15-19 November is Anti-bullying week in the UK, hosted by the Anti-bullying Alliance.
If 2020-21 has taught us anything, it has shown the impact of small acts of kindness and compassion. Across the world, we have witnessed these positive gestures changing people’s lives: from Sir Tom raising millions for the NHS, to neighbours helping each other when self-isolation meant no access to shops. We saw communities come together to host socially distances celebrations in their front gardens and we all clapped and cheered for our incredible frontline workers every Thursday.
And yet, at the same time, online abuse and bullying has increased. The pandemic saw us confined to our homes, with online spaces used more than ever, and for some people this has resulted in increased cyber-bullying or discrimination which by its very nature is 24/7 and hard to escape (especially if you are accessing module support groups for your studies online like me!).
One Kind Word - what can you do?
The theme of anti-bullying week this year is: One Kind Word. And the Anti-bullying Alliance are calling us to action:
- Ask if someone’s OK. Say you’re sorry. Just say hey.
- In a world that can sometimes feel like it’s filled with negativity, one kind word can provide a moment of hope. It can be a turning point. It can change someone’s perspective. It can change their day. It can change the course of a conversation and break the cycle of bullying.
- Best of all, one kind word leads to another. Kindness fuels kindness. So from the playground to Parliament, and from our phones to our homes, together, our actions can fire a chain reaction that powers positivity.
- It starts with one kind word. It starts today.
What are the Association doing?
At our recent Autumn Central Executive Committee (our elected OU students, who make decisions to support fellow students) and Board of Trustee (Our charity Trustees, many of whom are also OU students) meetings, our new Values and Behaviour Policy was approved.
This included the addition of a new organisational Value: Kindness and Compassion.
It may sound obvious to many of us and everyday we see OU students exhibiting kindness and compassion towards each other; through offering support on facebook or in whatsapp groups, through donating to our Educational Trust, or through volunteering to represent or help fellow students. However, in a world where online abuse is increasing, we wanted to be sure that our members know this is a value we not only hold and but it is something we expect from our members in every interaction they have in our spaces.
Alongside this new policy, we are also changing our complaints process (currently found in our Bye-laws). We have not yet launched the new 'Resolving and Settling Differences' procedure as we are committed to ensuring all staff are trained in the new process, as well as many trained in mediation, before this goes live. This new procedure will emphasise a focus on support, resolution and understanding whilst aiming to prevent situations from escalating.
*special thanks to all of the OU students (present and past) whose photos have been used on the title page of our Values and Behaviour Policy and to the many students who contributed to the production of both this policy and our ongoing efforts to improve culture at the Association to truely live our values.