Guiding Principles of Communication

During the various meetings and discussions as part of the German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum, participants will engage in many interactive conversations with one another sharing personal information and their personal perspectives on the three topics of the project – climate change and sustainability, diversity, equity & inclusion, and youth civic engagement.

We want everyone to feel that this is a safe space to talk about these topics and to share information openly so that we can all learn about and understand these issues better. It is therefore critical that we all respect each other’s opinions and perspectives, recognizing that some of the topics are very sensitive and may be difficult for some to talk about. The community in this project consists of individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life, reflecting a richness of cultural, intellectual, and social diversity. Participants are expected to exhibit good conduct that will inspire confidence and trust, tolerance, and respect. Only then can we have open and transparent discussions with one another.

These Guiding Principles of Communication are designed to maintain a supportive, engaging, safe, and meaningful experience for all participants. The following guidelines apply to all participants of the German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum during activities associated with the project.

  • This project connects and brings together people from different cities and a great variety of cultures and backgrounds. Therefore, it is important that all participants are respectful to other people’s cultures, traditions, and religious, political, and other beliefs, when communicating during the meetings and on WhatsApp with others including fellow participants, speakers, and project staff.
  • Participants want to learn from one another and are encouraged to share stories and personal perspectives. To ensure this is a safe space, what is discussed during project activities should be kept confidential, but what is learned during the conversations, should be shared with others. More simply, “what is said here, stays here; what is learned here, leaves here.”
  • Participants are encouraged to be thoughtful in what they say, post, share, or comment on any communication platform. Being mindful of strong language and the use of all caps or exclamation points are critical to avoid any forms of misunderstanding.
  • Differences in opinion may occur, and thus participants are expected to exhibit open-mindedness, patience, and understanding using a technique known as “calling in” by raising clarifying questions to gain further understanding or address a concern, rather than “canceling out” each other. Posting, sharing, or commenting on inappropriate materials that are deemed abusive, hateful, discriminatory, unsafe, sexually inappropriate, offensive, or involve harassment will not be tolerated.
  • The conversations on WhatsApp count on every participant to foster genuine interactions and maintain a supportive environment for all. Posting off-topic, unrelated, or spam content is disruptive to discussions and detracts from the goal of the project. Any post, link, or shared content that contains disinformation, hoax, or fraudulent information will be removed from the discussion.
  • Participants have the privilege of access to connect privately with fellow participants as well as experts from the meetings. With this access comes the responsibility to interact with each individual with professionalism, respect, appropriateness, and integrity.

Using a Safe Word

While we hope that all our conversations will be respectful and free of conflict, participants may disagree on something, occasionally causing tensions to rise and emotions to get heated. When such situations arise, we will use what is called a “safe word” to calm things down and as a signal to stop and back off. For our project, the safe word is Wunderbar Together.

There is only one rule — when someone uses the safe word, you stop. No more yelling, no more talking, nothing. You back down, you back away. No further discussion, disagreement, or argument around that topic will occur until everyone has had a chance to cool off.

If a participant ignores the safe word, he/she will immediately be removed from the meeting/ conversation in which the violation occurred. The members of the advisory council, together with the American Council on Germany and the offending participant’s organization, will then determine further disciplinary action and whether or not to remove the participant from the project.

Participants are encouraged to report other participants who fail to follow the guidelines set above or engage in unsafe online behavior by contacting the American Council on Germany. The American Council on Germany reserves the right to remove any participant from the project who is reported for disruptive or inappropriate behavior.