It’s International Women’s Day today and the moment seems appropriate to seek your advice in relation to matters of prevention of, protection from, and institutional action around, harm and harassment in field-based projects.
Several years ago, after a series of challenging experiences overseeing fieldwork teams on local and international projects, I drafted a code of conduct – or Six Fieldwork Expectations – to use with my collaborators. The Expectations were inspired by various other contemporary initiatives (e.g., Dig Ventures’ Learning Agreement), and focus on creating respectful, safe, secure and non-threatening working and living environments for all project contributors.
Since publishing the Fieldwork Expectations document, it has been adapted and elaborated by different individuals, institutions and projects in various parts of the world. Some have instigated evaluations of its effectiveness through surveys and other assessment methods. These data are critical, especially as I’ve been asked several times about what proof I have that codes of conduct make a difference to safety and dignity in the field.
Seeking your help to evaluate effects
Right now I’m gathering and collating this evidence to present in a variety of contexts over the next six months (data anonymised, as requested by all contributors so far). I will discuss at least four case studies of the Code of Conduct in action in different projects/institutions, and I am keen to solicit further data from those who’ve used the Six Fieldwork Expectations document or created their own specific codes of conduct.
My interest is in speaking empirically about the efficacy of these codes of conduct. What do I mean by ‘efficacy’?
I have been looking recently into how an organisation or project responds ‘courageously’ to instances of harm and harassment. Per Jennifer Freyd, this includes:
sensitively reacting to victim disclosures
being accountable and apologising
educating your leaders
being transparent about policies
self-reflecting and self-evaluating
I’m thus seeking evidence of successes and failures in applying codes of conduct, especially data that testify to whether such codes actually enable or otherwise hinder ‘courageous’ behaviours.
Adapting the code of conduct to enable courageous responses
Like most people I know who have adapted the Fieldwork Expectations document, my own teams have changed it over time and buttressed it with different support mechanisms. For instance, inspired by an amazing scholar who approached me a couple of years ago about her experiences, my teams now take turns reading parts of the code aloud before a project begins in an effort to create a common bond between the group. We’ve also created a simplified version of the code to use with collaborators whose language and reading needs mean that speaking aloud the key ideas and providing common verbal acknowledgements are more meaningful than reading then signing the document.
I also know from my own applications of the code that it can be
overly wordy and too intellectualised
needs translation and adaptation for different contexts
is only meaningful when supported by other initiatives to encourage openness and education
is currently not very effective in relation to minimising harm through social media, especially use of WhatsApp or FB Messenger among team members
I would be very grateful for your help in identifying case studies where empirical evaluation of the Fieldwork Expectations document has been undertaken. If you could spread the word or contact me directly with information, I’ll be incredibly appreciative.
I’ll be presenting my preliminary findings first in Manchester (see poster above), hosted by the incredible Hannah Cobb. But if you are not in a position to travel, I’ll keep you posted as I continue to gather evidence. All feedback and data are very much appreciated!
After receiving much significant feedback from practitioners around the world, I’ve updated this code of conduct.
>> I’ve made changes to the wording of points #4 and #6 to clarify my intent, to acknowledge more clearly where responsibility lies, and to reiterate the professionalism that should underlie all aspects of field practice.
>> I’ve changed the name of this blog post – and the code overall – to reflect the fact that it is seemingly relevant to all field projects, not merely to archaeology and heritage. (Thanks to the many of you from different disciplines who’ve encouraged me to do this.)
>> I’ve added links to several additional resources authored by others that have been recommended to me. These relate to specific matters that have affected my teams or colleagues, but for which I’ve previously lacked meaningful guidance. I hope to be able to integrate these directly into the code after I’ve had an opportunity to apply their recommendations in the field. If you have further links to share, please send them to me & I’ll add them!
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.
First published 4 May 2018. Revised 1 June 2018.
(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, and of the professional bodies to which we and our project leaders are subscribed. We recognise our duty of care to, and our responsibility for professionalism in, not only the communities where we work and reside, but the university and host of surrounding organisations to which we and our project leaders are accountable. Our behaviours reflect on these institutions and we acknowledge that our direct supervisor is (and therefore we too are) 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, the CAA: Computer Applications & Quantitative Methods in Archaeology). Considering these obligations, you agree with the following:
I will come to my 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 my 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, 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, safety/security or other legal intervention 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). Our supervisors are trained in supporting those who have experienced or are experiencing harassment. They are obliged to investigate and respond to observed, implied or directly reported harassment. Considering this zero-tolerance policy, you agree to the following:
I will not engage in behaviour that compromises the wellbeing, equality, security or dignity of other human beings. I recognise that if I am implicated in such behaviour I will be required to leave the project at my own expense and may be subject to criminal investigation.
If I witness others being subjected to such behaviour, 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.
If I myself feel unsafe or uncomfortable, I will report it immediately to my direct supervisor. My supervisor will support me and will implement actions to keep me safe while working to stop the behaviour. 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.
My commitment to creating and maintaining safety and security for all extends to my online (web and social media) and mobile phone interactions, and I 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): …………………………………
Some of you might know that I’ve spent the past three months in Egypt, living literally next door to the pyramids of Giza and working about an hour’s drive away at the site of ancient Egypt’s first capital city, Memphis (now partially covered by the modern town of Mit Rahina).
and our generous primary funder, USAID, has used social media several times over the Autumn to hint at our activities:
There’s so much to say about the programme that we are running and the incredible history of the site of Memphis (it was the political and religious centre of pharaonic Egypt for thousands of years, the pyramids are part of its cemetery complex, it is the home of the Apis House (the only site of its kind! …where bulls were mummified as part of an elaborate ritual process), Alexander the Great sacrificed to the Apis bull and was crowned king here; it was long a tourist and pilgrimage destination for everyone from ancient Romans to Greek philosophers to antiquarian travellers, and it was ‘lost’ – no one could quite locate its remains – until just two centuries ago.
I’ll save more of the details for our collaborators to tell you about when we launch our webpages and social media in the future. In the meantime, if you’re keen for views on ancient Memphis, check out this impressive Facebook page run independently by one of AERA’s alumni. Also, make sure to learn more about AERA’s fabulous and long-standing research and teaching efforts in Egypt.
For now, I just want to briefly mention the fieldschools that we’re leading, which form one of the principal outputs of the project (and are a new addition to AERA’s portfolio). Herein, we are training Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities inspectors and related Egyptology and museums professionals in archaeological site management, heritage interpretation, tourism development and community engagement. This training is an applied programme, delivered via a combination of lectures, classroom-based production, and on-the-ground development of Memphis as a tourist destination (including construction of a walking trail/interpretative route around eight of Memphis’ principal sites). Just yesterday, at the Ministry of Antiquities headquarters in the Zamalek district of Cairo, we celebrated the graduation of our first 32 Egyptian trainees and 4 Egyptian supervisors, who work at key heritage and cultural locations around the country. I was excited to see that one student, the excellent Shaimaa Magdi, invited her journalist friend to the event, so you can catch some of the diploma ceremony on YouTube:
What’s been the most special aspect of this project for me? Definitely my contact with Shaimaa and the many other Egyptians who’ve studied with me, my small team from York, and AERA. These students are truly the most wonderful human beings that I’ve ever encountered. They have touched me in a way that I couldn’t have fathomed, and I feel like my faith in the fundamental goodness of humanity has been affirmed by my interactions with them. I can’t say enough how much happiness, laughter, kindness and warmth they’ve shared with me. I looked forward to every day of teaching them because they made me feel hopeful for the future, and they made our many challenges seem slim and even manageable because of their individual and collective good spirit and generosity. On a personal level, then, I’ve been changed by them.
But as I teacher I’ve been changed too. This is a direct result of my students’, AERA’s, and York’s shared eagerness to learn together, to revise and edit and rethink our outputs together, to challenge common understandings of heritage management, to work six days a week, at least 9 hours a day (and, on many days, up to 12 or more hours per day!!) on panels and guidebooks and websites and more, and to create something completely new out of a very difficult archaeological site that’s been virtually forgotten. It has been inspiring, and it’s profoundly altered my professional practice.
Moreover, often on a daily basis, I’ve received the most touching feedback from the students – the kind of feedback that makes you cry with joy – that reaches right to your soul – that warms your heart and leaves you feeling empowered and capable of changing the world. I’ve asked permission from one of my students, the exceptional Sara Komy, to quote her words, because I would be lying if I said that the project wasn’t full of challenges, but it is the highs that come from these comments that instantly boost your confidence and motivate you in the face of difficulties:
This message of Sara’s is just one of a series that have touched my heart, given me strength, and further heightened my deep love for Egypt. As you can imagine, even though I only flew home yesterday, I miss my students tremendously. Everyone should be so lucky to meet people who make you feel as if, together, you can genuinely transform the course of history and construct a better world.
I’ll leave you with a couple more images of all of the happy times that we’ve had together (and there have been many!).
I look very forward to returning to work with my Egyptian collaborators again in 2016. I’m off now to catch up on everything I’ve missed here in York!