NEST Social Code

How to use NEST

  1. Set up a Social Code of Conduct for your group (you can use ours as a starter).

  2. Decide on the roles appropriate for your group.

  3. Make sure you’re prepared for any potential situations.

  4. Incorporate your Social Code of Conduct in your invitation to ensure everyone’s on board.


    Full details below…

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Tips for adopting NEST for your social gathering

If you’re planning a party, family gathering or other social event, you can use a Social Code of Conduct as a means for defining the expectation of all attendees/members. You can use our version, The NEST Code, or you can create your own version - whatever works for you.

For best results, ensure that you and your social group not only read and understand the contents, but consider adopting the roles outlined below for your event, as well. You'll also find some tips for how to prepare and deal with social issues at the bottom of this page.

Role & Responsibilities

Party Pals

An easy way to take preventative measures to keep things on track is to ask everyone to have a "Party Pal". Party Pals are pairs of people who agree to be responsible for each other at the event, and to take action if anything goes wrong with regard to their Pal. This includes things like your Pal having too many drinks, getting into an altercation with someone, unwelcome comments or touching, or even something like spraining their ankle. Your Pal will be the person who looks after you in all of the above scenarios. Furthermore since everyone has a Pal, then it means everyone automatically has a representative/intermediary should there be anything that requires this type of assistance (see below for further info on intermediaries).

The Party Pal concept works best if it's a 1:1 thing. Your Pal can be your partner, but it might be even better to have a friend.

NEST Guardians

The main role of a Guardian is to be available to help if regular attendees feel there's something they can't handle themselves. Guardians aren't bouncers or cops for your gathering, so it's not necessarily about policing and definitely not brute enforcement. Think of Guardians more in the "guardian angel" sense rather than the "parent or guardian" sense of the word. They are more like the office First Aider, just for social rather than physical incidents and emergencies. You probably won't need to call on them, but it's a good idea to have them regardless.

A NEST Guardian can be anyone who is level-headed that will be at the event for (most of) the duration, able to stay calm under pressure, and ideally someone who is respected within the community of attendees. If your friend plans to get absolutely shit-faced, has a reputation for being "spiky", or intends to leave early, then they are probably not the best NEST Guardian for this event. Before the gathering, it's a good idea to ensure that you have at least 2 Guardians who understand their roles, where and how they will take action if needed, and that everyone is aware of who these people are.

Guardian Tips
Guardians don’t have to include the organizer/owner of the gathering. If the person throwing the party will not be in a fit state to help, it’s totally fine to appoint someone else to do so. In a social environment where gatherings are common, consider alternating Guardian roles so everyone has a chance to let their hair down.

If someone in your community has had trauma counselling training, ask them to share their advice. Don't expect them to always be a NEST Guardian - everyone needs to have fun sometimes. Or, ask them if they wouldn't mind being available for escalated questions if anything serious arises.

Intermediaries

Sometimes things can get awkward, uncomfortable or unsafe for someone at a social gathering. Perhaps they have overheard some comments that offended them, but they don't want to draw attention to themselves by saying something about it. Or, maybe someone else has tried to touch them or made assumptions about intimacy, and they don't feel comfortable addressing it directly. That's when intermediaries can step in. An intermediary can be a Party Pal, Guardian or anyone who is willing and able to talk to the other person (or their intermediary) about resolving the situation.

Bringing in an intermediary doesn't have to be a big deal; you can ask them to help no matter the scale of the situation. Your intermediary could simply speak on your behalf and say "Hey guys, can you tone it down a bit?" and those guys say "OK, cool." Or, should things be a little more serious, then the intermediary could take someone aside to a private place, or contact them after the event to explain that whatever the person did isn't OK, and what needs to happen to make things right again.

All Participants/Attendees (who adopt your social code)

One important aim of NEST is to reduce the bystander effect, so that all members of your group feel equipped to address whatever type of undesired social interaction occurs, however unlikely. Therefore, whatever version of the social code you choose to adopt should make it clear that everyone is responsible for their own behaviour, that there are consequences to their actions, and that it's up to us all to step up and call out unwanted behaviours when we see them.

With this baseline agreement in place, it's much less likely that you'll ever need to call upon Party Pals, Guardians or intermediaries.

Preparation: If Things Go Wrong

The right way to handle things will vary depending on exact situation, the nature/size of your gathering, and many other factors, but here are some preparation tips and things to think about before you start. If you will be having Party Pals or NEST Guardians, ask them to read this section and consider how they will use these tips.

1. The right response

The bottom line is that you and your Pals/Guardians/intermediaries should use your own best judgement to pick the right way to respond to whatever situation arises. You'll probably implicitly know when it's OK to simply ask someone to stop doing something right then & there, and when it's a better idea to take them aside for a private word. 

The first and most important action is to ensure that everyone feels safe. In the unlikely event that this requires asking someone to leave, then you and your group have to be prepared to make that happen. You and the person who has been affected by the behaviour can then think about the longer-term outcomes, if appropriate (see below).

2. The right time

One goal of NEST is to keep the good times flowing, so if you need to call someone out or stop some kind of behaviour, use your common sense and think about how the other person will react. If you think that calling someone out in front of their friends will put them into defensive mode, then that may escalate things rather than resolving them. In that case, and if everyone is safe, consider waiting to find a good time to speak to them in private. If you're doing this in your role as an intermediary, ask the person whom you're representing if it's OK to wait. Waiting can also mean that you don't tackle it during the event. If alcohol or drugs are involved, the other person may not be capable of taking things on board.

3. The right place

If you're having a physical gathering, identify a safe room or outside area where any sensitive issues can be discussed confidentially, away from the crowd. If you're meeting online, use private messaging, email or other forms of direct messaging to speak to people outside of the group space.

4. The right mindset

It's really difficult to get a good outcome if emotions are high. Sometimes we need to take a deep breath, give a person or incident some space, and come back to address something later. It may not be a great idea for someone who's been socially attacked to raise things directly with their attacker; it can feel accusatory and result in things actually going more pear-shaped. This is why intermediaries are a good idea. They can be detached enough from the situation to represent someone without letting emotions or social constructs such as male dominance come into play.

It's also unlikely to go very well if your intermediary is the ex-girlfriend of someone you want them to have a word with (for example), so choose the right intermediary whose mindset is right for the situation.

5. The right outcome

In any situation where one person feels another person has done something wrong, it's important that the person who has been subjected to the unwanted behaviour is ultimately satisfied with the outcome. If you are asked to be an intermediary for someone, take a moment to think about possible outcomes and discuss them with the person you're representing. 

If someone approaches you to be an intermediary in the heat of the moment, it's unlikely that person will be thinking straight. Don't expect them to be able to come up with outcomes. They may be in shock, or at the very least, feeling a bit wonky. Try to put yourself in their shoes, suggest an outcome that you think is fair, and ask if that would be satisfactory. And remember that you might need to wait for the right time/place to broach things.

It's important to remember that the goal of NEST is not punishment, revenge or retribution, but rather a method for helping people to adjust their behaviours to match the group's definition of what's OK and what's not OK. However, it's equally important to note that some of the examples of unwelcome behaviour are actually crimes, so in those cases, the use of NEST doesn't necessarily preclude pursuing legal avenues if the person who has been subjected to the behaviour wishes to do so. That person should be in charge of defining what the right actions should be, based on what they want to happen. If this means someone has to be asked to leave, or some other restrictive action needs to be taken, so be it. The safety and wellbeing of the person who was subjected to the unwelcome behaviour is paramount.

The best outcome is one that both parties agree is fair. However, sometimes things might not go that way. There may be times when the person who has broken The Code won't agree with the proposed steps or changes to their behaviour, or even acknowledge that what they've done is wrong. This is why getting buy-in for The Code is important before anything happens. It's much easier to be able to present the situation in the context of a written agreement like The Code, than to end up with a situation where there aren't any agreements in place and it's one person's word against another. One key part of The Code's agreement is about putting marginalised people's safety over privileged people's comfort, so the very act of agreeing to The Code puts any aggressor who challenges a complaint brought against them on questionable ground. This is also why having objective intermediaries in place can really help if things get rocky.


Questions?