Our ICBO Working Agreements

In December 2018, during our in-person project meeting in Ithaca, New York, we updated our ICBO (Independent Community-Based Organization) Working Agreements. These are based on the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing, and they are an expression of our fundamental commitment to working in a collaborative, fully inclusive, just, open, and respectful way.

 Here are our NOISE Project Working Agreements/ ICBO Working Agreements:

  • Be inclusive 
  • Emphasis on bottom-up organizing 
  • Let people speak for themselves 
  • Work together in solidarity and mutuality 
  • Build just relationships among ourselves 
  • Commitment to self-transformation 
  • Practice deep listening and loving speech 
  • Practice empathy, love, curiosity, and humility 
  • Use ICBO research to guide us in all aspects of the project, including within our group 
  • Forgive and learn from mistakes 
  • Speak up, speak down 
  • Speak your truth 
  • It’s okay to disagree 
  • Be comfortable with discomfort 
  • Help and support each other 
  • It’s okay to be raggedy 
  • Practice allyship (white ally/male ally) 
  • Commit to and be patient with process 
  • Be fully present and engaged

Our Community Review Board Agreement of Non-Negotiables

The ICBOs have created a Community Review Board Agreement of Non-Negotiables to guide research and evaluation in our communities. We believe these key agreements will guide equitable, inclusive research that ultimately benefits our communities. This agreement will guide our work—much like Institutional Review Boards might do so at universities and research institutions—but from the community perspective.

ICBO Community Review Board Agreement of Non-Negotiables
What is non-negotiable as we undertake community-based participatory research?
1. Research in our communities must be conducted with respect and cultural competence.
2. Research in our communities must include our communities from the beginning.
3. Research in our communities will be beneficial and empowering to our communities.
4. Researchers must have a deep understanding of equity*.
5. Researchers must have a high level of emotional intelligence.
6. Researchers will use vocabulary that is easy for everyone involved in the project (and their communities) to understand.
7. Researchers must understand our communities’ priorities.
8. Researchers will not use our communities as guinea pigs. We do not want to be studied or used for the benefit of others.
9. Research in our communities will be honest, transparent, and have high integrity.
10. Our world views are not those of the dominant culture. We will not adapt simply because it is the way science is traditionally done.
11. Researchers will be clear and transparent about their agenda.
12. Researchers will NOT use our communities for the benefit of their institutions or for their personal benefit.
13. Research results will always be shared with our communities first and in ways that are accessible and clear to everyone.
14. Consent documents will be clear and to the point so that anyone can understand what they are agreeing to.
15. The intellectual property that is taken from our communities belongs to our community. 
*Equity: Providing the structure, tools, respect, and support needed to give each member the same opportunity to succeed. Working for equity also means identifying, countering, and/or removing forces and systems that limit opportunities and outcomes.

Finalizing our Community Framework

We continue to analyze our data and dig more and more deeply into our results.  As we have done so, we have discovered that our Community Framework continues to evolve and grow as we further understand our findings.

In the latest iteration of our Community Framework, we find that the same factors influence collaborations between science-serving institutions and community organizations working in underserved communities. These factors generally make up four consistent themes: Power and Privilege, Trust and Transparency, Realities and Relevance, and Commitment and Collaboration. But, we’ve realized that Power and Privilege and Realties and Relevance represent challenges while Trust and Transparency and Commitment and Collaboration represent tools.

We found that creating a two-dimensional visual aide would be helpful in representing the real-world interplay among all the themes and the relationships between the tools and challenges. We needed to ensure that all the themes were clearly connecting with all the other themes—thus, all the colors  in the 2D framework touch. Using our visual aide, we can illustrate that:

1) Power and Privilege, represented in blue, is the category that most influences both collaborations in general, as well as all the other categories. It is the foundation of equitable collaborations and, thus, appears on the outer edge (of the 2D illustration) and serves as the base of the framework.

2) Realities and Relevance, represented in yellow, indicates that even when following best practices and exhibiting the best of intentions, these break down when implementing programming and these challenges may prevent successful collaborations.

3) Trust and Transparency (in brown) and Commitment and Collaboration (in cream) are depicted as two figures connecting with each other—perhaps hugging, perhaps dancing. These are tools we can use to overcome the challenges. It is important to see the tools in the context of the power dynamics and the realities of the collaboration!

Finally, our Community Framework will likely continue to evolve; it is a living, breathing framework that changes with our communities and adapts to our collective understanding of our work.

Our Rules

After our November 2018 meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we determined the working rules for the community perspectives researchers (also known as the Independent Community-Based Organizations, or ICBOs). We also agreed on how we would make decisions; how we will present and publish our individual and collective ideas and findings; and what motivations, including mutual benefit, are shared by the ICBOs.

Working rules:

The ICBOs have agreed to follow the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing:

  • Be inclusive
  • Emphasis on bottom-up organizing
  • Let people speak for themselves
  • Work together in solidarity and mutuality
  • Build just relationships among ourselves
  • Commitment to self-transformation

Decision making:

  • We will strive for consensus and embrace solidarity and mutuality among ICBO members.
  • Transparency and honesty are expected among all ICBO members and collaborators.
  • All members will be kept informed at all times and will have multiple opportunities to weigh in and provide input ahead of deadlines.
  • All ICBO members will be included/invited to meetings that affect our collective work.
  • All ICBO members will have access to research findings in all phases of the research process.
  • We focus on strengths.

Illustration by Jose Gonzalez

Our Decision Making Tool

The decision making tool is a way for us to hear all voices and document them. The tool allows for everyone to vote on an issue. This is to both honor our Agreements and intentions in supporting each other’s voice while we also acknowledge we have deadlines to tend to and decisions that need to be clearly made and recorded. This tool, designed by the ICBOs, supports our documentation of the process as part of our agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF). Thus, the intent here is not to impose some rigid structure on our decision-making, but to add clarity and support to our process centering equity.

We can only move forward if no one selects the: “I am against it and cannot proceed” option. We are calling this the VETO vote. If there is a veto then we  MUST meet to discuss the issues. Once we have this meeting, we will take another vote and this time only require 2/3 majority. In this way – we document all concerns and ensure that even though we are moving forward – everyone has an opportunity to be heard.

You can see a sample of our decision making tool on the following link:

or on the following link:

Presentations and publications:

  • First authorship is determined by niche/topic/area of expertise; who is taking the lead; who might benefit the most; or alphabetical order. Transparency and honesty are fundamental to this determination.    
  • One ICBO representative will take on the role of coordinating any requests for presentations stemming from our community perspectives research. This role will be held for four months and then we will rotate this responsibility.
  • We have developed a short application for potential presenters (ICBO members and/or others). The application can be found here:    
  • We will make every effort to ensure ICBO participation guides and interprets our work and messaging so that it is authentic in its representation and manner. Let the ICBOs speak for themselves.    
  • Every member of the ICBO research team and participating community-based organizations will have access to all our findings, publications, and presentations as soon as they available. Each member will have a printed version of our standard research poster of results and share as they see fit.
  • Posters, presentations, and publications will always acknowledge the authors and participating community-based organizations, and be clear about who has done this work.
  • The ICBOs will always speak for themselves. The research should be shared broadly without requiring in-person representation from dominant-culture institutions, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  • Blogs and videos are democratizing tools to share our community perspectives and the work we do.
  • The ICBOs will always communicate from the heart when posting online.


  • We value inclusion and authenticity.
  • We value working through conflicts.
  • We value doing the work lovingly by “living the mission”.
  • We believe that community-based organizations and leaders benefit by valuing and communicating their worth.
  • We expect due credit and equitable compensation for community expertise.
  • We demand self-reflection, transparency, and honesty in understanding motivations of our work.
  • We focus on social inequalities, work for social change, and believe the primary beneficiaries of our efforts are the communities we represent.
  • We expect mutual benefit to all partners.

Our Vision, Mission and Values

Vision: The sciences inclusively and equitably serve all of our communities.

Mission: To equitably and inclusively transform the sciences through underserved community voices and perspectives.

Values: Inclusiveness, Transparency, Equity, Integrity, Passion, Commitment, Social Justice/Justice