Structure, Democracy, Membership Involvement, Administration and the conditions of development outside the US

The Structure, Democracy, Membership Involvement, Administration and the conditions of development outside the US will tackle our democratic processes and structure -both in the US and Mexico - with the goal of increasing participation and involvement of our members. It will also review the coop initiative in Mexico and the conditions for the development of new organizational processes in other countries.

Please access the Riseup pad to participate in live note taking.

Review proposals made to the infrastructure group.

Notes from preliminary call

Maritza (Brooklyn), Hilary (Brooklyn), Jason (Italy), Glenn (Detroit), Rasha (Atlanta), Ken (Los Angeless), Jamie (NY), Josue (usually Austin), Tomas (usually Austin), Enrique (Mexico City), Juan Gerardo (Mexico City), Olinca (Mexico City)

Report from the sub-committee on Democracy:

Jamie: the sub-committee debated between two models of the organization. One that continues with an elected LC and one that eliminates that LC and voting, and invests power in the working teams. The sub-committee eventually stalled over this disagreement.

Daniel: we did agree on developing the working teams and making them more open. but I agree that we stalled on the question of the LC and representative democracy.

Rasha: I agree - and add the context of these discussions are at a time when we are trying to formalize these processes and grow collaboration among members and staff. I don't have a particular position on any of the proposals.

Alfredo: Second year in a row this work group as struggled with structuring the organization. There are two proposals to this mesa that address this: one is a bylaw proposal and one is a structure proposal.

Alfredo: These are part of the process of reconnecting with the movement - something that has been damaged and needs to be repaired. Particularly at the membership level (we don't have any black people in the organization).

Alfredo: I was hoping people would critique the proposal and see if that helps at all.

Alfredo: The proposal is a bold one, and not immediately implementable. It's about increasing the LC to 25. It obliterates the co-director position - replaces with a team of co-directors that would work in an organization and each be part of a work team.

Alfredo: It's a relatively aggressive re-structuring of the by-laws.

Jamie: I submitted the 2nd proposal. The proposal is for the membership to discuss the bigger issues of our structure and give direction for a body (I suggest the LC) to take these decisions and formalize a decision making process.

JG: One of the main points is whether the LC should continue as a decision making body.

JG: I would like to add something to the discussion, which is one of the other points on the agenda, which is membership involvement. Once we get a higher degree of membership involvement we will be in a better position to define democracy and structure. I think we have to continue working on membership involvement. I have been calling most of the members to participate in the mesa. Every week we make 10 calls and the response up to now has been very poor. Many alibis, work problems, etc. This tells us that membership involvement has a lot of work ahead.

Once we get membership involvement and we don't have these excuses (I did not know I had to participate in this...). The membership involvement is so low, that I don't know if should really try to make drastic changes, but perhaps only improve what we have today.

Jason: what is the distribution (geographically)?

Hilary: we have 800 members.

Jamie: roughly about 75 - 80% in US, about 15 - 20% in Mexcico and 5 - 10 % elsewhere.

Alfredo: About 500 of the members are organizations, the rest individuals.

Hilary: many of the organizations are membership groups who also have members.

Alfredo: In relationship to the consciousness of members - there are many things involved. In my proposal, there is room to have a position who's job specifically relates to communications and member concsiousness. There are less obvious mechanisms for member involvement. There are people in the organization who disagree with this, but I believe that one of the primary ways of involving our members and raising our concsiousness is through outreach. As we reach out - many of the people in the movements that we are working will know about this and become more concsious. There is a rule in organizing: you never feel as much a part of an organization as when you are respesenting it. We've seen this in practice with MagNet and in a number of conferences. We find that members at that conference hear about it and talk about. People aren't always aware of the connection between outreach and membership development. It's just reaching outside the organization.

Alfredo: The other issue is the leadership committee: we have not yet, as a membership, come up with a good balance in the LC. We have to pay attention - we can do this because our profile is so much higher, we can begin designing the LC with some intentionality. In the past - anyone who was wlling - we would embrace. I argue that the majority of the LC should be movement organizers, but not technologists (but committed to technology).

Third is Mexico: I'm really concerned about our members in Mexico. I think Juan Gerardo and Enrique do a huge amount of work. We don't have a planned way to support the profile of MF/PL in mexico. We don't have a plan for outreach or media outside the US. this is a concern of our entire organization.

Hilary: is there a way to tease out a little bit more what the proposals are. The discussion is a little vague and getting clarity on the proposals we allow people to chime in.

Ken: I support what Hilary just said. I feel at a loss. Would be easier to have a clearer focus of how this ties in with the proposals.

Jason: I'm in Italy, but from several networks, including solidaridus in mexico. Many people think of us a provider, but we don't perceive a role that we have and maybe we can have a structure that allows that.

Hilary: I think that is one of the key issues that we are constantly talking about: trying to engage members and getting them to participate in a deeper and more engaged way. Part of a problem is capacity: it requires a lot of time and energy. I'm hoping that part of these new organizing plans can do is build more energy. I'm chair of the outreach - hard to get people to participate. It hasn't been an easy process. That's the outreach that we'd need to build inward and outward.

JG: from the mexican point of view - I'd like to comment. Once we get the cooperative working. First - accepting to join is already a compromise (commitment?). Once we go into a political situation - this will bring us closer to the organization and we step aside from the image as provider.

Alfredo: I'd like to make a comment on my proposal based on what Ken and Hilary were saying. Part of the problem is that in a decision of the structure of the organization, we can't be overly specific. I'm not proposing that the membership to define what the working groups are. That's the job of the LC. I can speculate.

The proposal asks to increase the LC numbers from 15 to 25: I expect a huge expansion of the movement - I expect a government collapse in 2015. And as the government tries to regain control - there will be a heightened struggle and the organization will be much larger.

It eliminates the co-directors. It is substituted them with a 4 - 5 person administrative committee. They do the tasks of the co-directors. They have specific responsibilities (not specified - it would be the job of the LC to decide). Speculating, it could be one member in charge of a various areas (such as infastructure, security and legal commmittee or communication and outreach, or member development or recruitment and membership communication or international). Each would need to call a workgroup to organize the work. Any member could chair - but each admin committee member must be on a work group and report back to the admin group.

The reason for the proposal: I believe MF/PL is the most complicated group I have ever worked on. It's a tech organization, a membership organization, and political organization. That complexity of tasks is too much for two co-directors. As a result, some tasks are not being managed. No human being can do it all. We need more collaboration. One way of bringing our members into greater collaboration into the work of the organization.

Josue: I agree with Alfredo's vision of where we could be going in this society in this current moment. And because of that it seems like there would be more work for each of these new positions, than there is for the current positions. I want to echo Hilary's concern around capacity. One of the questions is: it seems like we are proposing to create more volunteer positions that have more and more responsibility and for more and more pieces that we are describing as vital to growing this organization.

Alfredo: I think that's a really important question - but I want primo to clear about something - in no place in the proposal does it say these people should be volunteers.

Rasha: In response to Josue - and thinking about an earlier comment about challenges of making monthly or bi-monthly calls. It is worth thinking about new proposed structures - if we are not creative and flexible. If we want to bring in more front line organizers - are there creative ways we can think about engaging them and participating in decision making? Whatever structures we decide - what Hilary and Josue say will continue.

JG: In general, I believe Alfredo's proposal is well-structured and we have to think about it thoroughly and deeply. I want to add that a yearly nomination is also a question. If we have an admin committee with the possibility of changing some or all it's members yearly, it would not be able to reach a level of expertise needed.

Enrique: This is a proposal that I agree with. I have the same interpreation of the econimic crisis. Our organization has to take steps in order to be able to respond to the realty we face and will be facing.

As co-director, the responsibilities I have undertaken this year has taken a lot of strength.

I want to thank my co-director Jamie, as well as other staff for their support.

What alfredo is saying, addresses the things that the org faces daily in terms of operations.

In order to be able to do admin and other things, we need to increase our capacity.

The mechanisms to move the political development of our org is a particular task that we need to resolve. All the news relative to how the US gov't and other govts in terms of communications, the risks our orgs face are more and more clear. We have a role to play and it is important that we communicate to our members and insist that their participation is necessary and vital to participate in the role that we play. I would like to address the importance that volunteer work plays in our work. we may have some resources to have some paid positions. The wages would be mostly symbolic.

It is important to support the value of volunteer work in our org.

Alfredo: I am concerned, and have great interest in the development of and the politics of the org in mexico.

I understand that mexico is a country that, before in the Puerto Rican struggle we used "Strange Country" or "Frontier Country", represents a line from imperialism to the countries that struggle in trying to be free.

Mexico has a fundamental role to play in this struggle. It also has technological struggles, because it is fairly underdeveloped in lots of places.

Additionally, the country's history is also important to remember.

But in mayfirst ... you and enrique make ten calls to get people to meetings and the US side of mayfirst don't know that that is happening.

The US side does not understand the goals of the coop in mexico and the importance of the it politically.

i think it is vital for the members in the US and in mexico to get to know each other. And that the work in the US be able to complement and amplify the work in mexico.

JG: if nobody wants to add, i propose we move on. I believe all being said on structure and democracy and some parts on admin. that we should make more comments on membership involvement.

Enrique: One of the experiences reiterated in what is the responsibility of the co-directors to attend to is to address the legal problems, which occur frequently in the operation of mayfirst.

One of the problems of requirements that impact us, re: govts, regulations, etc, in order to maintain information in registrars, etc.

These types of requirements, from the security structures of govts, need to be addressed and jamie has written a piece that was in the lowdown about this.

It is important to say that all our members, orgs and people who have websites hosted by us, can demonstrate their commitment to our org by linking from their site something that addresses the privacy issue and refers to the work mayfirst is doing.

We have made great strides in being able to defend the work of our members.

We need to ask our members to be more public about their membership of mayfirst and the politics of privacy. this will serve to protect all of us more. the more people fighting the privacy fight, the stronger we are.

It is an opportunity to involve our members in the conversation of the politics of privacy, which is vital to them, to their security.

It is something that is strategic, involving our members in further defining this issue.

Maritza: I agree with what enrique said. The face-to-face meeting should make a point of marking the moment we are in.

This org has an opportunity to further the development of this movement, and to further develop our members.

All these issues of structure and democracy has an opportunity that few orgs have, to help unite different orgs into this movement.

This political discourse enriches our conversations on this issue and am thrilled that we are able to do this work with our mexican members.

Olinca: I am concerned about and think that I hear when hearing you all that there are concerns about participation from mexican members.

The ex-members of La Neta, initially we saw as a group with a bright future. In terms of the future, it seems to me that we invested a lot of energy politically when the orgs had lots of their own political energy and their relationship to la neta was just technologically.

The political development was just beginning to develop and the tech.

We had a lot of people with diverse political perspectives. It seems tha mayfirst is waiting for members to have a more developed politic around the tech. It is because of this that members are not so involved in this moment. i think that there is major work needed in analysis in thinking that people should have ...

We need to provide opportunities to groups

jamie: I agree with what ahs been said about the critical need to involve our members more. I don't think I will ever believe that our members' involvement is enough.

In 2005 mfpl merged. 3 men met, alfredo, josue, jamie. Every year we have made significant progress in getting more member participation.

A year later we brought together 15 members to define the statement of unity. and we continue to make progress.

In addition to increasing our members' participation we have increased the consciousness of the politicals of technology.

The revelations of snowden and the spying by the US govt has cemented the relationship between politics and tech. I agree with every word that Olinca said, doing this work with care, and that we need to continue to forge ahead.

Rasha: we all won't be able to participate in all mesas. One thing I appreciated about the previous proposals was the context they provided. Given the richness of this issue, it would be good to have more outline of the past of this issue. Daniel and I and Jamie could help with Jamie's proposal. Alfredo: you could provide more detail and context.

Hilary: Plans about how we are going to organize mfpl are far into the future. Is there an interim plan that we will be implementing at this membership meeting?

Daniel: I share this concern.

Jamie: I would want the mesa to decide on whether to expand the LC to 25 from 15. we should decide whether we should abolish the co-directors and go with an administrative committee. Decide on the main structure, basic strucutre of the org, so we can move forward and further define the org.

Enrique: When we planned this third mesa, we were and are interested in what possibilities exist in growing our org in places outside the US. It is a conversation that could be long. I invite all present to let us know, via email, chat, irc, let us know where mfpl could develop new nucleii in other countries. argentina is one possibility. Perhaps there are other possibilities that people are thinking about. It would be very important to know if there is this type of interest in some of our members.

Alfredo: the potential and power of that kind of work is huge. The potential of organizing in that area of the world. I think it's critically important that we pay attention to it. I think there should be one person on the admin team to think about international work. We need to reach out in that regard. It's not only developing MF/PL, but relationships with collectives and organizations that already exist. We've seen how our association with La Neta - it's put us in a completely different level. If we can do this in other places, the benefits are un-imaginable. I'm hoping we can get a document to take up.

Thanks to our notetakers, interpreter, facilitator. next meeting is October 19.

I hope these preliminary mesas have contributed. thanks to everyone for participation.

Rasha: please update the wiki page.

Notes from face to face meeting

Democracy Mesa at MFPL Member meeting

Restructuring the Leadership Committee

We propose to defer making changes to the leadership structure of the organization for one year. This year will include an ongoing conversation into the varying definitions and concepts of democracy. We will spend the year making online and face to face interaction with our members a priority including the creation of working groups. A combination of activities will include face to face interactions, meetings, and trainings related to theoretical and practical actions in the broader activist community. These interactions will involve the mutual exchange of ideas of knowledge on the technical and political future of the movement. We will partner with politically affiliated organizations and projects with the message and mission of exploring and expanding upon the politics of technology

Promotion Mayfirst Identity Mexico to obtain more and better member participation we need develop communication strategies, with personal dialogue and face to face events among members.

Mayfirst Cooperative Mexico Celebrate previously a meeting with interested members in all regions of Mexico so that the scope, commitments and levels of participation posible are clear before the formal act.

Creation of the Cooperative Celebrate the creation with individuals who can represent their organization but who personally asume the responsabilities and tasks included in the plans and programs. These commitments include working and respecting the values and principles that exist for cooperatives in Mexico.

Alternative form of temporary participation in the coop Design an alternative for Mexican members that want to see how the coop operates and what results it obtains before joining. For example a Consultive Council where these members can give their opinion but without the right to vote. This implies a gradual integration of coop. members.

New Organic Structure Mayfirst We approve the proposal made by Alfedo increasing the LC from 15 to 25 members and working with an Administration Committe, with 4 or 5 people with clear responsibilities, creating task groups and including a responsible for international expantion. We also see that in the coming years the demand for Mayfirst will grow significally.

Voluntary Work. We propose that volutary work be an obligation for cooperative members but a right for non members who are part of the benefited community, which is the second objetive of the coop work.

Payment up dating by members Every three months we must send statement accounts to members who are not up to date on their contributions to Mayfirst, at least for 2014. Once this is resolved, the accounts should be sent yearly, with a coordinated payment program between Mexico and NY.

Mayfirst International Growth We propose that once the Mexican experience reaches a minimun level of consolidation, other countries can be promoted, based on this model but with a solid previous plan which must consider both political and operating considerations.

There are questions about how to approach this:

  • There are two proposals
  • How do we have the conversation about democracy we need to broaded the conversation.
    • What tools can we use to have these conversations that it can be organized around
    • Have more than once a year member meetings to have more discourse
      • Looking at doing monthly phone sessions
      • Face to face are the most effective (F2F)
    • Making democracy a living thing to figure out what it morphs in too, do it in an urgent way doesn't solve anything
Last modified 8 years ago Last modified on Oct 23, 2013, 9:18:23 AM