Get Involved in Prevention

Action Planning

“No one is ever just an individual. You exist within spaces all the time, and you share some responsibility for what happens there.” Shawna Potter, Making Spaces Safer

When we plan for SAPE workshops, we generally hold a consultation meeting with the community members who requested the workshop. In these meetings, we discuss the group’s intentions and goals for their collaboration with SAPE. Time and time again, action planning comes up as a goal. As SAPE coordinators, we have noticed that in many of our spaces dedicated to harm prevention, “action planning” has become somewhat of a buzzword. Even in SAPE trainings and meetings, we reference action planning often, without necessarily parsing out what it actually means. Education alone is not enough to create culture change, we have to pair it with a plan of action.  The trouble is, there is no singular clear-cut definition of what action planning is. We can, however, share some information about our approach to action planning that may help you to determine how it can look for you and your community. Action planning is a process and a commitment, not a “one and done” step, and that it is a crucial component to preventing harm and having safe communities.  

This content on this page was written by SAPE Coordinator Jamila Beesley ‘22 in collaboration with SAPE Coordinators Madison Hough ‘22, Bianca Hong Tsu Garcia Bergsneider ‘23, Alexa De La Fuente '23, and Audrey Skehan’24, BWell Health Promotion staff, and feedback from 2022 SAPE volunteers.

What is Action Planning?

Community action planning is crucial to preventing and addressing sexual, relationship,  and gender-based harm. This kind of harm affects everybody within a community and everyone’s help is necessary when working to build a culture of consent and respect while dismantling harmful systems of oppression and violence. 

Action planning can mean many different things, both on the individual and community level. Possible examples of action planning could be:

  • Establishing party hosting policies and designated sober safety people 
  • Annual SAPE/SHAG/MPE workshops with new and returning members
  • Sending out group feedback forms each semester
  • Holding community reading groups to learn and discuss topics related to preventing violence 
  • Establishing internal accountability practices to turn to if harm does happen

We acknowledge that it can feel really daunting trying to create actionable and sustainable steps to prevent harm, especially when most of us are only on this campus for four years. We hope to offer some suggestions to help guide you, and your community members, when thinking through what processes might be most beneficial and successful for your particular community to prevent harm and support survivors.  

Frameworks & Approach: Intersectional, Power-Conscious

First, it is important to  cite and credit the critical frameworks and theories of change that inform our approach to violence prevention work as a whole and subsequently, action planning. As SAPEs, we believe in an intersectional, power-conscious approach to violence prevention. 

“Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” - Kimberlé Crenshaw

These frameworks urge us to understand the root of sexual violence as power and oppression. Power can be defined as “access to the ability to control or significantly influence other people’s lives.” (Linder, Sexual Violence on Campus, p.7) Systems of oppression create an environment where sexual violence is inextricable from the intersectional marginalized identities people hold around race, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and caste (to name a few). For years, sexual violence has been framed as identity neutral, but we know that this notion is false and harmful, perpetuated by dominant voices in dialogue around sexual violence. The dominant assumptions about sexual violence have carefully constructed the image of a victim as a white, cisgender, heterosexual, college woman, relegating the experiences and knowledge of survivors of color, queer survivors, disabled survivors, immigrant or undocumented survivors, sex-worker survivors, and low-income survivors to the margins, despite disproportionately being targeted for sexual violence. If we are to create plans of action for eradicating sexual violence, it also means showing up for racial justice, economic justice, queer justice, disability justice, immigrant justice, etc. Understanding and acknowledging power, privilege, and dominance is inherent to understanding why sexual violence occurs. See below for related definitions and concepts.

Intersectionality: coined by Black feminist legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality describes how systems of oppression overlap and intersect for people holding multiple marginalized identities. She uses the term intersectionality to explain how looking at systems of oppression as separate structures for people with multiple marginalized identities fails to encapsulate the unique experience of both systems at the same time. (Crenshaw, Mapping the Margins)

Power-conscious approach: this framework focuses on “the relationship of people with power to systems of oppression” in order to “consider the role of power in individual, institutional, and cultural levels of interactions, policies, and practices.” Linder’s framework explicitly urges stakeholders to address sexual violence by dismantling structures of power and privilege rather than teaching victims to not be victimized. (Linder, Sexual Violence on Campus, p. 14). Taking a power-conscious approach means engaging in reflective, self-awareness work, considering history and context, making behavior changes based on our reflections, pointing out power imbalances and the role of power in structures and policies as well as in community and individual actions, and to work towards the eradication of all forms of oppression.

Frameworks & Approach: Community Accountability

Our understanding of action planning derives from the field of public health as well as the concepts of restorative and transformative justice.  Practices of CA have historically been used by Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, as tools for repairing harm following an act of interpersonal violence. ValorUS describes these practices: 

“restorative justice is rooted in indigenous and Native American practices of communal restitution and mediation as a means of addressing conflict. Originally, a significant part of its function was to return a balance of power to the impacted parties… [in contrast to a] retributive criminal justice system…Transformative justice emerged in the late 1990’s as an adaptation of restorative justice that sought to address the social inequities and environmental factors that allowed the harm to be done in the first place.”

Because many survivors hold vulnerable identities that exist in precarity with the state, CA has emerged as a necessary alternative to state-sanctioned, punitive justice processes. 

As a collective of student educators united in the work to prevent sexual violence, we wish to name our belief that change happens when we work with people in non-punitive ways to interrupt the social conditions that allow for harm to happen. At Brown University, students and staff have learned together, in community, about the practices of restorative and transformative justice, in part from speakers brought to campus by the Brown Center for Students of Color, the LGBTQ Center, the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender, BWell Health Promotion, the Community Dialogue Project, and Student Conduct & Community Standards. 

In SAPE, our understanding of action planning as a crucial part of violence prevention is informed by CA as it is illustrated in the figure below:

Adapted from

Action Planning Process: Where do we begin?

Action plans generally begin with an assessment of the needs and values of the individuals and/or community that is developing the plan and is in need of taking some action to create change. You can use this webpage and our accompanying action planning tools as a starting point to reflect on first steps and possible avenues for your action plan to take. By considering these pre-action planning reflection questions, you will begin to consider what actions may be best for your community. Read on below for more detail on assessing needs and community values, considering accountability practices, and understanding other concrete action steps that your community can consider.

Action Planning Process: Assessing Needs

A useful first step is to assess what your community needs. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Why are you interested in action planning? 
  • What behavioral changes are you hoping to see on an individual and community level? 
  • What has your community done in the past to address harm?
  • Are you looking to build awareness and education around understanding the elements of consent and bystander intervention strategies? 
  • Are you focusing on addressing new members, existing members, or the whole community? 

There are so many different needs that action planning can help address. It is possible that your community, like many others, has a hierarchical power structure, operates without transparency, and creates an unsafe power dynamic that you will want to address. Or your community throws a lot of parties and you want to brainstorm how to make your party spaces safer for everyone who attends. Maybe it feels awkward talking about sexual violence in a non-structured group setting so you want to find ways to make a tangible commitment to having community dialogue a few times a year. Maybe there have been known instances of harm within the community that have created a tense atmosphere and you want to take actionable steps to prevent future harm. 

One community’s needs will differ from another’s and, as a result, their action plans will also be different. There is no “one-size-fits-all” action plan. And action plans can and should change! Adaptability is key in this process. Maybe what worked one year won’t work in another, or maybe you tried your action plan one semester and found that there would need to be major adjustments. That is okay! Sexual violence won’t end in one year. Action planning can have both short term and long term commitments and goals. 

Action Planning Process: Assessing Community Values

Next, rooting an action plan in community values helps to translate these values into concrete actions and changes. In our SAPE workshops, we identify community values as one of the first steps in preventing harm. The values that hold your community together are the same values that will help you to stay true to your action plan and to enact change. Consider this sentence completion activity from our SAPE curriculum:

  • “In this group, we value…”
  • “As a group, we do not tolerate…”
  • “One value or standard I wish we had is…”
  • “As a group member, I worry about…”

Action Planning Process: Accountability

In many communities, it takes an experience of harm within the community for members to demand change and desire action planning. What we have noticed is that when action planning begins in response to harm, conversations around accountability and consent education tend to be the focus. However, we find it important to affirm that no community is immune to harm. It is critical that we push past the desire to only respond to an incidence of harm to more sustainable efforts towards prevention.  This is not to say that action planning around accountability practices is not preventative work, it is! However, if we only focus our action planning on responding to harm after it has already happened, we lose out on the many other changes and practices that are just as important in disrupting harmful cycles and norms. We want to be clear that accountability practices can be an important component of an action plan but are NOT the only steps that can be taken to prevent harm. 

Action Planning Process: Possible Actions

Beyond accountability practices, possible actions that can be part of your plan for creating change include engaging in preventative education and training about the roots of violence, safety and physical space planning, establishing practices to be transparent (especially for hierarchical power structures), maintaining organizational memory (ex. about what has happened in the past, what was done about it, what worked and what did not), and establishing community check-ins. Action planning for your community might not include accountability processes at all. It is possible that you feel that they would not be safe due to the existing power structures, or that it would not make logistical sense for your group- these are all valid considerations. There are many ways to prioritize making survivors feel supported and working to ensure that people feel safe in your community. The most important part is figuring out what methods make the most sense for your community. See the links at the bottom of this webpage for helpful examples and readings.

Action Planning Process: Check In & Breathe

Finally, we want to urge you to let yourself breathe in this process. Action planning can be confusing and will always be a process rather than something that can easily be checked-off a to-do list. Making mistakes is an inevitable part of this process, but we can continue to work towards safer spaces even when things don’t always go as planned. We invite you to take a “both/and approach” when mistakes happen: give yourself some grace and hold your boundaries firm. Check in to make sure you and your community feel supported in this process. You are not in this alone.

Action Planning Process: Get Support


If you want individual or small group support, please consider making an appointment with a BWell SHARE (Sexual Harm Acute Response & Empowerment) Advocate for confidential support around these topics.  This support is available for survivors of harm as well as “secondary survivors,” those who are supporting others or are impacted by harm in their communities. Harm cannot be prevented if you are experiencing harm in the process! For immediate, confidential crisis response, consider calling the Sexual Assault Response Line at 401-863-6000, available 24/7.  

It is not up to you, as an individual, to “fix” your community, but you are a crucial component to making change and creating safer spaces.  We hope this information has been helpful and that you believe, as we do, that your actions will have a ripple effect in your community that will spark change on many levels, even after you leave Brown. 

Action Planning Examples

We acknowledge that action-planning can be a difficult concept and term to begin imagining, discussing, and implementing, learning from other examples can be an invaluable tool to start thinking of your community’s context and further actions that address your needs. Please explore the links below for “real world” examples.To be clear, these examples should not serve as a step-by-step template for your action-planning process, but may help you imagine strategies that could be useful for your community. 

  • 401.863-2794
    Health Promotion
  • 401.863-3953
    Health Services
  • 401.863-6000
    Sexual Assault Response Line
  • 401.863-4111
  • 401.863-3476
    Counseling & Psychological Services
  • 401.863-4111