MF/PL Leadership Committee--Democracy Subcommittee Call 2013-02-07

On the call:

Last week's meeting notes:


  • Review and discuss the MF/PL Structure document:
    • Discuss Jamie's proposal to add language "stating that english and spanish are the official languages of the organization and affirm a commitment to providing translation and interpretation of all organizational activity?"
  • Begin work on draft constitution (covering basic rules of our organizational democracy, not just for the LC but for the entire membership.)
  • Discuss a plan on how to engage the membership in giving us feedback, making changes, and giving the final approval of the document.
  • Discuss what we plan to do as a subcommittee at this weekend's meeting.
  • Recap and distribute any additional work or next steps for the Structure document, draft constitution & membership feedback, and this weekend's meeting.


Review and discuss Structure document.

First reactions:

mike lee observes that decision-making is different for each body. wants to know how conflicts are going to be resolved -- what do we do when there is no consensus?

jamie: what decisions are supposed to be made by staff, LC, membership? not covered here

mike lee: document emphasizes membership as decision-making body. does membership approve every decision, everything else is a recommendation? could ammend to indicate "any significant change"

Jamie: intent of that sentence is that all decisions be based on the direction of the membership; purpose is that all power emanates from the membership, rather than membership approving all decisions (which would be onerous). Need more clarity there.

Rasha: feels like this doc is a description of roles, responsibilities, operating procedures, decision-making process, which feels like an appropriate document; the word constitution came up in the last call, not sure what that would be or what the necessity of that document would be.

Rasha: process for making decisions is based on reviewing last year's goals doesn't seem to include a bigger situational analysis of where MF/PL is at, where our member organizations are at.

dkg: gaps that are missing and technical problems, like what happens during the LC transition. Not sure where these should go but we need to sort them out.

Jack: does this document need to be revised? If so, how?

Roberto: think it does, don't know if delving into this on the phone call is best; maybe better in the face-to-face?

Jamie: really hard to edit doc as a group; suggestion might be to see if we could collaboratively alter the outline of the doc, without getting into the details or specifics; see if there are any big picture items missing, then ask folks to break it down into sections, flesh it out, come back with drafts to discuss.

Jamie: I used the word "constitution," maybe could be a different word; I think of it as a document that the Structure document can be a basis for. Should be a document that doesn't change often, vague enough to last for a while, doesn't have to be constantly changed.

Jamie: situational analysis is totally necessary for the work that we do; I don't think it would be this document.

Rasha: I agree; suggesting that more as a suggestion for the content of an LC or Membership meeting.

Mike Lee: on constitutions in general - mainly provides structural outline of how the govt should secure rights I think we should add more of our principles. The basic structure of what we have shouldn't be changed. Decision making details should expanded to give guidance but not too much to restrict growth. It's the principles that we don't want to change and that's what should come across.

Rasha: question about process of building the organizational structures: some parts of the structure are required legally (mission, etc) which need to contain principles; seem different from the structure document here. Question: where are we at in this process? Is the goal of revising this document to address practical concerns? Address transition of Leadership Committee? Address questions about representation in LC of the full membership & full range of membership? What do folks think are the most important things we need to do in looking at this document?

Jamie: We need this document because we're a democratically-run membership organization, but we don't know what that means; in order to be a democratically-run membership organization we need to know what that means, practically, and it should be approved in a democratic way. Up to now we've been making it up as we go along--understandable--but we're too far in to not have something solid in place?

Jack: I would agree with that. The LC is relatively new (only 2nd elected one). So getting progress on this document is important. Also, the things Rasha said are important: addressing issues of representation in LC and full membership are important. Ensuring different teams and bodies don't restrict the way full membership can be involved. Seems main place for full membership involvement seems limited to membership meeting. Want to involve more membership involvement.

dkg: concerned because document says non-LC members can attend but not participate in the meeting.

jack: we'll go through the document section by section and review big picture changes that we need.

jamie: a section on principles might be good, as suggested by Mike Lee earlier.

Roberto: I agree; the principles lay out what the document is being based on; it's a measure that can be used by the things that come afterward.

Jamie: the MF/PL Statement of Unity might be a basis for those principles; it's not been ratified by the membership.

(some discussion: all members have to agree to the statement of unity; some folks may not have read it so carefully; hasn't been shaped by membership)

Roberto: statement of unity has many declarations; is there a way to distill them so that the opening of our current document can distill and equate democracy and tech? The opening should be about democracy; could we distill the technology and how that equates to democratizing the world? Something that bridges into how the organization wants to reflect that in the way it's done? e.g. everyone gets a voice, member-led, etc?

Rasha: statement of unity contains some elements of mission/vision but also covers current realities of tech (and past). Doesn't convey in principles how we are going to work together.

Rasha: is there a mission/vision statement for MF/PL?

Jamie: we don't have a specific mission or vision statement aside from the stuff on the website.

Jamie: I agree that the statement of unity doesn't provide direction in decision-making or details; I do like the idea of saying "this is the vision" and then coming up with details. The Statement of Unity helps to ground the nitty-gritty in a big-picture way of where our goals are. It could round out a document that might otherwise be quite specific.

Jack: would like to ask folks on this call: what sorts of principles folks have for how our organizational democracy and decision-making works?

Jamie: I wonder if we should say that we want some principles, but we don't know what they are, and move forward on some other big-picture items without getting too bogged down.

Jack: I worry about not tackling principles first because they're going to guide the whole rest of the structure and document; one is that the organization should be as non-hierarchical as possible.

dkg: It seems like we need a brainstorm of principles. I agree with a minimzation of hierarchy.

Roberto: something around having as much transparency around decision making as possible, so it doesn't feel like decisions are coming out of nowhere. Also, points of entry for input.

dkg: specific inclusion of groups and people who are not normally included as decision-makers societally

Jamie: something about MF/PL taking direction from the broader left movement

Jack: term limits or other mechanisms to make sure that decision-making power is rotated and distributed throughout the organization as much as possible.

dkg: I'm not convinced by term limits in particular as a functional mechanism for a democratic organization; not sure I have a better technical proposal, but term limits strike me as particularly problematic in a bunch of ways, though I appreciate what you're shooting for.

Roberto: I agree that we should take this up this weekend, where folks are all present, bring our best thinking in.

Roberto: re: language, I agree what dkg put out via email; was thinking that setting up languages as official languages, what that does to other incoming groups. Might want to make some principles for the organization around language as opposed to setting up official languages.

Rasha: this organization isn't the first one to go through these processes; what are some examples that we'd like to draw from? Glad to send Project South's principles to this group as an example of principles we use in our work. There might be other examples as well that MF/PL might decide embodies the language around it.

Rasha: there are folks who have statements about language accessibility; there might be examples that we want to draw from.

Jack: to do: gather and share examples that we have about principles of decision making and principles about language access.

Jack clarified Rasha's question: send examples to smaller democracy sub-committee.

Rasha: question about facilitation--has MF/PL brought in outside facilitation or done facilitation skill-shares or trainings around agenda setting, facilitating conversation, different activities, group processes?

Jamie: we brought in an outside facilitator in 2007 after the USSF; that's all. They did a good job. We haven't done very much of that.

Jack: I think that team-building/communication building/facilitation skills building would be really useful for MF/PL; has been useful in other organizations.

(question about remote participation; Jamie thinks it's more than likely that we'll be able to make it in (folks who are local), but Juan Gerardo's flight was cancelled)

Last modified 9 years ago Last modified on Feb 8, 2013, 10:33:12 AM