ETHICAL GUIDELINES FOR A COLLECTION OF CONTRIBUTIONS
BY PEOPLE WITH LIVED EXPERIENCE OF POVERTY (AND DISABILITY)
CONTRIBUTIONS: biographical excerpts, opinions, images, sound recordings, video clips, art work, etc.,
shared by contributors, also called participants here.


by claude wittmann, ODSP recipient, and Heath Soave, MSW
Living document that you can contribute to by writing to minimalaction2019@gmail.com
Posted on February 14, 2019


1) design of the collection

Ethical principles are intentional and chosen.

The collection is considered as a creation of relationships between collectors and contributors, and between the contributors.

All initiators, facilitators and collectors accept to be contributors even if they do not have lived experience.

The intent of the collection and it's political goal are chosen and clarified.

- Expressing poverty and/or disability are not easy task in a society that stigmatizes both and thus, the energy spent to contribute is respected and channelled towards a specific goal that the participants know about before they opt-in.

The targeted audiences are chosen.

- Example: elected or non-elected politicians, bureaucrats, press, social media, friends, family, etc.

The collection is designed as a strategy to maximize participants' empowerment and community building during and after the collection.

- The initiators consider - the different ways to reach the goal of the collection while empowering the participants. They consider - the types contributions possible (there is a fundamental difference between a biographical excerpt and an opinion), - the differences between the different media that could be used (a text can stay anonymous, a photo less so), - the type of relationships that these tend to create in comparison to the ones the project would like to emulate and aim for (trained psychological support, support with follow-up, peer support, long-term solidarity, long-term activism or art project together, relationships through a contextualized report like the Truth and Reconciliation's Commission report, etc.).

The collection is designed to avoid the reification of the power imbalances that it is trying to deconstruct.

- The initiators consider the project from the perspective of time invested and income. Who will be paid? Who will not? Why? Should the project be designed or funded differently to allow for another type of money distribution? Should the participants be paid? Are their contributions pieces or art?
- The project is designed to foster equality as much as possible.
- The project is designed in a transparent way.
- Ownership/copyright of the collection is clarified.


The collection is designed with accessibility at its core.
The collection is designed with cultural awareness at its core.

- Options are given for contributing the same type of content in different ways; the collection allows for opt in and out at any time; the collection is published online or in another accessible way for easiest access by the contributors themselves, the collection's design is questioned along the way.

Consent formalities are established.

All funders and partner organizations are made aware of the chosen ethical principles.

The collection does not start before all human and technological capacity has been gathered.

- Those involved must stay mindful of who is and who is not present at all times and throughout all stages.
- They must also take note of who's voice is at the forefront.
- Contributors should be a part of all steps of the project, including design, implementation, and wrap-up.
- When thinking about who needs to be at the table, consider all aspects of people's identities, including class, race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc.
- All participants will be mindful that the identities of those who design and facilitate the project have a significant influence on who will participate in it.



2) during the collection

Before opting-in the participants are engaged into a discussion of the goal of the project, of its process and of what it might mean for them and for the audiences that will receive it.

- Participants are reminded that poverty is a systemic problem and that marginalization based on any aspects of identity or social position would not exist in a truly inclusive and egalitarian social fabric. The concepts of sensationalism and exploitation are discussed. The potential contributors are given a chance to consider if they feel a coherence between the goal of the project and the type of contributions the project requests.

The opting-in and out formalities are explained.

Consent is carefully and respectfully collected.

Consent is an ongoing conversation.

Personal empowerment:

The collection is made in a safe space.

- The risks taken and the way the space has been prepared are clarified.
- Participants are given the option to request for another type of safety (anonymity for example, or contribution in silence, contribution through an actor, mentor during public exposure, etc.).
- Consider whether anonymity should be the default as this will shape the relationship of the contributors with the project and what they share (more or less empowerment, more or less fear, etc.)
- Strategies of (self-)care and support are clarified and discussed (consider trained active listeners, witnesses, psychotherapists, peer support, all in short-term, and long-term capacities)
- Debrief is offered and used for adjustments of the project.
- Closure is offered when necessary.


The empowerment of the participants is ensured by

- giving choice (opt in and out, medium etc.)
- sharing the skills necessary for the collection
- encouraging creativity (ex: request for an lived opinion as opposed to a bio)
- organizing that participants can comment on the collection at any time, i.e. participate in its political life after it is done
- offering exit strategies if participants want to continue to express what they have unlocked.

The empowerment of the participants stays priority at any time.

- Participants are appropriately accompanied through the process and given the option to debrief their experience (through art making, conversation, email follow-up, healing session with a healer, etc.).
- If the collection is getting harmful, it is stopped.
- If the collection does not empower the participants, it is stopped and reconsidered.
- If a participant wants to opt out, their statement is extracted from the collection.
- If a participant decides to switch to anonymity, so it will be.


Collective empowerment:

Personal empowerment and community-building take priority over political strategy in tricky moments.

- Example: one participant is badly represented in the press after the collection or suddenly treated unfairly by their worker. For reasons of solidarity, it might be decided to erase the collection or restrict access to it so that only trusted parties could see it. How participants keep access to the collection then is clarified.

Transparency is maintained and communication channels remain open to question the power distributions that arise during the project.


3) during public exposure

The participants are informed of what happens with the collection.

The participants keep the option to opt-out.

The participants are given opportunities to manifest their opinions.