wiki:projects/leadership-committee/feb-2011/lc2011report

Version 19 (modified by alfredo, 9 years ago) (diff)

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Report to Leadership Committee

Introduction

The year 2010 was a year of major growth, in both member numbers and political visibility and influence, and significant changes for May First/People Link.

  1. We are now comprised of just over 500 members, about 80 percent of whom are organizations. Taking into consideration that each of the member organizations has a group of its own members who use our resources, MF/PL's user base is in the thousands. We have 1,783 individual email accounts, 1,093 email lists, and our email lists reach nearly a half million unique email list subscribers. Essentially, this makes us one of the largest political progressive organizations in this country.
  2. Our Hemispheric and Social Forum initiatives, as directed by the Leadership Committee, have been deep and successful. We are now globally recognized as leaders in the largest global struggles of our times. As a first for May First/People Link, in 2010 we were independently funded to participate in four social forum related events and two Latin America-based Climate Change events. Additionally, we are now members of the World Social Forum International Council.
  3. Our international recognition has extended beyond these two initiatives, via our continued work within the Association for Progressive Communications and our support of web sites under attack, most recently fitwatch.org.uk, which was rescued by May First/People Link member the Tachanka Collective, resulting in international press praising our organization and new memberships from the UK.
  4. Internally, we have established a solid, working tech support group which answers support tickets and does server maintenance work. This is completely new in MF/PL.
  5. We now have 92 working servers spread across five locations.

All growth brings challenges and errors. We have our share.

  1. The rapidly rising complexity of web sites has increased load on our servers faster than we've been able to adjust our tech to accomodate the complexity, resulting in frequent slow downs and occasional outages. This instability has a profound impact on members and, we suspect, impacts their willingness to bring new members and sites to May First/People Link.
  2. Our Co-Directors committed two major errors this year:
    1. We completely missed the importance of the Net Neutrality issue and debate. While that was a very tough campaign to enter -- for structural reasons -- we didn't try to fashion our own campaign or figure out a way to get involved. That resulted in MF/PL being marginalized from the issue and many of its proponents (some of them very important potential allies for us) and it resulted in the campaign being conducted by very liberal thinking and framing (led substantially by Free Press) and devoid of any attention to people of color or working people.
    2. We downplayed the massification of Social media use and, rather than project an inclusive stance toward it, often balanced our actions and comments in favor of criticizing it. MF/PL has never opposed the use of Social Networking sites but, because our argument was framed so sharply, we are often identified with that stance. This was primary Alfredo's responsibility. This error also garbled the discussion around Free and Open Source Software and crippled our effectiveness in espousing that critically important position.
  3. While we are continuing with our past rates of growth, we have yet to establish and implement the real recruitment plan that was stipulated as a major goal last year by the Leadership Committee.
  4. The Leadership Committee is consciously a project in process that is growing from a consultative body to a genuine body of direction and leadership. It has not, up to now, moved in that direction and LC does not yet run this organization.
  5. No matter our member composition, MF/PL is viewed as a white organization by many activists of color. In part, this is because there is a deep-seated segregation in the left of this country and the first glimpse many organizations of color get of us is our techies. They are almost all white. In addition, the above mentioned stances on Social Networking sites and FOSS often cast us, in the eyes of people of color organizations, as technocrats, purists or eccentric scientists...and not practical activists. For that reason, our current recruitment is mainly of white people and white organizations. This, given the way the world is going, is organizational and political suicide. And, of course, it means we aren't doing our job politically. This is the most poisonous problem we now have.

Backdrop

It is an understatement to say the world is dramatically changing. Recent events in several Mid-East and North African countries, including Egypt, couple with the stunning developments in Latin America hint at major movement in many of the World, movement we don't always know about or learn about in this country.

While strategic concentration is different in each country they appear to share a sense of urgency about human survival, a powerful urge to complete and universal democracy (especially freedom of speech and congregation) and a use of communications technology as an organizing, outreach and coordination tool.

This has two outcomes:

  1. The increased need for International communications across countries and struggles and the resulting coordination that emanates.
  2. The importance of the Internet.

Those outcomes drive our work and this year that drive has been greater than ever. The issue for the Leadership Committee is how that "drive" balances out.

At this point, the balance is tenuous but maintaining. The problem is that MF/PL's tech team is being sought after more and more on the International level to do tech work at gatherings, forums and major convergences. Additionally, its leadership is being sought after to form part of the International bodies that direct some of this work.

Of equal importance, we have not managed to convince the progressive movement of this country that their choice in "Internet provider" is a political choice that must be informed by the movement's own strategic thinking. This is the crux of our recruitment message but it isn't getting through to much of the movement. When coupled with the "image of white" problem cited above, we are in danger of facing stagnating recruitment. As it is now, the people we recruit are excellent people doing great work but they are not the people our leadership would identify as "must have" members: organizations which are large and are leading critical political work.

These are the "thematic bases" for the challenges mentioned about. Our work objectives for the coming year are designed to address those challenges and effectively deal with these thematic problems.

In 2010

Our objectives for 2010, as defined by the LC, were:

  1. Work within the Social Forum movement, particularly the USSF 2010
  2. The Hemispheric Initiative (including the consulta hemisferica)
  3. Techie National Congress
  4. Resource shift from colocation to paid staff
  5. 50 percent growth in membership through outreach and recruitment

Some of these were met spectacularly well and we struggled with some of these goals.

WorkPlan 2011

  1. Continue and expand work with the Social Forum movement

There are several Social Forum events scheduled in Global South countries this coming year and we already been invited to do tech work at some of them. We should continue providing this support work to the Social Forum movement as a strategic initiative on our part.

  1. Global South Initiative

The Hemispheric Initiative, particularly around Climate Change, was among our most successful work. At the same time, given the political changes, we see a need to expand that focus: allowing us to work in the entire Global South as we've done somewhat this year. So we're proposing changing the focus of our world-wide work.

  1. Bring on one part-time staff member to concentrate on server maintenance work

One of the difficulties we encounter in day to day work is the tension produced by various areas of task pulling active members, especially Jamie, in many directions. Server maintenance work -- an almost constant activity -- is certainly one of these. MF/PL finally has the money to hire a qualified techie part-time to take on some of this responsibility and we are producing doing that.

  1. Strengthen and Expand Support and Technologists Team

This is already organization and functioning and it has already made a huge difference in our work. Continuing and strengthening this group of technologists not only makes us more able to deal with support and system maintenance issues but it helps with the political development of a vitally important group of people and makes possible their political contribution to this organization and movement.

  1. Launch and conduct Praxis Project's People of Color Techie Training Institute

As the accompanying document makes clear, this is an absolute must for us and our movement. It will help alter the image we have, address a huge political problem in progressive technology and move forward the technological consciousness of many grass-roots organizations.

  1. Increase membership to 800