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For Professional Members
Ethics Framework

Preamble, Scope and Coverage

ISABS ethics framework is, as the title suggests, a framework or a set of guidelines to support and promote the integrity of professional members and therefore of participants of ISABS programmes. To achieve common tasks, promote professionalism and excellence, we need to have common values, and design structures and processes to give effect to these values in practice. The framework of ethics would be a baseline document to arrive at greater clarity on the above. However, it is not a rigid or absolute set of rules but an ongoing process of search and review emerging out of our values and our accumulating experience.

Understanding and internalising the spirit of this framework is perhaps most important because only then will it translate in living ways into structures, systems, and processes in our programmes and services, professional development and our vision for the future.

We would like to emphasize that this process is never "completed" and that it is one of constant dialoguing, self-search and meaning-making simultaneously at the level of the individual and the institution. We are also aware that the gap/discrepancy between what "is" and the "ideal" exists. The ethics framework is a statement not just of where we would like to reach but of our belief in the process of institution building, that this gap will never close, that what we define collectively as ideal at any one stage is not static but also evolving, and that is the strength of ISABS as an institution.

A. Meeting Programme Objectives

Ethics Statement # 1

Professional Members are aware of the objectives of the programme and have common agreement about the broad design of the programme.

Professional Members make reasonable efforts to determine whether the programme has accomplished its intended objectives and has not had undesired consequences for participants.

Ethics Statement # 2

When describing a programme to the prospective participants, professional members will candidly explain its goals, risks, limitations and anticipated outcomes, consistent with the published descriptions of that particular program.

When implementing a program, professional members will faithfully adhere to the description of the program as advertised. Professional members will not knowingly deviate from the published program description without both a clearly defined rationale based on the learning goals of the participants and the informed consent of the participants to any proposed change.

B. Verifying the Impact of Programs

Ethics Statement # 3

Professional members will make all reasonable efforts to determine whether their programmes have accomplished the announced goals, and to determine whether their programs have had unintended or undesired consequences for participants.

Professional members will do whatever is professionally possible and ethically appropriate to remedy the effects of any undesired consequences, and will not attempt to cover up any undesired consequences of their programs.

Professional Members will actively solicit and respond with an open mind to feedback regarding their work; and seriously examine program designs and their own professional skills for ways to improve.

C. Managing Role Boundaries

Ethics Statement # 4

Professional members are sensitive to possibilities and data that the professional or personal relationship that they as facilitator have with a participant outside of the lab/program does not affect the nature of work inside the lab/programme. As far as possible, facilitators avoid working in labs where they have close personal/professional relationship with any participant.

D. Avoiding Abuse of Professional Role

Ethics Statement # 5

Professional Members are aware that their role in the lab is to work on program objectives, and not to satisfy their own needs. Professional Members are expected to be actively aware of their own needs and the impact of their needs upon their professional work. They are expected to use spaces such as clinicing sessions or peer meetings, rather than interaction with participants, to resolve their needs and dilemmas.

Ethics Statement # 6

Professional Members keep in mind the theoretical base for the possible consequences of their interventions, especially when introducing innovations or experimenting with new approaches. They use clinicing and staff meetings to plan as well as review the impact and consequences of such interventions.

Ethics Statement # 7

The roles played by Professional Members (e.g. as facilitator, mentor, regional and national institutional roles) are recognised as powerful roles providing them with an unusual opportunity to exercise power for the purpose of assisting others to grow and learn about themselves. Professional Members are expected to be constantly vigilant that this power is used at all times to promote the growth and enhance the dignity of the participants.

Ethics Statement # 8

The review of a lab member’s participation in the lab or readiness to move forward in the Professional Development Program is based on agreed upon criteria with abundant caution that this is not coloured by past experiences, past data, personal biases, or personal gain.

Ethics Statement # 9

Professional Members do not engage in erotic or sexual contact with participants in an ISABS program. This includes verbal or non-verbal interactions of a sexual or romantic nature not necessarily involving direct physical contact. (In this context the definition of the term ‘program’ is expanded depending upon whether the Professional Member is a Human Process Lab Facilitator, in a Mentor-PDP candidate relationship, facilitator in an extended Professional Development Programme or working on a consulting assignment for ISABS client. It also includes before or after the program contact with participants/clients when the professional member is likely to have the role-related power described in Ethics Statement # 7 above.)

Ethics Statement # 10

Professional Members are expected to confront any perceived violation of ISABS’ stated ethical principles by a colleague in an ISABS program. When there is evidence that a colleague has violated a stated ethics principle, it is an ethical obligation of professional members to make a written report of such violation to the Ethics Committee.

Any transgression of ethics by a facilitator during the lab needs to be confronted by the co-facilitator in or outside the lab as appropriate. If necessary, the issue must also be brought up in clinicing. If the issue still appears to be unresolved, the co-facilitator has an ethical obligation to record the facts in writing and bring them to the attention of the Ethics Committee and Dean Programmes.

Ethics Statement # 11

In the event of serious unresolved issues emerging between two Professional Members facilitating a lab, the concerned professional members are expected to bring up and actively address these issues in the faculty clinicing sessions, to ensure that the program objectives are not compromised due to unresolved issues between facilitators. 

E: Personal Autonomy and Confidentiality

Ethics Statement # 12

Professional Members will honor the participant/s’ freedom to choose whether or not to participate in the programme or in particular activities within the programme. Members will not attempt (overtly or covertly) to coerce participants to take part in the program or in any of its activities.

Ethics Statement # 13

Professional Members are aware of the group pressures on participants to divulge personal information and of the tendency to succumb to group norms that transgress on personal authority and autonomy of individual choices. Professional Members are sensitive to possibilities of the facilitator/s colluding with group members in such situations. Professional Members will use their skills to guide participants toward appropriate, voluntary and useful self-disclosure, and to protect individuals from excessive pressures in their labs.

Ethics Statement # 14

Personal data is shared by participants in absolute trust. Professional Members will not divulge this data to anyone outside the lab. When speaking of group processes in professional forums such as clinicing sessions or mentoring meetings, Professional Members will be careful to do so without disclosing the identity of the individuals.

Professional Members will communicate to participants the ISABS values in this regard.

F. Conflict of Interest

Ethics Statement # 15

ISABS is a voluntary professional society, which is built from investment and commitment of its members. Professional Members are therefore expected to be keenly sensitive to possible conflicts of interest when offering or participating in programs similar or identical to those offered by ISABS.

During ISABS programmes / events, Professional Members are aware of their role as ISABS professionals, and do not canvass for programmes / services not related to ISABS.

G. Competence and Continuous Development

Ethics Statement # 16

Professional members are expected to know the limits of their competence, and to adhere to those limits when accepting programme responsibilities.

Ethics Statement # 17

Professional Members invite and are open to feedback from peers about the program/ lab and their skills.

In case of extreme personal stress/trauma, Professional Members seek professional help/counseling to assess their own preparedness for facilitator/mentor roles vis-à-vis their own needs and priorities.

Ethics Statement # 18

Professional Members make ongoing efforts to update, renew, review, and rebuild their competencies, be open to learning and alive to new life experiences -- theoretical, personal, and professional.

ISABS as an institution continually offers opportunities for ongoing personal and professional development at Regional and National Programs.

H. Sensitivity to Diversity Issues

Ethics Statement # 19

Professional Members are sensitive to and bring to awareness, instances whenever there are affronts to the dignity of regional, racial and religious sentiments and discriminations on the basis of gender, class, caste, colour, language, sexual orientation, physical disability etc.

I.  Voluntary Participation

Ethics Statement # 20

ISABS makes reasonable efforts to ensure that participants have information about the objectives and methodology of the programmes it offers. Given the nature of the programmes and the desirability of voluntary participation, it is important that sponsoring organizations are aware of the need for voluntary participation by individuals. ISABS emphasizes this in its written materials like brochures, nomination forms etc.

ISABS also emphasises that programmes are meant to be learning experiences and are not intended as substitutes for therapy, psychiatric counseling or personal assessment. ISABS gives reasonable caution about the consequences these programmes can have for people who require psychiatric counseling or have serious health problems.

J. Adherence to Law

Ethics Statement # 21

Professional Members abide by local and state laws that apply to the delivery of ISABS services and use of host facilities. The Dean of each event is responsible for knowing and communicating applicable regulations (e.g. consuming alcohol, financial obligations, use of hotel services etc.)

a. All existing professional members sign off the Ethics Statement to confirm their commitment to the Ethics Framework.
b. All new professional members to sign off on the statement as a pre-requisite to being admitted as members.
c. Wherever possible, efforts should be made to have two professional members as facilitators in a lab.
d. Before the start of every event, participants must be informed about the ethics statement and about the ethics committee during the week.
e. All PDP participants should be required to dialogue on the ethics framework during Phase A and Phase B and particularly during Internship to understand their location, concerns and dilemmas about the framework itself and to enhance understanding and compliance. The professional members responsible for the design and conduct of the PDP should ensure that the design incorporates time and space for this.
f. Copies of the Ethics Framework along with this note (in suitably abridged form) should be made available to participants in all national and regional events.

G. Competence and Continuous Development

A Standing Committee on Ethics to be set up for the term of each President. The standing committee should have four members representing one from each metro region. An additional member to be co-opted by the President will be the Chairperson of the Ethics Standing Committee who will be on the Board of ISABS.
At each event, it is recommended that at least one member of the Standing Committee be present.

Role of the Ethics Standing Committee

a. Reviewing and updating the Ethics Framework document
b. Maintaining an overview of the working of the several ethics committees set up during national and regional events, assisting in difficult cases, mediating disagreements/disputes that may arise from time to time, and handling the issues and concerns brought to its notice directly outside the events.
c. Designing and implementing preventive initiatives to preserve and strengthen the Ethics framework.
d. Work with professional members requiring corrective action and help

Event Ethics Committee

The member of the standing committee present at an event (or in her/ his absence, Dean programmes) will constitute an ethics committee for the event. The event ethics committee will be primarily responsible for handling any ethical concerns that are raised during the event. Professional members who volunteer to be on the event ethics committee do so on the understanding that they are accepting responsibility for any follow up actions that may be necessary after the event.
Procedure and Guidelines for Handling Ethics Concerns

Who can raise an Ethical concern?

Ethical concerns can be raised by:
a. Role holders of ISABS
b. Professional members
c. Participants in events
d. Members of the PDP stream
e. Client organizations, support organizations or vendors of service to ISABS

Procedure for raising an Ethical concern

1. An ethical concern should be raised in writing. If a person raising an ethics concern is unwilling to do so in writing, every attempt must be made to encourage her/him to do so. If the person is still unwilling to raise the concern in writing, she/he must be clearly told that while ISABS takes all ethical complaints seriously, it may not be possible to investigate and take appropriate action on the basis of a verbal complaint.
2. The person raising an ethical concern must be assured that every attempt will be made to maintain confidentiality, and no persons other than those directly involved (members of the Ethics Committee, the President, and those who are necessarily involved in the investigation) will come to know about the existence or nature of the complaint.
3. The concern can be addressed to any member of the Ethics Committee in the event or immediately after the event. If the concern is raised with any other professional member, he/she will encourage the concerned person to raise it directly with the ethics committee or, if that is not possible for any reason, to make a written report to the Ethics Committee stating all the relevant facts as told to him/her by the person making the complaint .
4. The professional member about whom the ethical concern is raised, as well as the person making the complaint, have a right to confidentiality. Professional Members who have any information about the existence or nature of an ethics complaint will respect this right and avoid any casual talk or gossip about the individuals and events.
5. The written complaint should contain the following minimum information:
a. Name of professional member/s in question
b. Nature of transgression with details
c. Factual details like date, time, other people present, context and so on.
6. The event ethics committee needs to decide the speed of resolution required. Some issues may have to be addressed in the event itself or can be explored within a reasonable time frame after the event. The investigations of the Ethics Committee and its final report and recommendations should normally be completed within a month and in no case more than two months after the complaint.
7. The Ethics Committee for the event, which will as far as possible include at least one member of the Standing Committee, will explore the issue in its entirety using the following norms:
i. Adopting the principles of natural justice of giving the member about whom the ethical concern is raised, an    opportunity to be heard.
ii. Listening to the aggrieved person and all other people involved in the issue in some form to collect as much     data as possible.
8. The event ethics committee needs to dialogue among themselves on all the data that has been collected and come to a conclusion on the charge or complaint. Where the members cannot meet, the dialoguing can happen over phone or e-mail or chat.
9. The event ethics committee will submit its recommendations to the President of ISABS. The President may, in consultation with the Standing Committee on Ethics, accept the event Ethics Committee’s recommendations or may suggest certain modifications. In the latter case, the final course of action will be determined after full discussion between the members of the event committee, the standing committee and the President.
10. The President will initiate appropriate action, which may include communicating the decision to the concerned professional member, to the complainant (if necessary and appropriate), and to other role holder(s) if absolutely necessary for giving effect to the recommendations.
11. The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Ethics will be responsible for following up and ensuring that the recommendations, corrective actions and other conditions of re-entry, if any, are complied with.

Possible actions that can be initiated

Depending on the nature and severity of the issue, the following broad actions are envisaged:
a. A warning of cautionary counsel to the member in writing
b. Temporary barring from specified number of events
c. Permanent barring from attending events and participating from the activities of ISABS
Any of these actions may need to be supported by follow-up and corrective actions that may be specifically recommended. These could include steps that the professional member needs to take for re-entry. This is to ensure that the desired change in behaviour has occurred. Otherwise just suspending from events does not ensure change of behaviour for which suspension was intended. The recommendations may include the assistance of a peer as a mentor in this process. The mentor’s inputs may be sought while taking the re-entry decision.
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