How the American Alliance of Museums Created its Code of Conduct

To makes its annual meeting more welcoming and inclusive, the American Alliance of Museums created a code of conduct. Here’s a few tips they learned along the way.

The ongoing #MeToo movement has shone a light on sexual harassment at conferences and other events associations host. Because of this, many associations are developing meeting-specific policies and codes of conduct that outline different types of harassment and intimidation at meetings and what behaviors are prohibited.

It was a really thoughtful, intentional process, and we came out with something that we were pretty proud of, but we knew we needed to test it out.

One of these groups is the American Alliance of Museums, which unveiled its first-ever Code of Conduct at its annual meeting earlier this month.

“Part of what we want to do is model how museums can be welcoming to all audiences, so going forward … we want museums to take this code of conduct, revise it, begin conversations around it, and really try to implement some of those strategies about being intentional about being welcoming in their own institutions,” said Dr. Nicole Ivy, director of inclusion at AAM.

Here’s an inside look at the steps AAM took to develop it:

Create a team. To carry out the code of conduct, AAM relied on its internal inclusion team, which it launched in early 2017 to ““foster and promote effective diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion practices and initiatives at AAM in accordance with the organization’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and Diversity and Inclusion Policy,” said AAM Chief of Staff Brooke Leonard.

The team is headed up by Ivy, but it also includes people from other departments, including membership and HR. They also wanted their meetings department to have a seat at the table.  “The inclusion team came up with these really great ideas for an externally facing code of conduct, and our meetings team helped us to bring that to reality—they helped us to really think through the nuances of what situations would look like in context and how we would respond to them,” said AAM Member Services Director Lauren Griffin.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. “We were very grateful to stand on the shoulders of giants,” Griffin said, adding that AAM used the codes of Geek Feminism and the Nonprofit Technology Conferences as models. “We really had some great material to start with, and then we were able to use and adapt those codes to our own needs.”

Get feedback. After a subset of AAM’s internal inclusion team drafted the code of conduct, they asked for feedback from the entire inclusion team and then the entire staff. “We did a lot of debating and challenging each other and questioning. It was a really thoughtful, intentional process, and we came out with something that we were pretty proud of, but we knew we needed to test it out,” Leonard said. “So, we tested it out with the other members of our internal inclusion team and then more broadly with our entire staff, and we looked at the feedback and the questions and the requests for clarification in order to come up with the final product.”

Train staff. In addition to creating the external-facing code of conduct, AAM created internal document that outlines the protocol for staff. AAM also put together a specially trained Code of Conduct Response Team, who will respond to incidents should they occur. “This was key to making sure that every single staff member felt informed and comfortable onsite if something came up,” Leonard said.

If you’ve created a code of conduct for your meetings, what lessons would you share with colleagues who are in the process of developing one? Please leave your comments below.

(Michail_Petrov/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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