facilitator to read them out is an option for the whole group (procedure).
  • Your team may have particular requirements for the agreement based on the issue/topic the team is focused on. For example:
    • If the topic LGBTIQ+ inclusion, there may be the need for extra discussion around particular language use.
    • A team looking at the way people of colour experience the education system may decide that, when a new topic is introduced for discussion, the people of colour in the team provide their insights first, before the allies in the room contribute.
    • A team that is focused on mental health and wellbeing may request that group members provide content warnings before discussing sensitive issues like self-harm. 

How to Guide 

  1. Let your team know that you want them to have a positive and safe experience. Explain that one way to set up an environment where everyone feels comfortable to be themselves is to develop a Safe Space Agreement as a team.
  2. Explain that together you will create a Safe Space Agreement that will stay on the wall for the term/semester/year and that can be referred to if people ever feel uncomfortable or not respected.
  3. Explain that a Safe Space Agreement isn’t a set of rules, and that if people act in a way that wasn’t agreed upon, they won’t be punished! The guide can be used however to have a conversation about what just happened and to re-establish group safety and harmony!
  4. Divide a piece of butcher’s paper into three columns and head them with behaviours, language and procedures and provide some examples for each. For example:
  • Language refer to the words we use, like using the correct pronouns for people or not using certain words that some people might find offensive.
  • Behaviour is about how individuals act, for example, not talking over the top of each other!
  • Procedures is about how the whole group does things, for example, deciding that we will do an acknowledgment of country every day.
  1. Ask students to contribute their ideas and add them to the columns. Some ideas may sit under more than one category – just decide one column or write it between the two.
  2. Before adding a point make sure that everyone agrees! If there is still disagreement, try working toward a compromise.
  3. Thank the group and make sure the Agreement is somewhere everyone can see it!

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