Code of Conduct Response Guide
This is a guide for the organisers and volunteers of PyCon Balkan on handling Code of Conduct (CoC) reports. This guide is mostly aimed at conference staff to help us deal with incidents professionally, and reduce the risk of mistakes. This is especially important because conferences are stressful and involve significant time pressure. However, it’s always possible that special circumstances require a deviation from this guide.
Some parts of this guide discuss very severe incidents, like ongoing violence. This is not because these events are common at conferences in the region, but rather because we want to be prepared as well as reasonably possible, for anything from the more common smaller incidents to the most severe cases.
Guidelines for all organisers and volunteers
PyCon Balkan has a dedicated Code of Conduct team, and this team will generally handle any reports. However, other organisers and volunteers are sometimes the first point of contact, or may observe incidents themselves.
In general, as a representative of the conference, be aware that other participants look toward you for appropriate behaviour within the Code of Conduct.
When you are an organiser or volunteer not on the CoC team, the general guidelines for observing an incident or receiving a report are:
In speaking to a reporter, be cautious in your wording. Try to be understanding and compassionate, and make them feel heard and taken seriously. However, do not make commitments on whether the conference will see this as a violation, or what action will be taken.
In urgent cases, where it is not possible to contact a CoC team member and you believe immediate action is essential, you may intervene unilaterally. For example, you may consider this:
When possible, even in these cases, consult with another organiser or volunteer if you see one nearby.
Guidelines for Code of Conduct team
The Code of Conduct team are in charge of handling reports until their completion. It is their task to ensure all reports are handled timely and professionally.
Participants look towards the CoC team for appropriate behaviour, even more than other staff, and that makes it essential for their behaviour to remain within the Code of Conduct. Violations by CoC team members can severely erode trust in the Code of Conduct process.
CoC team members almost never act on their own, including tasks like replying to Code of Conduct related e-mails. If it’s not possible to meet with the entire CoC team in time, at least one other team member should be consulted.
Receiving a report
Reports are typically received by e-mail, in person, or from another staff member. If the report was received from someone else, it may be best to meet with the original reporter first, depending on how complete the information is. The information the CoC team aims to collect is listed in the Code of Conduct reporting guide, but sometimes not all information is available.
When receiving a report, the CoC team acknowledges receipt as soon as possible, and aims to be understanding and compassionate. However, there should be no commitment on whether this is a violation or which action will be taken.
Acting as a team
The CoC team generally works, decides and communicates as a team. If the report indicates that immediate action is required and other CoC team members are not available, any CoC team member may take the action they see appropriate. The same guidelines for unilateral action apply as listed above for other staff members. If possible, it’s still preferred to take action after a brief discussion with at least one other CoC team member, or even any other organiser, rather than acting entirely unilaterally. Formal processes and guidelines must never get in the way of preventing threats to anyone’s safety.
Reviewing the report
Based on the report and any other available information, the CoC team will meet to determine, to the best of their ability:
A written record will be kept of each incident and its review. Although that sometimes seems superfluous at the time, hectic environments like conferences can make it easy to forget or confuse details later.
As a result of the meeting, the CoC team may come to a conclusion about a resolution, or may conclude that additional information should be obtained. In the latter case, this additional information will be collected as soon as possible. Any conversations as part of this should generally be done by two people from the CoC team.
Conflicts of interest
As soon as reasonable, but at the latest at the report review meeting, team members should declare any conflicts of interest. This can mean being friends with one of the involved parties, or anything else that may make it harder to remain neutral.
A conflict of interest does not inherently mean the team member can no longer participate in the process, as that would make it very hard for the team to act on reports involving well-known people in the community. However, if a report concerns someone a team member is very close to, they probably should be not take part in the process. The team will decide together on where to draw this line in individual cases. Where possible, any conversations with offenders should not be done by their friends, as it can be very unpleasant for everyone involved.
The most common resolutions the CoC team can decide on are:
Resolutions are not restricted to these options. Any conversations with bad actors are done by two people from the CoC team, and notes from this conversation will be added to the record of the incident. When deciding on a resolution, our basic goal is to address the report in an appropriate way, while also looking to prevent or reduce the risk of continuing harm in the future. For example, we may try to distinguish whether a violation occurred intentionally or not, especially in not too severe cases like inappropriate jokes. In intentional cases, or severe behaviour, we’ll probably choose for stronger measures. The CoC team can also use behaviour on social media, the conference Discord channel or personal interactions to further build a picture of the person(s) involved.
Informing the reporter
After the resolution is complete, the reporter should be informed of the action taken by the CoC team, and the reasoning behind this.
As a general rule, conference staff should not make any public statements about the behaviour of individual people during or after the conference. An exception to this are situations that happened in a fairly public context, because attendees may otherwise think no action was taken, eroding trust in the Code of Conduct process. The CoC team will decide together whether to make a public statement, and if so, in how much detail. This should not be decided unilaterally.
After each conference, a Code of Conduct transparency report will be published by the CoC team with anonymised information about any violations that might have occurred.
Any public statements should be handled with care not to divulge personally identifying information about anyone affected, and should serve as a means to ensure that attendees will be comfortable reporting harassment and that our community will be kept accountable for supporting and encouraging safe spaces.