There are a variety of dimensions to the challenges we face as a community. These dimensions include economic, spiritual, educational, environmental and political, and each dimension offers a variety of policy approaches for solutions. Systemic racism shapes and informs each one of these dimensions and competes with the pace of change. Over the next 12 months, a broad coalition of organizations, volunteers and servant leaders will be engaging the community in an intentional effort to examine and affirm a community “Code of Conduct” in order to address the social policy dimension of our challenges.
With some financial support from the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), Know The Codes is a social norms messaging initiative coordinated by the Community Resource Team (CRT) and the Community Resource District Councils (CRDC) designed to address violence, bullying, restorative justice and positive conduct through an age-appropriate messaging campaign targeting Marion County youth ages 13-24. Know The Codes/Goodwill Ambassadors emerged from a collaboration of vision of former city-county councilor Lonnell “King Ro” Conley and a group of servant leaders advancing a Social Contract Initiative.
An example of a social policy that impacts how people engage each other and address issues within the community is the social policy of “No Snitching.” No policy leader, program, law or divine edict established the codes of conduct around snitching, but most people in the community understand the “code of conduct/rules of the game” and govern themselves accordingly. Whether people understand the true nature or definition of snitching or not, the “code” is proliferated via word-of-mouth and social tradition in a way that shapes behavior. Know The Codes will use social media, community forums, word-of-mouth, the Champions Lecture Series, business and organizational partnerships/incentives, and “Goodwill Ambassadors” to invite the community to become part of a movement committed to constructive social policies that support the Black Agenda, violence reduction and the principles of unity, accountability, life coaching and respect.
Part of changing the “codes of conduct/social contract” of a community involves establishing principles that guide behavior, particularly among leadership. Staying in one’s lane, refraining from tearing each other down, discreetly working out differences, embracing the Black Agenda, investing in grass roots organizations and being a coach while being coachable are all principles that inform the work of Know The Codes. Additionally, because there are dimensions and levels to the varied “codes of conduct,” Know The Codes does not suggest “one size fits all.” Instead, Know The Codes sees itself as part of the infrastructure that supports the work of the Black community defining and acting upon its interests in every dimension. According to CRT co-chair Horatio Luster, “We do not pretend to speak for or represent everyone in our community. We are simply advocates for and servants of the community with an ambition for supporting neighborhoods, families, and organizations defining ‘Codes’ for themselves that align with the broader effort to build and enhance the entire community.”
Aug. 6-9 marks the official launch of the Know The Codes initiative in Marion County. The launch will feature The Champions Lecture Series (Aug 6), support for Project Safe Summer Locations (Aug. 7), participation in the fifth annual Art in the Park Community Engagement Event and All-Day Music Festival (Aug. 8). The Art in the Park is the first “On Code” event and is an example for how businesses and organizations can be “On Code.” Being “On Code” means an individual, company or organization is in agreement with Know The Codes principles: accountability, life coaching, respect.
Starting in September, Know The Codes will begin distributing over 30,000 “Know The Codes Cards” that can be used at participating “On Code” businesses and organizations as a way to promote the movement, receive special promotions/discounts and foster constructive social policies of unity, self-determination, cooperative economics and collective work and responsibility.
Toby Miller is the co-chair of the Community Resource Team and a member of the Social Contract Group. Contact him at Tmiller@knowthecodes.org.