Founder's Blog

Importance of Psychological Safety at IRP

I’d like to talk to y’all more about the subject of psychological safety and its importance here in our community space. For those who don’t know what psychological safety is, it is a SHARED belief in a group that a given environment is safe for people to take interpersonal risks and make mistakes without incurring personal loss or punishment. Shared, meaning that we are in the collective agreement and a GIVEN environment or space is safe for people to screw up, learn and do better without personal damage.

All of us are learning many new things regarding the publishing industry, writing, social justice, equitable spaces and culture as we create our work, it’s imperative there are spaces allowed to discuss, share and take risks on our writing. As creatives, this is key to innovation. As a community, this is key to equity and inclusion. Perfection doesn’t exist and we are all works in progress. We grow from learning, failing, unlearning, and applying what we learned.

What does psychological safety look like here?

This above must be our shared belief of what psychological safety means here.

If you don’t feel like it’s safe here to do the above, I would like to find out what and why so I can help improve that.

Now, we need to discuss the other part of the definition: our given environment

I want our entire Slack community to have psychological safety, and to do that, we also have to abide by my motto: “First, do no harm.” What I mean by that is if we are to make it safe for people to make mistakes, how do we protect those who may be impacted by our interpersonal risk-taking?

There are a few things we must do (some we do already) that will help here:

Psychological safety is a collective belief that a team is a safe place for you to be who you are, ask questions, share your ideas, or challenge the status quo. While trust happens between two people, Psychological Safety is something that the entire team provides. However, both complement each other. If team members don’t trust each other, how can they trust the whole group?

Other Articles for further reading:

Psychological Safety first: building trust among teams

4 Steps to boost psychological safety at work

Adoption of Restorative Justice Practices at IRP

Building this community has been a great adventure in my own "great unlearning" journey and the more I grasp the philosophy behind abolitionists and how we as a society dole out justice, the more I'm inspired to integrate these ideas into our community. As a consultant, I must've reviewed countless code of conducts, rules, laws, bylaws, and complaint codes in organization and all of them are created from a traditional criminal offense philosophy: (What code was broken, Who did it, What do they deserve?) 

My rough spot with this was always the same question: What does the victim need? In fact, in my DEI consultant work, I found there's very little attention or informed consent given to the victim at all. They tend to be forgotten in our traditional playbook of crime & punishment. In fact, my mother used to say, "the last people the justice system actually cares about is the victim." I thought she was just being cynical, until I got older and frequently saw this in real-time. Where the offender is given more platform and voice than those who were harmed by the offense.  It's still the case now where we as a society get so obsessed with the villanization and criminalization of a person, we forget to include the community and offer support for the victim so they can heal. As the young folks say, "It didn't sit right with my spirit." However, so many organizations also adopted this process that it seemed impenetrable to change.

That is, until I started learning about restorative justice practices and philosophy.

So, what is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice seeks to examine the harmful impact of an offense and then determines what can be done to repair that harm while holding the person who caused it accountable for his or her actions. Accountability for the offender means accepting responsibility and acting to repair the harm done. Outcomes seek to both repair the harm and address the reasons for the offense, while reducing the likelihood of re-offense. Rather than focusing on the punishment meted out, restorative justice measures results by how successfully the harm is repaired.

Additionally, restorative justice seeks to include those most directly affected by an offense in the justice process, namely victims and survivors. Rather than a process focused on the offender, restorative justice focuses on those who have been harmed and the harms they have experienced. In the restorative justice process, victims are empowered to participate more fully than in the traditional system. Likewise, the community plays an important role in the restorative process by establishing standards of conduct, helping to hold an offender accountable, and providing support to the parties involved and opportunities to help repair the harm that has occurred. The opportunity to express the harm a victim has experienced, full participation in decision making, and support from the community all aid in the healing in the aftermath of a serious offense.

During the "unlearn" I had a lot of sticking points I had to work out with restorative justice. So I'm happy to share the myths I had to bust to get onboard.

Restorative Justice isn't "soft." At first, that was my big sticker. It "felt" like in order to do this we were asking for "less punishment" or reprecussions for the offender, which in my line of work meant that racists and toxic leaders would "get off easy."  I had to sit in on some community circles where they worked out the accountability needs of the offender and no---this isn't soft. What was refreshing was the care involved to remember both the victim and offender are human beings and focusing on the needs of the victim who holds ALL their agency.  This was another sticker for me, but throughout the whole process, the victim got to decide how much they wanted to be involved in the process, if they even wanted to open a dialogue with the offender, and what they believed would support them as they healed. 

Learning from how school systems are adopting this practice has inspired me to look at the Inclusive Romance Project as an opportunity as well to integrate this behavior into our organization.

This ties so close to psychological safety, it ain't even funny, but of course for this to have a chance requires base-level mental safety for the community, the victims and offenders to have willingness to restore the relationships and the respect in order to progress further.

I've realized that the fear of "making a mistake" or "getting it wrong" is a valid fear in a society that seeks to strip away the humanity of both the victim and the offender, without any opportunity to help the community heal nor allow the offender a transformative path to be welcomed back into the community.