BiCon Decision Making Plenary and Online System.
It’s a strange online situation we find ourselves in for 2020 – but as most of you know, we’ve had a great deal of discussion around anti-racism training and systemic racism structures within BiCon which mean we really still need to do a vote in 2020 to make sure people are heard and we can make some decisions (e.g. funding the mandatory anti-racism training for our white attendees via Bi Continuity funds, or asking attendees to pay for it before they attend BiCon 2021).
Traditionally we vote at a BiCon Decision Making Plenary, or ‘DMP’ on anything which affects future BiCons. Bi Continuity hold the money and reputational risk aspects for BiCon, but the guidelines we are voting on for future BiCons belong to the community.
We know that this year people may be voting on an event or idea they haven't attended in person yet – so it may make it hard to envision what they're voting on/for. We hope everything we vote for can happen, but we understand that the team(s) may need to come back for further guidance or help next year if we can't make it happen for some reason. We don't want to over promise and under deliver – so each vote will be in this context.
With interaction being online and both numbers and attention being more limited than an in person event we’ve figured out a way to do this that can increase participation to the max we think is possible. So here’s the timeline.
- Please take this email as a ‘call out’ for material you want voted on at BiCon. You can submit this as a presentation slide deck, as a word document, or anything you like – but it should have a question people can vote on… and some options below it. Example vote at the bottom.
- We need to close this on 30 July 2020 to allow the ideas to be collated, changed, further questions or clarifications sent where necessary and a paper or pack collated
- The pack will be sent out ASAP with all the votes and arguments for/against, but no later than 6 August 2020 to allow 1 full week to read it over.
- As soon as the pack is sent out, a channel will be opened on the Discord for text based discussions around the ideas in the pack.
- On Thurs 13 August we will run an online ‘talking shop’ where people can get together, be put in breakout rooms and discuss the points on the pack. They’ll be asked to feed back to the main room. We’ll ask for summaries of the text based discussion discord thread too and try to ensure as many voices are heard as possible. We'll do any urgent edits needed to the 5 votes.
- On Sat 15 August there will be a DMP held. As it’s online and we expect about 100 people to attend we will have everyone on mute all of the time, unless they are timetabled to speak. We will need to keep the times strictly down to be accessible, so will do 50 minutes, then a break of 15 minutes. Then another 40 minutes if needed (or we will end early). It will have live captions/subtitles.
a. Each ‘vote’ will have someone explain it. We will then vote – probably using sli.do or menti or another online software tool.
b. the whole DMP session will be subtitled so we won’t need to take ‘minutes’ in the traditional form. The subtitles will be used to form the minutes and they'll put up on the BiCon website as usual, after the DMP.
We are open to feedback on this if there’s anything we can do to make it a bit easier, but we are also severely limited by the online format, but the need to vote.
Please submit voting ideas (with arguments as full as possible) to email@example.com
Thanks – Kate N Katy
An example vote (made up from parts, just an example)
IDEA: The Bicon community has recently realised (by listening to bi's of colour statement), that the community has racist structures and has not dealt well with racist incidents. We have also realised we need to acknowledge this and work towards fixing our community (see website info on anti-racism and racism at BiCon).
One method to act on this need, which we can do right now, is to do training on anti-racism. We found training at £10 a head for our white attendees to start off our anti-racism process (Black and POC attendees welcome to come as well, we can work out a free fund if they want to come).
We decided investing 2 hours in training, which would help people to get to know other attendees ahead of bicon, in a supportive training environment is a fair expectation of our community members. It will help us combat structural event racism by giving a level of anti-racism knowledge to all white attendees. In 2021 this should be mandatory for the white community members wherever possible e.g. on the day attendees can't do it etc (accessible training of course is possible, and formats can be changed/edited wherever possible and different versions and advice will be looked at). The vote is on how to fund this.
a. Should the mandatory anti racism training be funded from Bi Continuity money, to the stock of £2500 before bicon 2021?
iii. £1250 funded, £1250 crowd funded by attendees
EDIT: 6 AUGUST.
Bicon DMP Voting Papers/Records
Usually at bicon we have a voting meeting to discuss matters and write guidelines for organisers to run bicon each year. As we’re online this year we’re adopting a different format.
Firstly, we’ll have Bicon DMP channel on discord open straight away where people can go to speak. Invite in the last email from mailchimp (or ask an existing member, or ask in the FB community fan group for the link… it’s in announcements at the top of the page).
Secondly we’ll hold a chatting event to discuss these things with others on Thurs 13th Aug 6-8pm. We will use breakout rooms and people can go in/discuss for 10 mins and back out again. We’ll try to hear as many voices as possible between each other. Any urgent amends or changes will be done and the info re-sent out. We will try to avoid changes for changes sakes.
Thirdly the actual DMP will be Saturday 15th Aug 3-5pm and due to restrictions on having it ‘live-subtitled’ we’ll only have 1 speaker per point, the person will be pre-arranged. Everyone will be on mute, and as always you can chat in the ‘chat’ box, but this isn’t part of the official subtitled meeting. People can ask questions in the chat box though and we will be trying to answer. We’ll use 2 online meeting codes to vote. Info will be given during the meeting very carefully and clearly. Max of 5 votes due to time, access requirement and paid voting accounts.
It will be live subtitled. Minutes will be available ASAP after the meeting.
Community/Changes Explanation: (this section is from Kate)
When I realised this year that Bicon keeps making racist errors (from Bi’s of colour statement/published on website June 2020), I reflected a lot about why this might be. I could find 2 main areas. Firstly, attendee mistakes, and secondly larger organiser mistakes.
The attendees mistakes were discussed during a white affinity group setup meeting. Yas suggested anti-racism training, so I began to work on that with Blake and Rachel’s help and investigation to find suitable places to speak to.
I spent a lot of time thinking, reflecting and looking into what we can do to change the organiser mistakes. The structure of bicon teams is in and of itself enabling racist mistakes by having yearly teams, (who are often new to organising Bicons or new to the roles), take sole responsibility and ‘carry the can’ for everything. At the end of the year they are usually burnt out and run away, often without doing the accounts or a handover to the next year or similar things. It’s a hard gig! I felt the changes I wanted would add up to less burnout and what previous organisers call ‘toxic’ working conditions.
I had originally thought we needed to bring a change of structure to Bicon and discuss this, get it voted on and agreed etc at a DMP. I started writing a PowerPoint of the main ideas:
- An end to yearly teams, people staying around for longer periods of time and tasks broken up smaller and more visibly to encourage people to participate for longer periods of time. Listing several years tasks on the board with names and accountability to encourage learning across the years.
- More transparency to be enforced in the ‘guidelines’ for organisers – (who is doing what, when, why etc?) including set up of a public task board where people can see these things progress (or not) and offer to pick up the baton where needed.
- A conduct team set up who span lots of different years and whom the organisers yearly teams are also accountable to
- Better restorative justice/community culture of learning system in place – including exploring accountability for things which could happen outside bicon time
- Mandatory anti racism training for all attendees we know of in advance (taking into account previous experiences or access issues etc).
- Transparency of structure of Bi Continuity, how it relates to Bicon and where/when it influences. Who has the money/why/how does the community access it etc.
During this process I found out several things which have radically changed my approach. First being that we don’t need to vote on any of those things!
What right? Don’t need to vote? No! the way Bicon is set up is that Bi continuity look after the money and reputational risk only. They can make decision if it’s not reasonable to get to a DMP to make the decision. That’s it. That’s all they look after. They don’t look after organiser guidelines, they don’t vote on structure of how things are organised or why – or what training needs to be done before a Bicon etc. All of this is purely down to the community itself. By ‘community’ what we mean is the organisers currently doing it and the people they are accountable to/speak to about this.
So with that in mind, I set up the trello to get rid of the yearly team structure and encourage longer-term working then sorted out the training, Blake is taking up a good 90% of changes here and adding more in for 2021 as well and we both agreed to work with transparency, honestly and accountability for now and the future and to model this behaviour for both attendees and the community at large.
It’s the new standards we’ll be needing to work to as a community forever. We don’t need further transparency in the already fussy and overly-long organiser guidelines – we just need to make it clear as a community of people what we want, and hold our ‘elected’ people accountable in a positive way when we want these standards.
I’m still working on the conduct team ideas (with Oliver on listening team for a proper de-escalation group idea), but I know that we don’t need to vote to put any of this through, the community owns these things, there is no ‘ownership’ from bicon continuity and we should stop expecting a small and hard working group of volunteers to answer everything for us. I’ve done this myself! ‘oh I need an answer to X… I’ll email bi continuity’ ‘oh I think we need Y… I’ll email bi continuity’. We don’t need to email bi continuity to get approval for these things, we need the community to work together and agree the standards we will expect from each other.
With that in mind, there are a few things here we want the community to discuss and endorse between 2020 and 2021 so that you’re clear on what we are all agreeing to do and what direction we want the organisers/community to move in.
- We feel that BiCon Continuity Ltd’s structure and role within BiCon are no properly understood by BiCon organisers and others who may be interested. We’d like to ask for an exploratory webinar or talk, or a series of events so we can explore the role and accountability of BiCon Continuity to the bi community – and how we may or may not want this to work.
Voting Question 1
This DMP votes that we would like to understand more about the relationship with BiCon Continuity Limited (BCL) and would like to ask BCL as a group to put some efforts/events/talks together to clarify and present this back to us. We trust them to explore how, when and why, but would like transparency and clarity to be key. We also recognise that BiCon members and organisers need to make the effort to engage with the information provided.
- From 2021 BiCon plans to run antiracism training to reach the vast majority of attendees. We would like, as a community, to ask BCL to help pay for the anti-racism training from the BiCon surplus. Bi continuity owns and runs this money, but has said they will listen to community requests. The training should cost £2500 in total between 2020 and 2021 if it is run by the the Anti Racist Educators who completed the trial run at Bicon 2020 online.We recognise that it may not be appropriate for everyone to complete the training for reasons including their own race or disability. We recognise that BiCon has the responsibility to make the training as accessible as possible, both in format and in price, and that BiCon attendees have the responsibility to try their best to complete the training in good faith.
Voting Question 2:
- Yes I want these funds used for this
- No, no Bi continuity funds
- One of the key things I believe should be looked at is how teams function and report back to the community. The teams are almost seen as ‘owning’ the bicon and the community aren’t seen as having an active say. I’m not too sure on the ‘ins and outs’ of this, but I would like to put it to the vote that the community would like more transparency and accountability from its’ organisers – who work *for* the community as a whole. The next few years are key in looking at this process and seeing what kinds of calls or meetings we could have.
One idea is the trello board and having 2 weekly meetings which could even be recorded using the bicon zoom – but it’s just an idea and teams could explore lots of others.
Until some exploration is done, I don’t want to change any guidelines, but future bicon DMPs could look at that in their own time.
Voting Question 3.
This DMP asks the organisers of bicon to be more transparent and to give more regular updates to attendees on how tasks are going. We trust the next few years to trial some methods of this and to work out how best to do it for them.
- Yes this is needed.
- No thanks.
- Anti-Racism working group review. In the 2019 BiCon Decision Making Plenary a motion was passed to start an anti-racism working group for the purpose of raising and ring-fencing funds for consistent anti-oppression training, bringing forward advice on action for future BiCon organisers and suggesting changes to the Guidelines and Code of Conduct. It was also stated that BiCon resolves to review progress on this subject the following year, (2020 DMP).
A summary of what has happened over the past year:
- An anti-racism working group made up of four white people has been active since October 2019. As a group they have sought advice from other groups tackling similar issues, applied and been denied two grants for training and support, collated UK-specific resources on anti-racism and agreed with the previous Bicon 2020/1 team that white attendees should read/watch at least one learning resource before arriving.
- Online 2020 team have made some changes made to the Code of Conduct, organised funding for anti-racism training for Virtual BiCon 2020, organised the vote to get Bicon Continuity funds recommended by the community to pay for future training (which would normally cost £10 a head) and finally have organised a fundraiser to pay for those who can’t afford to pay for it, or to pay for help with other anti-racist efforts – so far £270 is raised and expected more to be raised when we’re clear exactly what we’re paying for and when.
- There’s also some other general community ideas for between 2020 and 2021 like having a series of cultural events like white affinity groups, book groups or readings, or films etc that we watch together in BiCon Discord or Facebook groups – but this doesn’t need to be part of the ‘formal’ group.
Voting Question 4.
Do we want to continue with the existing anti-racism working group, organise a new group with different people, or let the group lapse and continue our anti-racism work through a range of team and community efforts. We recognise that every option if dependent on suitable volunteers stepping up, and that the current group could continue whether or not it’s official.
- Keep the current group (if they are willing)
- Organise a new group (Rowan has offered to do the admin to help such a group set up.)
- Continue with a range of community efforts but no official group
- As many of the community are aware, this year we had 2 ‘teams’ in a row resigning from running Bicon 2020, 2021 and 2022. Kate was voted in to run 2020 (with the effervescent Katy doing the other half), and 2021 and 22 were up for debate. This first vote comes in this context, from Blake.
I, (Blake Noble), put myself forward to run BiCon 2021. Before Rachel resigned, her team secured Leeds Beckett as the venue and I’m happy to go ahead with that as planned. On my team I have Ash and Robin. It would be useful to have additional volunteers to work on accessibility.
My hope is to run a bigger, better, Blacker, Browner BiCon. To achieve this my team and I would do more to promote the event to people of colour, increase the highest price tier of tickets in order to reduce the lowest price tier, offer free tickets for working class people of colour, work with individuals of colour to review the code of conduct and create a better system for responding to breaches of conduct that promotes restorative justice.
Voting Question 5
This DMP supports Blake’s bid to run 2021 and to try a number of new systems/ideas to help improve our race accessibility.
(Thanks for this, the final decision will go to continuity for affirmation on running the team)
WHAT THEY ARE:
We also had 2 other motions submitted that we aren’t voting on as we’re limited to 5 votes. 1 wasn’t clear what we would be deciding on and so I couldn’t discuss it in full, and the other 1 was superseded by voting Q4 above. A 3rd one is an email from AC which forms a longer background to the anti-racism working group for context.
APPENDIX 1: (not named as I couldn’t get permission/discussion going)
As you are aware since the metoo movement and other cases that highlight harrassment, being pestered by people can show itself in anybody of any orientation. I have reread the community rules again and I have to say that racism can rear up in the victim accusing as well. There is a zero tolerance to racism and I feel that certain rules against harassment can entrap other minorities who may not be harassing anybody at all.
I've been street harrassed since my teens by older people and people my age. I am a person of colour by the way. At first I was distressed but there are ways to ward off harrassers (e.g. at the end of bicon, give a fake number, or say you have a partner, for the session only be friendly regardless) I understand if the accused is violent or aggressive, they should be removed but stopping anybody from speaking to bicon members can exclude people automatically. This is counter productive to bringing people together.
So I want there to be a vote to not shun people from social interaction in case they turn 'aggressive' it's passive racism.
Should bicon get rid of the no talking to other bicon members, this is harrassment, part of the conduct policy
C maybe – but under certain conditions
QUERY 1 I'm not sure which part of the code of conduct you're meaning to remove can you quote it for me?
Something about 'you're not allowed to talk to people this can be construed as harrassment'. There's no mention of how communicating with people in a normal way is fine or okay. It seems to just say don't talk to people unless they talk to you like you're a robot with a power switch to start interacting when people want to suddenly include or exclude you
QUERY 2 (TO WHICH NO REPLY) I'm afraid I still don't know which bit you're referring to – can you quote it for me? There's nothing like that in the code of conduct so I'm a bit confused!
APPENDIX 2 (From Blake)
In the 2019 BiCon Decision Making Plenary a motion was passed to instigate an anti-racism working group for the stated purposes of raising and ring-fencing funds for consistent anti-oppression training, bringing forward advice on action for future BiCon organisers and suggesting changes to the guidelines and code of conduct. It was also stated that BiCon resolves to review progress on this subject the following year.
A year has now passed and as such it is time for us to review our progress.
A summary of what has happened over the past year in relation to the content of the motion that was passed in 2019:
- There have been no changes to the guidelines
- An anti-racism working group made up of four white people (AC, Elizabeth, Nairmi and Jane) has been active since October. As a group they have sought advice from other groups tackling similar issues, applied and been denied two grants for training and support, collated UK-specific resources on anti-racism and agreed with BiCon that white attendees should use at least one resource before arriving
- Kate made some changes made to the code of conduct
- Kate organised free anti-racism training for Virtual BiCon 2020 with the help of Rachel and Blake
- There are plans for anti-racism training sessions for BiCon community members throughout the year which attendees would need to pay for out of pocket
- Q) Has the anti-racism working group and our community as a whole succeeded in accomplishing the aims set out in the motion that was passed last year on the subject of being consistently anti-racist and anti-oppressive?
- The aims have been accomplished in their entirety.
- Some but not all of the aims have been accomplished.
- None of the aims have been accomplished.
APPENDIX 3 (From AC)
1) At the Decision Making Plenary at BiCon 2019, a motion 'Being Consistently Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppressive'. – of which Bis of Colour said "it accurately reflected their position and they hoped BiCon would take the motion seriously." – was passed unanimously.
The full motion text is available on the BiCon Web site: https://bicon.org.uk/for-attendees/dmp-minutes/minutes-from-the-bicon-2019-decision-making-plenary/
The resolution included the following text:
"Many [Black people, people of colour] in general, as well as Bis of Colour in particular, are avoiding BiCon because they do not see white bi+ people individually and collectively dismantling their white pseudo-supremacy.
"BiCon is currently NOT a safer space for Black people, people of colour. BiCon is not sustainable, if we are not a safer space for people from marginalised by white pseudo-supremacy, if we are not consistently anti-racist and anti-oppressive.
"Learning consistent anti-racist practice as white people, and broader anti-oppression practice, is difficult and challenging work. BiCon cannot achieve consistent anti-oppression through volunteers alone, because it is traumatising to Black people, people of colour. To learn anti-racism, white people must be taught and held accountable by professional anti-racism trainers who are Black or people of colour themselves. Volunteers & white people can offer support to these experts."
"BiCon therefore calls on BiCon Continuity Limited to help form a working group to make change happen on this subject beyond this BiCon.
"The group should explore:
(a) How can BiCon raise and ring-fence funds for consistent anti-oppression training for everyone involved?
(b) In particular, how will the white members of the BiCon community collectively take responsibility for properly paying anti-racism experts who are themselves Black or people of colour, to train us and hold us accountable to be collectively, consistently, truly anti-racist and anti-oppressive?
"It should bring forward advice on action for future BiCon organisers, changes to the Guidelines, and advice on the Code of Conduct. This can and should feed in to the arrangements for next BiCon.
"BiCon resolves to review progress on this crucial subject next year."
2) A BiCon Anti-Racism Working Group formed and started work in Autumn 2019. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic reached the UK in Spring 2020. Arrangements for BiCon 2020 changed repeatedly due to the pandemic.
3) On 26 Jun, the BiCon Anti-Racism Working Group and BiCon Continuity Ltd Trustees put out two summaries of anti-racism work. Excerpts:
"No volunteers were turned away from the group. There were no Black [people] or people of colour who wanted to volunteer for this work and had the time and energy to participate."
"There are 4 active members (Elizabeth, AC, Naomi, Jane)." [all white]
"This Group has: ..
– Sought advice from other groups tackling similar issues;
– Applied for two grants for training and support, which we didn't get;
– Collated UK-specific resources on anti-racism;
– Agreed with BiCon that white attendees should use at least one resource before arriving. ..
"Can you help us to fund that work? Please donate to Sort code: 40-06-32, Account number: 51685848 This is administered by BiCon Continuity."
".. [T]he Equality Network, especially their Intersectionality Team, .. has pooled its resources for this year’s online BiCon and provided organising hours, as well as funding to pay speakers who are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds."
"We also take this opportunity to invite Black Bi+ people & Bi+ people of colour to tell us what you would prefer to see funded, as we will no doubt embark on seeking grants or looking at internal funding again. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org "
Full text of Shorter Update: https://biconcontinuity.org.uk/shorter-update-from-bicon-anti-racism-working-group/
Full text of Longer Update: https://biconcontinuity.org.uk/longer-update-from-bicon-anti-racism-working-group/
4) On Sun 26 Jul 2020, Elizabeth Barnier reported for BiCon Continuity Ltd to Virtual BiCon 2020 and the Anti-Racism Working Group that only one enquiry and no donations to the Anti-Racism Fund BiCon Continuity Ltd are administering.
5) During July 2020, a white community member, Blake Alexis Noble – initially in accountability to Yas Lime, and in reference to the 'Dialogue for Affinity Groups: Optional Discussions to Accompany 'Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation' resource by Carolyne Miller Abdullah and Susan McCormack of Everyday Democracy https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/abdullah.pdf – has facilitated a number of 'white affinity group' online sessions as a 'pilot' for the BiCon Community. Facebook announcement here with more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/2731431667086626/
6) For Virtual BiCon 2020, expert anti-racism trainers Abiọ́dún Abdul and Titilayo Farukuoye will be running free two sessions (25 places per session) to hold white BiCon 2020 attendees accountable for our anti-racism work.
Kate and the Virtual BiCon 2020 team say, "our plan is (if this goes well) to hold further sessions every two months until every BiCon attendee is trained .. after these sessions it'll be mandatory to attend before Bicon 2021 and might cost £10 a head
More details: https://2020.bicon.org.uk/anti-racism-at-bicon-an-intro/