If you’re creating a standalone Ethical Decision-Making Framework for Communications, it’s useful to include an introduction. This could:
- explain what an EDMF is and why you need one
- outline the scope of the EDMF and who will be using it
- provide an overview of your organisation’s values
- provide links to other relevant policies
An example is provided below. This should be adapted to reflect the expectations and approaches taken by your organisation.
Our vision is [vision]. We bring this vision to life by carefully protecting those who share their stories with us, and amplifying the benefits of sharing stories with our supporters and the general public.
[Organisation name] is a not-for-profit entity that [description of programming activities]. As part of our work, we share some important – yet difficult – stories. Sometimes our stories will show injustice and harsh realities. We, and the people we work with, know these are important stories for the world to hear. However, inherent in undertaking these activities is a level of risk in relation to sharing these stories.
We acknowledge it can be difficult to put our values into practice when sharing stories – especially stories dealing with trauma and injustice. We can face conflicting demands when collecting and sharing stories, and we acknowledge it’s sometimes challenging to know exactly what ‘dignity’ and ‘empowerment’ mean in different cultural contexts. We also acknowledge that unconscious bias plays a huge part in decision making – however, by its very nature, it is difficult to address and mitigate the risks that it causes.
Misunderstanding cultural norms and mismanaging storytelling content can harm both the people we strive to support, as well as our organisation. For example, asylum seekers may be targeted for sharing stories about human rights abuses. Children may be targeted by people seeking to abuse them. The personal reputation and confidence of people who’ve shared their stories may be damaged if their stories are misused and they may face retribution from their community. Our organisation may suffer damage to our brand and reputation if we publish insensitive materials. These are just a few possible risks.
This EDMF is one element in a suite of tools to reduce these risks, as far as possible. We seek to prevent harm from occurring and this EDMF is a proactive means of mitigating those risks and supporting ethical decisions about our communications.
This EDMF aims to ensure our communications content is of the highest ethical standard. This means all stakeholders are respected and protected, and trust in our organisational is maintained. The EDMF aims to ensure our organisation is using best-practice communications methods that minimise the risks related to storytelling and publishing.
This EDMF must be followed by everyone who collects and publishes stories at [organisation name], including all staff, volunteers, partner staff and governing body members. It includes our offices in Australia and in other countries managed by [organisation name]. The EDMF applies to visitors to our programs, and contractors and consultants such as freelance writers, designers, multimedia producers, fundraising consultants, partner organisations and other external parties using our stories, images, name or logo.
Everything our organisation does is built on our values. For our foundations to remain strong and for our actions to be ethical, we must continue to look to our values in our everyday work.
Ethical principles relating to the treatment of human beings are codified in a number of widely-accepted documents, such as the Nuremberg Code (1947), the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Declaration of Helsinki (1964), the Belmont Report (1979), and the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2007) and Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (2007).
At their core, these policies include the fundamental rights of human dignity, autonomy, protection, safety, maximisation of benefits and minimisation of harms. While originally stemming from biomedical and human rights contexts, these principles have been adapted beyond these early contexts and rise above disciplines and methodologies. We accept them as basic to any endeavour relating to storytelling ethics and they are explored in our EDMF.
[Organisation name’s] values underpin our approach to storytelling:
[List your organisation’s values and explain how they related to storytelling.]
Our values are aligned with the Australian Council for International Development’s Code of Conduct and our EDMF is connected to other [organisation name] policies, including:
- Communications Policy
- Image Policy
- Child Safeguarding Policy
- Risk Policy
- Disability Policy
- Gender Equality Policy
- Staff Code of Conduct
- Staff Selection and Recruitment Policy
- Reconciliation Action Plan