wiki:projects/leadership-committee/dec-2011/reports

Reports

Mallory: International work, Policy wok

Palestine The majority of my international work in 2011 took place on-the-ground in Palestine. I worked with a member organization Stop the Wall to build up their media, technology, and communications strategy to include youth, increase in international solidarity work, and social media. Through this relationship, MF/PL gained three key memberships from Palestine: Stop the Wall, General Federation of Trade Unions in Palestine (PGFTU) which is the largest union in the West Bank and Gaza, and the BDS National Committee (BNC) which is a membership organization comprised of hundreds of grassroots and civil society organizations around the world that support the Palestinian call for boycott, sanctions, and divestment against apartheid Israel.

Future work may include developing a media youth program with Stop the Wall and other collaborating organizations, involvement in the first, global social forum on Palestine to be held in 2012 in Brazil, and MF/PL's sponsorship and involvement in three major fact-finding delegations to Palestine and Israel in 2012 (unions, Indigenous groups, and churches). My travel and work stipend while in Palestine was provided by Stop the Wall.

World Social Forum At the beginning of 2011, me and other MF/PL staff and volunteers helped organize and attend the WSF in Dakar, Senegal. In preparation for the next WSF in 2013, I was asked to work with the WSF communications secretary to develop a working plan for the communications of the 2013 forum, to be held either in Tunis or Cairo. Preparation for this document also included an inter-commission meeting of the International Council in Diyarbakir, Turkey in September 2011, which followed a regular IC meeting in May 2011 in Paris, which I also attended on behalf of MF/PL. My attendance at both of these meetings was funded by the Communications Commission of the WSF IC.

Future work may include participation in the Maghreb/Mashrek forum process towards building early a communications and technology team for the 2013 forum and bringing delegates from MF/PL and the USSF to participate in the Forum on Forums, to be held in Galicia Spain in September 2012.

Climate Change Movement In March 2011, I led a small team consisting of Nat Meysenberg and Melissa Malone to Montreal to help live-stream the Alternatives International summit on Cochabamba +1, which aimed to report on the developments of the climate change movement in the time since the historic people's summit on climate change in Cochabamba Bolivia. While MF/PL was unable to gain funding for participation in the Durban COP 17 meeting this year, Ross and I helped our member organization Grassroots Global Justice with refreshing the website that Jamie and I had built the year before for COP 16 in Cancun.

Future work in this sector is highly dependent upon funding for travel, but we have very strong ties to the People's Summit that is planned to coincide with Rio +20 to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil this spring, including some preparatory meetings that are happening in New York City in December 2011 and March 2012.

International Policy The annual Internet Governance Forum was held in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2011. I attended this meeting for one day and was able to meet face-to-face many of our collaborating organizers from the Association for Progressive Communications and Access Now. Access Now is also a group which MF/PL has been working more with on Internet policy issues, such as the letter that I helped them draft to the eG8 participants back in May 2011 in hopes that more civil society organizations would be invited to participate. Additionally, an Italian group asked for MF/PL's signature on a similar letter to be submitted to the eG20 in November 2011. While many other important international policy documents have been endorsed by MF/PL, the other which included collaborative feedback worth mentioning was a letter to congress against SOPA, which was subsequently signed by nearly 60 organizations. MF/PL funded the change fees for extending a layover I had already scheduled through Kenya.

Future work may include working with the APC and Access, and other peer organizations, to help draft and edit policy, research, and campaign documents, as well as utilizing an announcement list for MF/PL members to endorse policy documents as well. It is perhaps more long-term work to use policy and research as a way to conduct "inreach" with MF/PL members. Taking steps forward with policy work may also include membership with CSISAC, a sub-committee of the OECD on Internet society, ICANN, or ECOSOC, in order to gain membership with the UN as an NGO. Also, this future work would need to include participation in annual conferences such as the APC membership meeting and the next IGF.

National Policy There is a great deal of overlap between national and international policy work simply by the nature of Internet governance. However, there are two important developments so far this year related to national policy work: MF/PL's membership in MAG-Net and MF/PL's participation in the National Rural Assembly in June 2011. MAG-Net is a coalition of media and technology organizations in the United States that campaign around national policy issues. Hilary was our main point-person for this application, which was accepted in September 2011. The National Rural Assembly is an interesting mix of progressive policy groups who recognize the traditional disadvantage of rural places, which includes access to the Internet. My participation in the National Rural Assembly was funded by the National Rural Assembly organizing committee.

While few lasting relationships have so far materialized from the rural policy work, future work in this geographic sector is fundamental to our national outreach strategy and our work with Indigenous groups.

Enrique: Laneta

A inicios de septiembre pasado comence un proceso de comunicacion con los Co-Directores Alfredo y Jamie, motivado principalmente por el riesgo de que la comunidad usuaria de LaNeta -organizaciones e individuos de la sociedad civil del sector progresista en Mexico- quedara dispersa ante la imposibilidad de su ISP (Programa LaNeta SC) de continuar atendiendo las necesidades de operacion tecnica de su infraestructura conformada por cinco servidores fisicos localizados en Canada.

Desde entonces participe en el proceso de acercamiento y negociacion entre Programa LaNeta SC y MF/PL para lograr respaldar a la comunidad usuaria de laneta interesada en continuar con un proveedor de servicios de internet progresista. Ese proceso de acercamiento y negociacion tuvo dos momentos importantes: el 26 de octubre con la visita de Ross a la Ciudad de Mexico en donde en un encuentro cara a cara se anuncio a la comunidad el inicio de la transicion a MF/PL y el 25 de noviembre con el acuerdo de los detalles de la transicion en donde quedo establecido claramente el inicio de la comunidad mexicana de miembros de MF/PL a partir de diciembre. En todo este trabajo es necesario hacer mencion de la intervencion atinada de nuestro Co-Director, Alfredo Lopez, para dar orientacion estrategica a esos acuerdos.

Formalmente me integre al staff de MF/PL desde noviembre y he atendido todas las areas de este proceso:

*Cobranza, contabilidad e impuestos.* Para lograr contar con las condiciones que permitan dar los pasos iniciales de un desarrollo estable de la membresia mexicana de MF/PL y ante la imposibilidad de MF/PL de tener un representacion legal en Mexico. He tenido que asumir personalmente los aspectos legales y fiscales del funcionamiento de esta comunidad: abrir una cuenta bancaria (para recibir las cuotas y hacer transferencia de esos recursos a Nueva York) y cambiar mi situacion fiscal: para el gobierno he dejado de ser un empleado, para convertirme en un empresario. Legalmente soy un intermediario de servicios, situacion que debe cambiar en el plazo de un ano a traves de la conformacion de la Cooperativa Frente Norte que permitira ser una instancia colectiva para atender estas necesidades.

*Outreach*. Desarrollo tareas de difusion de MF/PL como una asociacion que hace posible ampliar las posibilidades de las organizaciones y personas de izquierda en Mexico en el terreno tecnologico de internet, en asociacion con el resto de sus miembros, teniendo como objetivo ampliar la soberania tecnologica de los pueblos. Este trabajo ha pasado rapidamente de la comunicacion masiva a traves de listas de correo a la comunicacion cara a cara con las organizaciones.

*Tecnico* He dado seguimiento a las necesidades tecnicas de la transicion de los servidores de Canada bajo los servicios de iWeb, hacia nuestro servidor fisico malaka.mayfirst.org bajo la conduccion de Jamie, quien hace un gran trabajo tecnico y tambien didactico. Tambien he atendido de manera continua las solicitudes de soporte tecnico de la comunidad mexicana en esta situacion de transito hacia MFPL

*Traduccion y proceso de internacionalizacion* He comenzado la traduccion al espanol del sitio web principal www.mayfirst.org dando prioridad al contenido mas relevante para que la comunidad mexicana pueda entender que es MF/PL y como funciona, en este proceso he recibido la asistencia de Mallory para la muesta en marcha de la funcionalidad de Internacionalizacion de contenido. Este trabajo se enmarca en un plan mas amplio de traduccion que el staff esta planificando y al que Roberto Tijerina se ha sumado. Este plan incluye tambien la traduccion del Panel de Control. el sitio de soporte, el boletin The Low Down y los Service Advisories. Me he reunido con Roberto y ha expresado su interes en convocar a la creacion de un comite de traduccion con la participacion de mas personas interesadas en facilitar no solo la traduccion de contenidos en ingles al espanol, sino tambien del espanol al ingles con el objetivo de hacer de MF/PL una organizacion con mayores espacios de encuentro bilingu:e.

*Cooperativa Frente Norte* Ademas de las necesidades administrativas la comunidad mexicana de MF/PL que pueden resolverse colectivamente a traves de la Cooperativa Frente Norte Trabajo en el diseno de una propuesta que permita replicar en Mexico el modelo de trabajo voluntario con el que funciona MF/PL, que ofrezca soluciones a las necesidades de las organizaciones progresistas mediante el respaldo a techies venidos de las propias organizaciones y la contribucion de trabajo voluntario de tecnicos mexicanos motivados por una orientacion politica. Considero que este esfuerzo es estrategico, pues eso podria en el mediano plazo fortalecer a la comunidad tecnica en Mexico, facilitar el intercambio y la comunicacion con el support-team y comenzar a aportar trabajo voluntario a la administracion de la infraestructura de MF/PL.

In early September I began a communication process with Jamie and Alfredo, due to the risk that LaNeta's users community, both organizations and individuals from civil society in Mexico in the progressive sector, were going scattered because of the impossibility of their ISP (Programa LaNeta SC) to continue meeting the needs of technical operation of it's own infrastructure consisting of five physical servers located in Canada.

Since then I participated in the process of agreement and bringing togheter Programa LaNeta SC and MF/PL to support LaNeta users interested in continuing their internet activities within a progressive internet service provider. This process of rapprochement and negotiation had two important moments: on October 26 with the visit of Ross to Mexico City where, in a face to face with the community, we announced the start of the transition to MF / PL and on 25 November with the agreement of the details of the transition in which clearly got established the beginning of MF/PL membership starting on December. In all this work is necessary to mention the wise intervention of our Co-Director, Alfredo Lopez, to provide strategic guidance to those agreements.

I joined the MF/PL staff formally since November and have attended all areas of this process:

Collection, accounting and taxes To meet the conditions for taking the initial steps of a stable development of the Mexican MF/PL membership and face the impossibility for MF/PL to have a legal representative in Mexico. I had to personally assume legal and tax aspects of the functioning of this community: open a bank account (to receive dues and to transfer these resources to New York) and change my tax situation: for the government have ceased to be an employee , to become an entrepreneur. Legally I am a broker of services -an intermediary-, a situation that must change in the near future through the establishment of the Co-operative Frente Norte (North Front) which will be a collective body to address these needs.

Outreach I develop work on promoting MF/PL as a members organization that makes it possible to extend the capabilities, in the field of information technology and the Internet, of organizations and people from the political left in Mexico, aiming to expand the technological sovereignty of people. This work has moved rapidly from mass communication through the use of mailing lists to communicate face to face with the organizations to present in detail the proposal to become MF/PL members.

Technical I've been following the technical needs of the transition from servers in Canada under iWeb services, to our physical server malaka.mayfirst.org under the leadership of Jamie, who does a great job both technical and educational (since I've learned lots of new things in this short time). I've also attended some support request from the mexican community in this transitional situation.

Translation and internationalization I started the Spanish translation of the main website www.mayfirst.org prioritizing the most relevant content so the non-english mexican community could understand what is MF/PL and how it works. In this process I have been assisted by Mallory. This work is part of a broader plan of translation that the staff is working on with the enthusiasm of Roberto Tijerina who has joined this efford. This plan also includes the translation of the Control Panel, the support ticket system, The Low Down newsletter and Service Advisories. I have met with Roberto here in Mexico City and has expressed interest in convening the creation of a translation committee with the participation of more people not only interested in providing content translation in English into Spanish, but also from Spanish to English in order to develop greater opportunities for a bilingual MF/PL.

La Cooperativa Frente Norte (the North Front Coop) In addition to the administrative needs of MF/PL mexican members that can be addressed collectively through the North Front Coop, I'm working on the design of a proposal to replicate the model of volunteer work structures of MF/PL into this coop proyect and make a call to techies to bring solutions to the needs of progressive organizations with their support, based in political identity. I believe this effort is strategic here for MF/PL, as it could be, in the medium term, the way to strengthen the technical community in Mexico related to MF/PL and also facilitate the exchange and communication with the MF/PL's support-team and start volunteering to provide infrastructure management to the organization.

Hilary: finance

I joined May First in April 2011 as an administrative coordinator/member associate. My early tasks have focused on implementing new accounting procedures and protocols, conducting all the financial bookkeeping/record keeping to more accurately track May First's finances, and helping to create and implement a new membership payment policy.

Accounting The new accounting system has been put in place. We are using GnuCash, an open source operating platform. While the system has a few of functional limitations, it has been a useful program for tracking basic revenue and expenses. I have been able to reconcile Gnucash with our main bank account at Citibank and our online merchant Paypal. I believe our records now represent a comprehensive and accurate picture of May First's finances for the year 2011 and will serve as a basis for building and maintaining more accurate budgets and projections moving into the future.

The system is limited in running reports, such as aging receivables and other member payment tracking information. There is a need for more hands-on data entry to make the software truly functional in that respect. This is currently in process. But I am running GnuCash alongside the previous database program, so all the relevant information is available.

Membership Payment Policy The new membership payment policy has been the other major undertaking. We set a new deadline for member dues payments at 90 days. Jamie has created an alert system to track the deadlines and he created a payment plan option so that groups can spread out the payments. We are also offering dues reductions or scholarships for groups unable to pay. The new policy went into effect August 22nd. I have been doing a lot of targeted outreach to groups with delinquent payment records to settle their past due amounts and to alert the full membership of the change. We are just now starting to reach the first deadlines. We've been able to identify a number of defunct members which represent an easy fix. Some groups/individual have been responding to the notices by making payments; others by offering criticism. I think as a first run we are going to discover a variety of problems, bugs, issues and opportunities to refine the process. There is a lot of potential to alter our language, the alerts, etc. But this process is also raising key issues that should be a point of discussion for the Leadership Committee.

MF/PL is not a commercial provider. But the idea of suspending groups for lack of payment can be viewed as the action of a profit oriented corporation. What we have tried to stress in communication with members is that the dues they are paying supports a membership model based on shared resources. In essence, members are accountable, not to a corporate entity, but to the entire membership as a whole. And like most memberships, when the terms of membership are not met on either side, that membership expires, as do the benefits of that membership which in our case include web, email, database hosting. But this raises important questions about what it means to be a member, whether or not current members share our understanding, if our current outreach tactics are effectively communicating with members and how we can use this opportunity to build and connect an active and engaged membership.

Ross: support and occupy

Since the staff position of May First/People Link Support Butler has only existed for a few months, the parameters of the position continue to be developed and assessed. Such assessment is, in fact, one of the primary things I've worked on in this position. In the first month (October, 2011), we (primarily Jamie, dkg, and I) took stock of the current support volunteer strategy and re-modeled the ticketing workflow to allow a more targeted approach to managing a support team. Whereas prior to this, the support queue functioned as a first come, first serve, everyone's responsibility type system (a system that more or less translated into Jamie answering 95% of all tickets), the workflow we developed and continue to think through, works in a somewhat more targeted manner in which I handle the incoming support cue and designate a support volunteer to handle the given request.

Thus far, the new workflow seems to have improved our support infrastructure in a couple of ways. 0. Now every ticket has a responsible (or an irresponsible) party handling the request, which has significantly transformed the (Jamie handles everything model). 1. The new workflow also allows for new ticket states, so that we can be more precise with how we and members communicate about support needs. A significant part of my early work as a staff member was dedicated to figuring out this workflow.

My day to day labor deals with the particularities of the new workflow itself. As the MFPLSB, I manage the ticketing system and make determinations about who should be assigned a given issue, and/or answering the ticket myself. Thus far this seems to be working fairly well as a practice, and from my perspective, has actually increased volunteer support participation.

Another part of the work I do as MFPLSB has been to handle some of the more intense problems we've faced with denial of service attacks and server outages. While this remains a skill I have not mastered, in the last couple of months I have had occasion to learn and tackle some very harrowing outage issues. At this point, I view part of my contributions to MF/PL as another support member capable of handling most crisis situations fairly competently as I have had at least two full nights of "training" (by fire) on dealing with outages.

A final component of the work I do involves the occupy movement. As an active participant on the tech team of Occupy Boston and slightly involved in Occupydev and Occupytechnology as well as Occupy the Farm, I have done quite a bit of outreach for MF/PL. In addition to helping numerous Occupation locations with their web infrastructure, I worked to get Occupy Boston GA to officially distance itself from using Google Groups and gmail, shifting instead to the MF/PL and the free tools we deploy. This has also spawned quite a few new memberships outside of the Occupy Dedicated Server infrastructure, i.e. dues paying members.

This outreach/activism has also created the condition of possibility for understanding some of our own techno-structural problems with user interface and helped me grapple with some parts of our infrastructure that needs overhaul.

Alfredo: USSF, POC techies of training, Occupy

Aside from my normal Co-Director duties which include implementation of our strategy, outreach and recruitment, public representation of the organization, new member handling, staff leadership and collaboration, with my Co-Director, on emergency decision-making, I've been called on to work on three major areas of work the LC has prioritized: USSF, POC Techie Training Project and the Occupy movement initiative.

USSF In the wake of the 2010 United States Social Forum, in which we played a major role in both the tech work and the political leadership, the National Planning Committee has been discussing the major issue it faces: what to do in the future.

At the end of 2010, MF/PL made a proposal which I presented to the NPC, to decentralize the Social Forum into regional forums that would conduct their own live sessions while linking, on-line, for several special events. We insisted that such a development reflected better the growing specificity of struggles and movements in various parts of the country. We also argued that the economic problems we were anticipating would make fund-raising several million dollars much more difficult. And since the technology at the point of an upcoming Social Forum would be advanced enough to handle linkage, the regional forum idea was much more feasible.

The proposal wasn't supported at the time. That has changed as people now see the economic downturn we anticipated and that shift to stronger regional struggles. We believe a strong percentage of the USSF leadership supports our idea and that it will probably carry.

That development is certain to make May First's role in the Social Forum even more prominent for both technological and political reasons.

POC Techie Training This innovative program has moved forward although challenges faced by one of its partners, the Progressive Technology Project, has delayed it somewhat.

We have a partnership in place between ourselves, the Praxis Project and PTP. We have the funding committed and have trainers named and in place. Praxis, which names two trainees, has made their selection and we now await PTP's nominations. In addition, we have a basic curriculum outlined and are commencing work on the full curriculum.

PTP is suggesting a Summer launch of the program. This week, Praxis Project rejected that start date proposal, suggesting a launch in April and hinting that it might attempt to do the project alone. This is not acceptable to us and I'll have to bring those organizations together on the issue.

In any case, we will have to write the full curriculum (and get it approved by the partners), begin mentor training and set up preliminary orientation for participants during the next few months.

Occupy At its last meeting, the LC established as a goal the strategic recruitment of organizations. That goal was brought to the forefront when the Occupy movement virtually exploded onto the political scene in this country.

About a week or so into the development of the movement, I identified various Occupy local movements that appeared potentially critical to the movement and made a pitch for membership in MF/PL. After another week of back and forth communication, Occupy Together joined MF/PL and set up its website on our servers.

We then decided to play a larger role in the movement by attracting memberships from Occupies all over the country. Since these movements are highly informal, most without bank accounts, we had to adjust our membership policy and so we got Occupy Together to post a statement on its site that we would accept free memberships from any Occupy movement with a General Assembly or playing a major supportive role.

There are now about 60 of those movements (some from other countries) as members. When one joins, I send out my traditional new member message (which is always tailored to the new member's activities and often cites my own personal history with the movement they are part of) but I intro that with a couple of paragraphs explaining exactly what and who we are. These new members don't have the introduction others, who come to us after investigating who we are, might.

The response has been stunning both for its impact on our activities as well as the heightened profile it provides us in the movement.

Jamie

Since our membership meeting last Summer, most of my work has been focused on supporting our three newest staff members: Hilary, Ross and Enrique.

In collaboration with Hilary, I've been supporting the implementation of the new payment policy, both in terms of thinking through how it should work and implementing the code changes required to make it happen in our control panel.

With Ross (and dkg) I've supported creating the work flow for handling support requests and providing extra assistance to Ross with support questions and infrastructure issues he is not familiar with. I have also spent more time documenting as much as possible about how our infrastructure works.

With Enrique, I've contributed thinking and tech support on how to handle the technical transfer of infrastructure from Laneta to May First/People Link, supporting Enrique's outreach work in Mexico, and contributing to the ad-hoc committee on internationalization.

I've also been working on LC preparations, including working with Alfredo and the rest of the staff on the agenda and Jack and others on the Leadership Committee decision making process.

Over the years, the LC has expressed concern about the concentration of day-to-day responsibilities in my hands, which makes the organization dependent on me and therefore less stable. I'm happy to report that we've made tremendous progress in this area. Compared with a year ago, my day-to-day work has dramatically changed from hands-on work to supporting staff in doing the hands on work. While there is still more progress to be made, we're on the right track.

Last modified 8 years ago Last modified on Dec 10, 2011, 12:44:59 PM