The Beaulieu Tools for Creating Safer Brave Spaces

Help in finding and creating safer brave spaces for contact improvisation jams and other voluntary group gatherings

Colorful empty chairs around a fire pit
Campfire Circle Ready for Us © 2021 Michele Beaulieux

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. They can then 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 the tip of the safer brave space iceberg: they are crucial, but insufficient on their own. They 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 by assessing the event’s guidelines for participants, which may be available in writing or orally, perhaps in a video. Guidelines that begin by asking participants to “take care of yourself” follow the “first rule” of Contact Improvisation and fail the test. 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 each of the three questions in the test 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

  1. Does the event have publicly available participant guidelines?
  2. 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”)?
  3. Do the words about the former come before the words about the latter?

I want to thank CI community member 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.

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 stated values, community practices, and accountability commitments. 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

Stated Values

  1. Do the publicly available participant guidelines pass the Beaulieu Test, name who is responsible, and explain what to expect?
  2. Does the group articulate and live into valuesincluding equity, transparency, community accountability for preventing harm, and continuous improvementthat support respecting and caring for each other and the group?
  3. Do the publicly available guidelines for leaders (event facilitators, online moderators, teachers, etc.) include agreeing with, actively modeling, and promoting the group values?
  4. Are participants expected to be respectful partners and, to the extent they are able, to be co-strugglers, engaged group citizens, and reporters?

Community Practices

  1. Are people required to agree to the participant or leader guidelines before participating or leading?
  2. Is the group democratically structured as outlined in the “Tyranny of Structurelessness,” including sharing and rotating leadership?
  3. Are people with less power and privilege represented fairly in decision making?
  4. Are there community practices, such as well-facilitated opening and closing circles involving all participants, that frame and hold events as safer brave spaces?*

Accountability Commitments

  1. Does the group provide multiple ways to give feedback and report harm and does it solicit input from those who have left and/or have less power and privilege?
  2. Does the group start by believing and listening to those who report harm and, if harm is established, does the response center their input?
  3. Does the group’s response to reports of harm prioritize the safe and comfortable participation of those who experienced harm over the participation of those who have harmed and the comfort of the community?
  4. Are the group’s responses to reports of harm caused by participants, leaders, and/or the groupincluding the consequences for causing that harmtimely, predictable, and proportional with opportunities for the group and the individual(s) who caused the 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.”

Credit for emphasizing the importance of informing newcomers about community norms in question #1 goes to contact improvisation consent advocate Kathleen Rea. Thank you also 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.

© 2020-2023 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 highly recommend linking to this page, where I provide the date of the current iteration. 4.18.2023

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