Help in finding and creating safer brave spaces for contact improvisation jams and other voluntary group gatherings
On this page, I provide tools for answering the question: Is a group gathering, in which people are voluntarily participating, a “safer brave space,”—a place where being brave is as safe as possible?
The three question Beaulieu Test and the more involved twelve question Beaulieu Assessment provide event organizers with signposts for best practices, and they provide potential participants with ways to assess whether an event is likely to provide safer brave space so they can make informed decisions about participating.
The Beaulieu Test assesses the foundational values of a group as described in the group’s guidelines for participant behavior. Participant guidelines are an expression of the group’s values, making those values actionable for participants. Participant guidelines are the tip of the safer brave space iceberg: they are crucial, but insufficient on their own. Participant guidelines are one side of a safer brave space agreement between group organizers and participants. On the other side, group organizers model a culture of consent and establish community practices and accountability commitments that uphold the group’s values. The Beaulieu Assessment evaluates this organizational backbone.
A Quick Test for Safer Brave Space
The Beaulieu Test reviews the foundational values of an event. Guidelines that begin by asking participants to “take care of yourself” follow the “first rule” of contact improvisation. In my article, “How the First Rule Brought #MeToo to Contact Improvisation,” I explain why gatherings grounded in such a survival-of-the-fittest ethos can not create safer brave space no matter what other safety measures they enact.
A “yes” answer to all three questions means an event passes the test and is likely to provide safer brave space. Contact improvisation jam guidelines that pass the Beaulieu Test are starred in the Compendium of CI Jam Guidelines.
The Beaulieu Test
- Does the event have publicly available participant guidelines that name who is responsible and explain what to expect?
- Do the guidelines have more words about respecting each other and the group (and listening for “yes”) than about taking care of oneself (and saying “no”)?
- Do the words about the former come before the words about the latter?
I want to thank Charlie Halpern-Hamu for suggesting a “Beaulieux Test” modeled after the Bechdel Test, which is a tongue-in-cheek test for movies that cuts through to fundamental assumptions and is, sadly, difficult to pass. To pass the Bechdel Test, which was developed by and named after the cartoonist Alison Bechdel, a movie must have (1) at least two [named] women (2) who talk to each other (3) about something other than a man.
For the Beaulieu Test, I removed the “x” from “Beaulieux” to make it grammatical French and easier for Americans to pronounce. (The “x” is silent.) “Beau lieu” means beautiful place in French, and that’s the goal of the Beaulieu Test: to create beautiful places.
Credit for question #1 in the test goes to contact improvisation consent advocate Kathleen Rea who emphasizes the importance of informing newcomers about community norms so they can make informed decisions about participating in CI jams.
An Assessment for Safer Brave Space
For group gatherings that pass the Beaulieu Test, the Beaulieu Assessment provides a more involved assessment tool for evaluating a group’s ongoing commitment to creating safer brave space through its prevention, response, culture and governance. The Assessment gives event organizers and participants a best practices checklist. In a safer brave space, the answer to all twelve questions in the Assessment is “yes.”
The Beaulieu Assessment
- Do the participant guidelines pass the Beaulieu Test?
- Does the group articulate and live into values—including continuous improvement, equity, transparency, and community accountability for preventing harm—that support respecting and caring for each other and the group?
- Do the publicly available guidelines for leaders—event facilitators, online moderators, teachers, etc.—include agreeing with, actively modeling, and promoting the group values?
- Are participants expected to be co-strugglers and engaged group citizens, to the extent they are able?
- Are people required to agree to the participant or leader guidelines before participating or leading?
- Is the group democratically structured as outlined in the “Tyranny of Structurelessness,” including sharing and rotating leadership?
- Are people with less power and privilege represented fairly in decision making?
- Are there community practices, such as well-facilitated opening and closing circles involving all participants, that frame and hold events as safer brave spaces?*
- Does the group provide multiple ways to report harm by and give feedback to participants and leaders and does it solicit input from those who have left and/or have less power and privilege?
- Does the group start by believing and listening to those who report harm and, if harm is established, does the response center their input?
- Does the group’s response to reports of harm prioritize the safe and comfortable participation of those who experience harm over the participation of those who have harmed and the comfort of the community?
- Are the group’s responses to reports of harm and the consequences for causing harm timely, predictable, and proportional with opportunities for the group and the individual(s) who caused harm to learn, take responsibility, and make repairs?
*For Contact Improvisation jams, I recommend well-facilitated opening and closing circles involving all participants. In the Contact Improvisation structure known as “Underscore,” opening circles are called “Assembly” and closing circles, “Sharing/Thanksgiving.”
Thank you to Cookie Harrist for #11 and to the members of the Contact Improvisation Facilitators Worldwide Networking and Discussion Group on Facebook for their robust discussion of the assessment.
Notes on the Beaulieu Tools
While the Beaulieu Tools and the concept of safer brave space were initially developed for contact improvisation jams, they are also relevant for and can be adapted for other gatherings in which people participate voluntarily, especially those in which people risk vulnerability and those involving touch. Contact improvisation jams serve as a microcosm for exploring the concept of safer brave space in broader contexts.
Developing safer brave space is a process. I recommend beginning by discerning the group’s mission and values. The group’s governance, community practices, and guidelines for participants flow from the mission and values. Event organizers and participants may find the shift from rape culture to consent culture chart helpful to use in conjunction with the Beaulieu Tools. The questions in the Beaulieu Tools are embedded in the safer brave space planning, creating, and sustaining stages of the chart.
© 2020-2022 Michele Beaulieux The Beaulieu Tools—The Beaulieu Test and the Beaulieu Assessment—are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. That means you are free to share them and adapt them as long as you attribute them to Michele Beaulieux, don’t use them for commercial purposes, and use this same license. And if you do share, I’d love to know! I continue to revise them, so to avoid sharing an outdated version, I recommend linking to this page, where I provide the date of the current iteration. 7.15.2022
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