Expectations for Engagement in NASCO Community Spaces

Expectations for Engagement in NASCO Community Spaces

We ask that conference attendees use the following agreements as ground rules throughout the season of Institute in both online and in-person spaces. These are offered as tools for participants to hold themselves and each other accountable as we engage in a respectful and challenging educational process.


Contend with harmful power dynamics

When we come together for NASCO events, we are not separate from the context of systemic oppressions in North America. Injustices like white supremacy, misogyny, ableism, and xenophobia cause harm in NASCO spaces, as they do in the world at large. We are all responsible for learning to recognize and interrupt harmful power dynamics, which is a core aspect of NASCO’s work.


Practice effective cross-cultural communication

NASCO brings together people who use a variety of communication styles, and some of our communication styles are marginalized in dominant North American culture. In NASCO spaces, we honor that effective communication can take many forms. We observe how our own communication style is working for people around us and work to bridge gaps in understanding.

Letting one person talk at time, leaving space between speakers, and explaining acronyms or jargon are example tools that can support shared understanding in a group with mixed communication styles.


No one knows everything, but together we know a lot

When we come together, we remember that we have something to learn from everyone in the room. Because of this, we participate both by sharing what we know and by listening to others. We value cooperation because we are wiser as a group than any one of us is alone.


Take space, make space

Advocating for ourselves and making space for other people are equally important skills. If we are more comfortable with one of those skills, we put extra effort into developing the other. We all work to share time, physical space, attention, and power equitably with each other.


Be curious

We make better decisions when we approach our problems and challenges with questions (“What if we…?”) and curiosity. We allow space for play and creativity.


Say it messy

Often, people feel hesitant to participate in a workshop or meeting for fear of “messing up” or stumbling over their words. Keeping in mind that we have different experiences of language, class, access to formal education, and comfort in group settings, we have patience with ourselves and others. We encourage each other to share what’s on our minds without expecting perfection, and we normalize making mistakes together, which is an important part of the learning process.


Recognize intent and address impact

We all have the potential to hurt or harm each other without intending to, and power differentials between us make harm even more likely. We also all have the opportunity to show empathy and accountability when we hurt or harm someone.

We pay attention to the impact of our words and actions on ourselves and others, which may be different from our intent. In situations of harm and conflict, we work to understand each other, including how power dynamics and systemic oppressions factor into the situation. We work toward repair.


What’s said here stays here / what’s learned here leaves here

At NASCO events, we may share sensitive information about ourselves or our organizations. In order to foster a culture where we can take risks together and practice vulnerability, we also practice confidentiality.

We will not repeat any personally or organizationally identifying information we hear from others, unless we get explicit consent to do so. Instead, we will share our own realizations and takeaways from our time together.


Expect a lack of closure

NASCO spaces are designed to support learning new concepts, developing questions, making connections, and exploring ideas. We will leave with unanswered questions and unsolved problems. We can maximize our learning by continuing to workshop these ideas in our home communities.



The framing and language for these community agreements were created in partnership with AORTA: Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance. Most of these agreements were not created directly by AORTA and are borrowed from various people’s movements for justice. Get in touch: www.aorta.coop.