mfpl leadership committee meeting notes 2012-08-28

membership meeting Oct 28 10:00→17:00 at the brecht forum.

staff has planned, wants LC input.

  • similar to last year's meeting

Timeline to Membership Meeting

August 28: Discuss Membership meeting process and meeting with LC  
August 30: Data entry: begin collecting and enter addresses and phone numbers of members 
August 30: Initial email to members about the meeting

September: send out survey to members, ask for responses to last
 year's priorities and suggest new priorities for MFPL. Priorities are
 general directions that the membership wants the organization to go

September 6: Finalize Postcard announcing meeting 
September 13: Mail postcards 
September 15: Announce request for Leadership Committee nominations (Lowdown)

    MFPL will request one-paragraph bio and one-paragraph vision statement from each nominee

September 20: Begin phone calls and emails 
over September: staff writes reports: membership, finances, infrastructure, overview

    reports published 1-2 weeks before the membership meeting;
    additionally will publish all nominees for LC for membership

October 1: Candidates and proposals announced and publish via the Lowdown 
October 21: Target 200 phone calls and individual emails made/sent 
October 21: Online voting for LC members begins. Announcement sent to LC

    This is a new proposal, a departure from past years

    7 day online voting period, the week before the membership
    meeting. Members can also vote online during the membership
    meeting itself

    purpose: encourage more participation

October 22: Reminder about meeting is sent 
October 26: Last reminder about meeting 
October 28 Meeting happens 
meeting schedule

    no need to read the full reports at the membrship meeting; instead
    recruit a small (3-4 person) panel that might have something to
    say and ask them to give a 10-15 minute reflection on the reports

    membership meeting happens in NYC and Mexico city simultaneously.
    Panelists are in both locations.

    simultaneous or consecutive translation

    joint (bi-directional) audio link so that the meeting is held concurrently.

    collaborative democracy workshop is already multi-site-capable.


dkg: I like the vision; I have technical concerns about feasibility of some details.

Having an online voting arrangement introduces the need... removes the secret balloting process, particularly if people can also vote in person during the meeting. Need to keep track of who has voted and who hasn't. Will that change the character of the LC voting process? I agree with the goal of increased participation, but online voting is fraught with many problems that can't be resolved. On the otherhand we might decide we don't care about people's ballots (?)

Audio between NYC and Mexico City: wiring both rooms while avoiding feedback problems seems like a major challenge, no idea how that will work. Would like to have a fallback plan to think about; if it doesn't work and we try to conduct the meeting with it, it will be absolutely miserable.

Also curious about how we'll select panelist; I really like the idea.

Jamie, in response: everyone should start thinking now about who would be good panelists

audio feedback loop: Agreed; maybe we can discuss that at next face-to-face support meeting, figure out a fallback that will definitely work

anonymous voting: last year we had both online and in-person voting, and that was even more complicated. Would like to simplify it by not having in-person voting, only online. Last year this was designed technically to preserve an anonymous ballot; system kept track of which orgs voted but didn't link that record to the vote they cast.

That said, any time you log in and vote, there will probably be a way to guess who voted for whom.

This is an important political decision for LC; Jamie proposes that this is a comrpomise to make wider participation possible. dkg agrees that this is an ok tradeoff

mallory: providing streaming audio for folks not in MXC or NYC; last year there was an audio stream; i didn't watch the video; and there was an IRC channel that someone could read from. I don't necessarily need the two-way, but i do want the stream to follow what's going on.

jamie: i really want bidirectional audio somehow; for other folks, we should try for one way audio (outbound) and have a text channel back (similar to last year). ~30 second lag is OK for that arrangement.

dkg: are we going to record this? are we going to discourage others from recording?

Jamie: not opposed to recording it, though it's tough to do something with 9 hours of audio. Any objections?

jack: i'm curious about how the reflections from panelists would be structured? will each panelist cover specific reports? or specific areas that they're involved in? or less connected that way?

jamie/alfredo: we haven't made any decisions there.

jamie: probably looser than stricter. give panelists leeway to discuss what they think is important. each would get all the reports, and then they could pick up the themes that they wanted to discuss.

jack: seems like it might be a good idea to make sure all reports should be covered. maybe ask ahead of time to ensure there aren't any huge holes.

alfredo: why should we put someone on a panel to discuss hillary's financial report or even the membership report. they're critically important reports, but i don't know if a panelist could make reasonable commentary on it. I was thinking we'd take jamie's report, divvy it up by themes and have the panelists present parts of them. So we don't do all the reports, just the political report from the director. i might be off-base, though.

jamie: jack, you're expressing a concern that people won't read the other reports. but we'll distribute them ahead of time, and then also have them printed in front of them at the meeting. i think people will get more that way.

jack: maybe i misspoke; i don't expect that all the reports will be fully covered, i just want to make sure that the important points get covered.

dkg: from the perspective of thinking what it would be like to be asked to be a panelist, and being given a huge slew of reports and asked to talk about what's important, I might be less intimidated by being assigned a section and thinking what to present based on that. That might be easier than being given all the sections and needing to distill an analysis on the whole thing.

Jamie: do people have thoughts or proposals on panelists? Staff came up with Carlos Fazio, Mexican journalist. Great panelist: relatively well known in Mexico, good radical politics, a MFPL member. Any other ideas to put forth? Who we choose will be really important to the success of the meeting.

Jamie: also want to throw out: is it acceptable to have a panelist that's not a MFPL member.

dkg: wouldn't want a panelist actively opposed to being involved with MFPL; allies who aren't members seem fine

alfredo: this panel is as if we took Jamie and made him into six different activists from across the country, grouping their experiences, reflecting on your report. The relationship to the the report/MFPL's work needs to be relatively intimate and on point.

for example: we could take someone from SWAP to talk about massification of membership recruitment; but ??? is conversant with how MF/PL works internally, so we need some selections of people who know what's going on within the organization itself; members will know more about the on-the-ground issues. this is jamie's report!

jamie: our goal is to have people who are members; but our need is to have people who can converse intelligently about the goals of the organization.

dkg: wondering whether you were thinking that LC members should be part of this panel or presentation or not.

jamie: all LC members are candidates for that. Certainly not thinking that LC members should be excluded, they would be fine on the panel. I also think that any LC candidates would be great.

jack: jamie, by wanting to find folks who are conversant with the issues, it made me wonder what you think the themes might be.

jamie: i haven't written the report; i plan on having a draft in the next week or two that i'll share with workers and the LC. The general sense of what i meant is: we need someone who is able and ready to get their hands dirty with the politics of the organization and the technology; the need to own our own infrastructure and what that means, and so on.

jamie: in particular, for this meeting, we'll want to talk about being bi-national; what is the impact on adding over 100 mexican orgs, how does it affect our political outlook and what does it mean for the organization?

jack: in part i ask because the topics that folks would be talking about would affect my choices of who i would propose as members for the panel. so more details of the report would help.

carlos: panel logistics: is this something that we're asking them for the whole day, or could a panelist just show up for the report part?

jamie: we'd want them for the whole day but we could be flexible.

jack: collaborative democracy workshop is always something that feels cumbersome and not completely successful. I realize i bring this up often and don't have a constructive counterproposal. i've also heard that feedback from other people at the event. i think it might be useful to think about either changing that approach completely, or how the process could change; what are the goals that we could maybe meet some other way?

jamie: goals: to provide membership with the ability to shape the priorities of the organization. The big vision for that is that the members pick the main priorities; then it's the job of the LC to propose and pass more specific proposals for how to achieve those goals and priorities. It's pretty straightforward (?) piece for the membership to do. With the org now straddling both Mexico and the US, it's challenging to figure out how one group of people can do that in one afternoon. That's one reason to be very partial to the collaborative democracy workshop; for whatever its struggles and difficulties, it's relatively successful in being able to do that. I think there are some changes, in fact one in particular: adding some sort of chat to it. Having a chat isn't as critical when everyone's in the same room, but with multiple locations having chat might relieve some of the pressure that people feel by providing direct communication. That's one small change that I could make; if other people have ideas about suggestions, I'm all ears.

alfredo: i thnk that there's any question that the decision-making at the last membership meeting was extremely lacking. we weren't able to implement most of the decisions made by membership, and the decisions themselves as general directions were too broad and amorphous and the LC didn't implement a lot of that stuff. that's part of the growing-up process. no surprise. I think the LC needs to be more proactive about what the challenges are and what some of the issues are that the membership needs to decide to move forward. Just doing an amorphous thing about growth doesn't cover the important thing about what we do hemispherically. we have severe differences within the membership and within the leadership committee. Jamie and i just go and do something or the staff does. If LC can tell membership what these issues are and ... that can make a friendly conversation into a more political discussion. we need debates and discussion where these things can be brought into relief. I intend to flesh this out in my own thing i write as an LC member. I think that explains some of the triumphs and some of the stagnations of the organization.

jack: i think one of the things that seems important here in the collaborative democracy workshop is to be clear what we're asking the membership to come up with; i've been in some CDW's where it seemed like what we wrote right then would be published someplace, which gets into wordsmithing instead of broader understandings and priorities. depending on what we're asking people to provide might help people focus better.

jack: it's also hard with this tool and this workshop to indicate relative priorities. people don't seem to be able to indicate what they might care about more seriously. if there are limited resources and limited time, how do they prioritize? it would be useful to hear about that.

jamie: re: alfredo's comments: our survey in which we propose 5 or 6 priorities should be written in a somewhat extreme way, propose things in an extreme way so that people want to respond, and use that to jumpstart the CDW. What jack made me realize now is that what the CDW encourages now is wordsmithing and endorsing, but not ranking. Ranking suggests a different tool. imagine a CDW where there are 5 or 6 priorities and your group needs to consider the rankings. then there could be an accumulation of rankings to see which ones come out on top.

alfredo: but you also want the membership to discuss it. wordsmithing can be annoying, but it can also be a conceptual disagreement being phrased and framed. Part of the CDW idea is to see the importance of their language; and exercise in getting people together to think about how to use language. we were thinking of ways to get worldwide and hemispheric discussion happening. It may not be the tool for the meeting. people view it as an exercise, so they do all kinds of things: battle over nuance, etc. i don't think there's enough realization that this will be setting the workload and direction for a bunch of people. I have trepidations over the CDW, but on the other hand expecting people to raise their hand and go to a mic might be a bad thing too. i don't have answer!

mallory: i need to get off the call. nice hearing all of you! i'm excited about the meeting, and will be available for more help <exits>

jamie: seems like Jack and Alfredo are both saying that people don't grasp what people's responses are going to used for. Obvious suggestion: better framing before starting the workshop, which can help but only go so far

jamie: wordsmithing suggestion: what if we put a severe character limit?

jack: seems like there are good ideas coming out of this for the CDW. we could get feedback from all the groups, and maybe have a scribe in each group that records "what didn't you like, what did you like, how could we improve it?" then you could get the feedback and details, and lend some nuance. it would also be better than just seeing what the last word was.

my other thought is that the hemispheric/bilingual nature is going to be even tougher on the wordsmithing front, esp. if there is lingo or poltiical jargon. if we're going to have that participation it's going to be even harder.

jamie: challenge is figuring out how to provide a space for people to reflect on the issues AND share feedback with the other groups. Particularly interested in having that happen between Mexico and NY.

dkg: The CDW internally has a record of whats been edited and changed; just because what's displayed is the last edit. A change that would be useful would be to find the edit that had the most endorsements on point A and highlight *that* at the end, or something like that. Jack's proposal about getting nuance and comments/feedback is useful; I see some sort of way to do that within the current framework. Eg when you make an edit, explain why your group made that edit in a few words. Also thinking about the relationship between CDW and a ranking exercise; smells like straightforward vote arrangement; that could miss out on the discussion part of it. Group discussion is really useful; that's very different than thinking about what to get out of it at the end. Maybe those two things shouldn't be explicitly tied together; we can make it clear when we're aiming to get people talking, hear where folks are coming from, what they agree and disagree with, and also make it clear when we're actually trying to set an agenda. Maybe what makes it hard is trying to do both of those things.

alfrdeo: i'm assuming that we'll divide int groups of 5 or 6 in both places. it strikes me that the people in mexico are going to be a lot less conversant with the history of the org than the folks in the US. the major challenge is that the org, when it talks about politics has to incorporat in its language the reality of mexico, which is very different from the reality of the US. this is delicate because a bad experience on the part of the mexican members could result in them leaving, or at least in many of them not helping to build the organization. many of the mexican members aren't particularly comfortable with collaborating with folks in the US. this is 1/7th of our membership so we need to make sure we really bend over backward to invite them. the CDW as we have it framed is a minefield politically.

alfredo: you put something up on the board in spanish, and someone else that you don't even see (from the US) goes and changes it in 5 minutes. it comes across emotionally as yet another imperialist grab, even for epople who unerstand the situation technically and intellectually. care has to be taken on this issue.

dkg: is there any way to enforce that the groups themselves could be binational within the CDW?

jack: the translation issues and communications issues alone are really challenging. alfredo is completely right on in what he said, and it makes me leery about how to handle the workshop as one big workshop. i think it could be really bad for people to see their work be wiped away by a remote party, and people in mexico will see themselves as being excluded. maybe two separate workshops? though that is difficult too.

jamie: yes, and despite the very real challenges you describe, i think it's also really important to try to do this. I think it's good if we can try to have people try to creatively and respectfully engage across cultures and nations, and is worth the risk of a bad result.

jack: i almost think there is a guarantee of a bad result with the tool as it stands now, for two reasons: timing and typing and language fluency is aggravating. also, while doing the engagement right you describe would be awesome, i'm not convinced that we'd be able to do it effectively enough, especially as a roomful of US folks trying to engage with others. i say this even as a spanish-speaking latino in the us.

alfredo: I'm absolutely sure that it's a certainty that people will get pissed off about it. I agree with you to some extent, that is to be understood and is part of the learning process; there's no one here with bad intentions and everyone understands that. The issue that Jack just raised is: is it too much learning, and are we demanding too much learning and growth in a session where people should be concentrating on setting the organizational path. (We're running out of time, and this group is fairly small.) There has to be much more instruction at the very least before the meeting takes place, not during the introduction. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise: maybe we can use the fact that we're hemispheric to talk about a new way of talking, conversing, decision-making, and talk about how that works; pioneer that to some extent, which would require some things being sent out to membership and some conversations.

alfredo: I don't think we should go into the CDW the same way that we did last year, because the organization is so radically different that to involve the membership in the discussion, we must practice a huge degree of sensitivity about how decisions are made.

dkg: We seem to be batting around ideas of different things to get out of this workshop, including bad things; in terms of the things we want, it sounds like people are saying the possibility of figuring out a new way to engage is in itself a [good thing]. That's very different than saying we're going to hash out the program for the organization via this workshop. Having the opportunity to interact with fellow members is a critical part of the membership meeting, particularly when operating under the kind of gulf that we have. Maybe that goal is more important than a CDW, more important to find ways to open those conversations so people can see where these conversations are difficult

Carlos: last year was the first time I participated in the CDW; it was new to me, and there was that feeling of working hard on a proposal and it disappearing. Having time to reflect and talk about the process in the small group; we didn't have that so much. Is there a way to do it so that it's a merge-type workshop where there's some aspect that is voting/online/live thing that we do, but there's also more nuance, connection to how people felt during the process, obviously very well facilitated. That would have made me feel that the work we did in our small group last year, coming up with different principles and proposals, was somehow recognized.

Jamie: we usually have that at the end of each workshop; we didn't do it last year. Maybe ran out of time.

Jamie: another thing with the CDW is that we normally don't pre-seed it with priorities, particularly based on feedback from survey, would give us an opportunity to start the workshop differently. Break into small groups, online part isn't enabled, spend a good chunk of time discussing what's there with your group before typing anything in. Might give the chance to have that level of engagement without having to frantically type things in.

Jamie: the history is kept; the interface gives the impression that it's disappeared, but we've just disappeared it. I wonder if there's a way to make it more visible and prominent to get more of the nuance that Carlos is talking about.

jack: are we anticipating that there will be translation going on?

jamie: we did that in guatemala and ny in 2008, and the wsf in 2009 in 4 languages (which was crazy and fun). the way that translation works is that when you're editing, you have both edit fields visible, and can copy/paste yourself, or use machine translation.

jack: the translation seems problematic; maybe we don't want machine translation since they're so bad.

jack: wondering if there's openness to doing something other than the CDW?

jamie: I'm open; I do think CDW is valuable, we don't have much time before the membership meeting to implement something else.

dkg: we might not be able to make the changes necessary to the CDW to make the tool meet our goals, e.g. remote communication would be critical. If the goal is to make it feel like one organization, not having that ability to facilitate communication would make people feel even more isolated.

Jamie: I don't think we've come to a conclusive decision, but this conversation has been incredibly productive and useful. Let's think through next steps, moving this forward, make some assignments and figure out follow-up.

dkg: seems like there's an open question about whether the goal for the CDW time-slot in the agenda is a decision-making process or a communication/facilitation process.


  • We need a proposal for how to achieve this goal of inter-member discussion on priorities.
    • jack: i could write up a proposal about how to have the conversation/facilitation section of the meeting. i could get it done by the end of sunday.
    • carlos: this is a holiday
    • (conversation between folks on the call about how to give proposals for CDW or alternatives; agreement that we can put out at least a couple of proposals for how to approach it and discuss further on the LC list.)
    • carlos: if CDW was included, it should be changed to respond to the concerns that have come out of using it in the past. If we can figure out ways of including the CDW in the more conversation-type workshop, there could be a possibility of joining them
    • jamie: i'll put together a proposal of how we might modify the CDW to address some of the concerns raised here.
    • dkg: most of the concerns folks have raised about the CDW, I have in general about the whole meeting. It will be difficult, people will get annoyed and frustrated, there will be technical glitches and logistical aspects that piss people off; nonetheless, I think it's good that we do it. I mean this about the entire meeting, not just the CDW. What we're proposing is a challenging process: multinational, multi-lingual, multi-site concurrent meeting of lots of groups that haven't met before. It will be difficult and we shouldn't expect to come out of it without a few scrapes.
    • Jack and Jamie will work on these and get them sent to the LC by end of day Sunday.
  • We need to draft initial priorities for the membership survey that will be sent out in September.
    • Jamie: purpose of afternoon is to either set and/or discuss organizatinal priorities for the coming year. The survey will be before the meeting, get folks to vote on what they like, let folks add new points; the results will help shape the pre-seeded priorities for the afternoon discussion. Will also let membership start thinking about the priorities, think politically, come prepared to discuss.
    • Jamie: also demonstrate we mean by priorities, what the scope of an organizational priority is, by giving some examples. Don't want members to come up with things that are so broad they are meaningless OR so specific that they're [not actually useful in terms of actual implementation] (that's a huge paraphrase!)
    • Carlos: I can work on it, helpful to work with someone else, bounce ideas off of folks
    • Jamie can work on it as well
Last modified 9 years ago Last modified on Aug 28, 2012, 9:08:36 PM