This artifact describes the norms that NCS uses to ground our collective work, conversation, and collaboration.


Speak directly about issues of race and equity as they come up and keep them at the center of all our work

To speak directly about issues of race and equity as they come up and keep them at the center of all our work requires us to watch patterns of participation, challenge the status quo, and step out of silence to voice issues, and to use affinity and iGroups when necessary to support each other in having transformative conversations.

Invite multiple perspectives, emotions, and constructive conflict

A willingness to engage different voices, unpack feelings and behaviors, and wrestle with diverse viewpoints. There’s an expectation that all participants own this norm- it is not solely dependent on the facilitator(s). In this way, we make space for catalytic experiences, meaning making and bold action.

Take risks and be open to interruption

To take risks and be open to interruption requires each of us to listen intently, not shut down, and engage honestly. It calls on all of us to acknowledge, name and lean on our other norms to support our community to build and participate in a brave/safe space.

Go to the Source or Let it go (72 hr)

To further accept and normalize conflict as part of anti-racist work, we need to reflect, confront, and heal. This work will trigger emotions (such as pain or confusion). In these instances, go directly to the person who may have harmed you or who you are concerned you may have harmed looking to gain clarity as well as move forward. Or, if you don’t go to the source agree to move past the conflict accepting it as part of your own work.

Recognize Patterns of Participation

Remain attentive to patterns of participation in the community and your participation within the collective dynamic. Recognize who is talking, when (frequency), and why (content). Be aware of yourself and self-monitor the frequency and content of your contributions. Be aware of the group and call it out patterns when important (only hearing from white people, leadership coaches, etc.). Don’t wait for the facilitator. This is a community responsibility. Balance building the collective understanding of the community with your responsibility to speak your truth. Recognize (internally and to the group) when and why you’re making a change in the direction of the collective conversation. Call out changes in the collective conversation for yourself or others when important to the group.

Speak your truth/Be honest

To speak your truth you must be willing to take risks and be absolutely honest about your thoughts, feelings, and opinions and not just saying what you perceive others want to hear. When speaking your truth you are managing the tension between what you want to say and how you want it to come across. You are willing to both hear and receive what others have to say. Until we become completely honest, the dialogue will not move us to interruptive or catalytic experiences.

Preconditions for Success

These norms are meant to help others understand the internal equity work that NCS has done as an organization to set the conditions to become an organization rooted in a Discourse II way of life. We mean for them to an example, rather than a suggestion for others. The work of growing into a place where we could write these norms and sincerely commit to holding them took a decade. The work of writing them took months.

Connection to Equity

These are not (yet anyway) norms that we use in our work with educators. Rather, they are the norms we use internally as a school support organization. One of our most important learnings as an organization was that, while we are quick to discuss the inequitable practices of educators in the schools we work with, we have been reluctant to discuss how the same issues show up in our work as an organization. Building the internal capacity to own these norms and practicing living these norms with our own colleagues has helped us build the racial stamina necessary – as white people and as people of color – to show up with our educators ready to do good work on equity.

Evidence of Effectiveness

We routinely engage in some process of reflecting and/or progress monitoring at the end of each of our collaborative spaces. Additionally, we do routine check ins around our norms to see if there is a need for modification. Lastly, we make meaning of our norms both during collaborative spaces and as a whole staff. The routine meaning making, processing, and reflecting has led to a culture shift within our organization as evidenced by the way we interact with each other and the way we approach our work (internal and outward facing).


Preferred Citation

Network for College Success