Community Conversation Summary: Actions from An Olive Branch

Ten members and two guests attended our Community Conversation this past Sunday reviewing proposals for helping build safety and trust in our organization. There are six specific, interrelated proposals, some drawn directly from the Olive Branch report to the Shambhala organization, some inspired by them, all reflective of individual and group conversations we’ve had to date about how to create a safe environment for dharma practitioners. They are as follows:
  1. Implement a Complaint Procedure for Misconduct (Olive Branch recommendation #5) utilizing our local and regional Desung structures for all complaints. (Draft of this procedure found in Appendix C of the report). Train all leaders, teachers, and members in this reporting process, with leaders and teachers signing an Oath of Understanding and Adherence (Appendix E). Create structures for ongoing accountability and training at multiple levels of leadership.
  2. Implement a process of purchasing, collecting, and maintaining a record of background checks on all teachers and leaders who exercise authority at the Portland Shambhala Meditation Center, including visiting teachers. (Olive Branch recommendation #7)
  3. Develop and provide ongoing training opportunities for leaders, teachers, and members in diversity, inclusion, and ethics. Teachers and leaders would be required to complete a set number of hours per year of training in order to fulfill their roles. Members would need to complete a set number of hours per year in order to maintain “good standing” with their membership. (Olive Branch recommendation #8)
  4. Establish a third-party confidential “Listening Post” where participants at Shambhala events can bring concerns without fear of repercussions or retribution (Olive Branch recommendation #11). Leaders would receive a monthly report from this third party (to be determined) on relevant topics of concern, to discuss and act upon as appropriate at an organizational level.
  5. Craft and adopt a “Welcome Statement” stipulating our aspiration to include a diverse range of people and create an environment of safety and trust where dharma can be practiced and studied. Include this on all publicity, as well as posting in a prominent location in our center.
  6. Organize a local inter-Buddhist campaign to raise awareness of misconduct and abuse of power, provide opportunities for study and conversation toward greater accountability among all Buddhist sanghas for creating and maintaining safety and trust in their dharma practice.
Among those present, there was strong assent for bringing these items into fruition but also awareness of the difficulty in formulating policy where little has previously existed. Obstacles around policy language, practical and financial concerns, and getting “buy-in” from local and regional leaders were all recognized. In addition, there was some discussion about how this would affect our relationship to the larger mandala of Shambhala centers as well as our relationship to the Sakyong and the Potrang.
These six policy proposals will be brought to the governing council at their next meeting on Monday, June 10, at 7:00 pm for discussion and approval of a process for further development, feedback, and eventual implementation. Please contact our council secretary, Jennifer Green (jennifer.green@portland.shambhala.org) if you would like to attend this meeting.

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