Six Fieldwork Expectations: Code of conduct for teams on heritage field projects

My living document for guiding my own and my teams’ experiences on fieldwork.

the-team
Team members Jess and Emmeline work together to install signage in Çatalhöyük’s replica houses in summer 2017 – part of a very collaborative & fun recent field season! (Photo courtesy of Ashley Fisher)

Like many archaeologists, I am readying for a summer of fieldwork abroad in multiple places with various teams. The issue of how to prepare one’s team members for these fieldwork opportunities is something that’s often on my mind, and I’ve been prompted to think critically about my approach lately, as a result of three productive influencing forces.

Firstly, I’m enrolled on a leadership training programme at York (Leadership in Action), which I’ve found very meaningful so far, and which has forced me to revisit (and be coached through) some of my most challenging supervisory experiences. These are experiences that are now past, but I still ruminate on them, continuously questioning my actions and wishing I could turn back time to negotiate them in a more skilled fashion. My leadership training has encouraged me to think about the expectations that I set for myself and others (then, now and for the future), and how I communicate these to everyone who’s implicated, and how to enforce them when things go off track.

Secondly, I was very affected by reading Lisa Westcott Wilkins’ recent post ‘Notes from the Unemployable’ where, amongst other important matters, she discusses the Learning Agreement that DigVentures (DV) has drawn up for their students. As Lisa writes, “The ‘Dignity on Site’ part of this agreement is also signed by every staff member, subcontractor, and dig participant that comes into our orbit,” effectively turning the document into a set of expectations – a code of conduct – to which everyone is bound. I’ve been really inspired by the language and scope that DV have adopted here, and it prompted me to pull out the Fieldwork Expectations (copied below) that I drafted last year for use with my own teams. I prepared this after a challenging fieldwork season in Egypt when I realised I had few guidelines and had been naively operating primarily on trust. After reading DV’s agreement, I’ve now tweaked my own document to broaden its focus, adding points around witnessing (alongside being subjected to – or perpetrating) threatening behaviours, and extending the agreement to include online and mobile phone-based engagements in the field too. I’d encourage you to read DV’s agreement, because I’d previously struggled to find any models that I felt were useable or adaptable for me (indeed my university had no guidance at all at the time).

Thirdly, I’ve been speaking with a great friend and colleague at York who is preparing for her own fieldwork this summer with a large and diverse team. We discussed the options for codes of conduct, and it’s encouraged me to publish my own Six Fieldwork Expectations below for your thoughts and *constructive* feedback. I’m interested to make this agreement more robust – I consider it a living document in the sense that I aim to renew it each year and with each new team of collaborators. Please don’t hesitate to share your respectful ideas about what’s worked for you and what you’ve seen applied successfully elsewhere…

Six fieldwork expectations.

(1) We are committed to working as a team. All aspects of our professional contributions to the project are discussed and agreed upon together, and all tasks – although they might be led by individual team members – are developed through collaborative practice. Devotion to supporting the team, working as a team player, providing constructive critique to your team members, and respecting the interests of the team as a successful working group (without compromising their safety or security, as described below), are paramount.

(2) We are committed to prioritising and championing the people and communities that host us. Our work is driven by local needs, and decision-making is grounded in evidence and robust data gathered in local contexts. We are critically aware of the existing evidence. We attend events and participate in activities that are organised by our host communities. We respect, care for and create long-lasting friendships with our hosts. We aim to abide by local expectations around dress and custom, and if working in communities where the primary language is not our own, we are committed to learning the language. We maintain links with our hosts after the project ends and we support their future professional endeavours.

(3) We are committed to the working hours, professional expectations and responsibilities defined by the overall project directors. We typically work as part of a larger project team guided by wider goals than ours alone. We are aware of their responsibilities, we have read the necessary guidance documents, we have understood and signed the necessary insurance and risk assessment documentation, and in all cases, we respect and abide by the instructions given by the directors. This includes zero tolerance in relation to behaviour that compromises the wellbeing, equality, security or dignity of other human beings, as described below.

(4) We are representatives and extensions of the University of York and its staff, which are world-renowned for heritage research and training. Our behaviours reflect on this institution and its representatives, and we recognise that our direct supervisor is bound by the ethical and professional codes of both York and her other institutional affiliations (the Society for American Archaeology, the American Anthropological Association, the European Association of Archaeologists). Considering these obligations, you agree with the following:

I will come to our direct supervisor the moment that I experience problems, challenges or trouble of any kind. I will keep her informed of any issues that I feel may manifest themselves in relation to myself, my teammates or affiliates while in the field. If I feel I need support beyond our direct supervisor, I will turn to the 2nd lead for their advice. I have already disclosed to my direct supervisor any potential matters of concern (which may include matters relating to health and psychological and physical wellbeing, security, equality, confidence, interpersonal relations, previous travel or fieldwork experiences, etc.) so that she is aware of them and can mitigate them prior to departing for – and during – fieldwork. If I have not yet disclosed such matters, I agree to do so as soon as possible. I have shared this information in confidence, with an expectation of complete privacy unless urgent medical (or related) intervention is required.

**addition [4 May 2018]: owing to feedback from a dear friend & collaborator, I have modified the above to make clear all information disclosed is done with an expectation of total privacy unless urgent treatment is required.

(5) We recognise that fieldwork can be intense, emotional and tiring. We understand that things can go wrong, that we may need to compromise, and that in exceptional circumstances, we made need to shorten or modify your work on site to help manage these circumstances. In such cases, we will have a series of conversations about how to deal with difficulties, led by your direct supervisor and/or the 2nd identified lead. If the difficulties are not resolved within 7 days of identification, we will consult with the university for their guidance. If it is agreed with the university that the difficulties are unresolvable in the field, we will help you to organise your safe return home.

(6) We have the right to a safe, secure and non-threatening working and living environment. We do not tolerate any form of discriminatory, abusive, aggressive, harassing, threatening, sexually- or physically-intimidating, or related problematic behaviours that compromise the wellbeing, equality, security or dignity of other human beings (whether those humans are our peers, colleagues, supervisors, collaborators, local community members or any persons at all). Considering this zero-tolerance policy, you agree to the following:

If I feel unsafe or uncomfortable, or I witness others being subjected to the same, I will report it immediately to my direct supervisor. If I feel I cannot speak to my direct supervisor, I will report it to the 2nd identified lead. If I feel I cannot report it to either my direct supervisor or the 2nd lead, then I will contact the University of York Department of Archaeology’s Manager. I recognise that if I am implicated in behaviour that compromises the wellbeing, equality, security or dignity of other human beings, I will be required to leave the project at my own expense and may be subject to criminal investigation. Our commitment to creating and maintaining safety and security for all extends to our online (web and social media) and mobile phone interactions, and we recognise that the process for reporting and acting on threatening online/mobile phone behaviours is the same as above.

Direct Supervisor (name and contact):

2nd Lead (name and contact):

Department of Archaeology Manager (name and contact):

 

2 thoughts on “Six Fieldwork Expectations: Code of conduct for teams on heritage field projects

  1. This is fantastic Sara and we are following in your footsteps to create a set of expectations for our underwater archaeology field schools. If you are okay, we’d like to use yours as a formula to get started? Will give proper credit and send you the set when finished. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Of course! I’m so pleased to hear this & will be keen to seen what you do with it as I’m sure it can be made better. I’ll probably make further edits to point #4 based on constructive feedback that I’ve received – I’ll keep you posted!

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