LEAP-Thunder Bay

Governance (cont.)


Governance: Table of Contents

LEAP Thunder Bay

Having consulted Robert's Rules of Order 1 and the constitution and bylaws of the Green Party of Canada2 (GPC), we here consider LEAP Thunder Bay3 followed by a discussion of LEAP as a progressive organization claiming to centre Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous rights in its vision, structure and processes for the city of Thunder Bay.

Topics

First we will simply pull out some relevant topics of discussion from Robert's Rule's of Order and the Green Party of Canada document, for further discussion in the LEAP context. Generally they can be assembled into two groups: organizational processes and structures.

Organizational Processes

  • constitution, bylaws, standing rules (other decisions)
  • purpose, values, policies, platform positions
  • motions, debates, resolutions, voting

At this point, both LEAP National and LEAP Thunder Bay each have manifestoes stating fundamental values. And that's about it for processes. Nevertheless, assuming natural stages of development, constitutions and bylaws, motions and debates, resolutions and voting, will require more formalized processes to manage more participants.

Organizational Structures

  • general assembly, executive council, committees, caucuses, members
  • national, regional and local levels

Regarding structures, little exists at this point (November, 2017) as permanent structural elements other than loose gatherings of interested participants. Nevertheless, national, regional and local groupings are likely, as well as, general assemblies, councils, committees, caucuses and membership requirements.

Questions for Integrating Structure & Process

Until an authorized membership meeting in general assembly is clearly realized, should all decisions have the status of being pre-constitution and pre-bylaw decisions?

Who will control the development of a constitution and bylaws at the national, regional and local levels, a core group of founders or a larger body of members in general assembly?

Will the national level control the local levels, will the local levels control the national, how independent might the local levels be?

So is the key to all this that we need a clear process for motions, debates, resolutions and voting procedures to create structures, bylaws and a constitution? A process that is constantly renewing itself as structures and processes expand through conversations with an ever-wider community?

Basic Structures

Community in Conversation

In community conversations people simply come together informally on the basis of possible shared interests for social engagement. In effect, this is the social crucible of all organizational formation. And presumably, LEAP Thunder Bay itself is the product of such a process. So open dialogue within a pregiven community is the starting point of all structures.

Informal and Formal Assemblies

Out of informal community conversations emerge opportunities for more formal structures and actions. Here we begin to create conditions for collective identity, membership and more formal decision-making.

Membership

Membership in a more formally identified collective becomes the basis for more formalized decision-making. Again, however, the basis of such formal structures is the informal community dialogue from which it emerges. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg. We'll leave such questions to the philosophers and the theologians.

Minimally some criteria of membership and participation in decision-making needs to be identified, minimally people identify themselves and become part of a formalized contact list.

Other possible criteria for "being in good standing":

  • fees
  • attendance or participation
  • accept basic values, policies, etc.

Basic Processes

As noted above the most basic process is the community conversation: an informal gathering of folks from a community sharing ideas and interests.

Meeting in Assembly

All formalized meetings, under some explicit identity, presume some kind of process of decision-making which will typically lead to more formalized results: written documents and agreed upon actions.

Topics of Discussion

Out of less formal community conversations emerge topics for more formalized discussion and debate, leading to more formalized decision-making. The first process likely to come out of the informal discussion is to elaborate topics for more formal decision-making.

Meeting Agendas

Topics for discussion become items for debate within more formal meetings seeking to find agreement on decisions for moving forward, i.e., building up a body of agreements, decisions and actions.

Formalized Debate

Flushing out the pros and cons of any issue seems essential for good decision-making, as well as for consensus building among members. As we move out of the community conversations, topics emerge which require background information, clarification and emerging points of view.

Formalized Decision-Making

Out of more formalized debates emerge motions for decisions and actions to be undertaken. Motions need to be clearly identified and shared amongst eligibile participants with due notification for when they will be formally debated and voted upon. Such formalized debating and voting likely should be documented and archived for future considerations.

Agendas, Motions, Debates, Votes

So all formal decision-making processes (agendas, motions, debates, votes) need to be shared in advance with all eligible participants. And the results of each stage of the decision-making process needs to be documented and shared with all eligible participants.

Decisions, Bylaws, Constitutions

All decision-making begins as "standing orders" or simply as tentative decisions, where the presumption is decisions might be overturned upon further reflection and minimum consideration, and thus, with as much ease as they were initially adopted.

Bylaws and constitutional articles, on the other hand, require a more rigorous process of evaluation to identify more important and more durable decisions.

So a more rigorous process to create bylaws and constitutional items needs to be articulated. Again, we are into the what comes first, the chicken or the egg scenario. Until more formal criteria for creating bylaws and constitutions are developed, all decisions are tentative, including the initial discussion about bylaws and constitutional articles. So we are dealing with an evolving process of distilling bylaws and constitutional articles from more everyday decision-making.

Integrating Process and Structure

Structure seems to flow from process. The informal structure and process of community conversations give rise to a gathering which seeks to develop more structure. However, some process of decision-making will be necessary to give rise to any further structure, where that involves notions of membership, committees or formal assemblies.

So out of the more open process of discussion, motions, debates, and voting, emerges committees (executive or standing) and more formal rules for decision-making by the assembled participants.

Platforms for Processes

Currently LEAP Thunder Bay utilizes a number of media for communication and discussion: face-to-face meetings, telephone/video, email, SLACK, Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs and the official web site (Wordpress.) What means of communication provide the most effective platforms for discussions, agendas, motions, debates, voting, archiving?

Discussions

Preliminary discussions of a less formal kind are doubtlessly necessary to build trust and confidence among participants. At the same time, such open dialogue needs to be integrated with more formal, documentary processes.

Agenda Candidates

The most effective platforms for agenda candidates would likely make it possible for i) anyone or any participant to add an item, ii) for everyone to see the agenda candidates, iii) note the date items were added, and iv) perhaps have a ranking for participants to like the items. It might be useful if supporting documents could be posted and shared.

Motions & Debates

Motions need to be posted and debate positions should be documented to the degree deemed appropriate to allow participants to review before voting occurs.

Voting

Voting, just like the other stages of decision-making, needs to be transparent to all eligible participants. So upcoming voting items need to be posted ahead of time, as do results after the fact. Voting probably needs to allow for in-person voting at meetings, as well as, voting by mail-in ballot, especially on items that are of an important and non-urgent variety.

Archiving

The history of decisions, including motions, debate positions and relevant supporting documentation, should probably be archived in an easy-to-access form. A transparent and accessible archive offers an opportunity for review, a platform for recruitment, and simply the cultural history of the organization and movement. Without cultural memory, no cultural form is likely to renew and sustain itself effectively as a durable entity. In any case, this seems like a positive feature to consider.

Platforms

Here we consider each of the major platforms for communication regarding the processes above: face-to-face meetings, telephone/video, email, SLACK, Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs and the official web site (Wordpress.)

Face-to-Face Meetings

Face-to-face meetings are probably the most important for building relationships of trust and confidence around community conversations and open-style discussions. However, attendance is not often 100% of eligible participants, and as such, other platforms may be essential for engaging something closer to 100% participation. Such meetings are probably ideal for large or small assembly gatherings around specific tasks. However, document handling tasks might be better served electronically.

Meetings offer the opportunity for testing public presentation styles. However, decision-making meetings probably need to be supplemented by documentation which allows for motions, debate positions and background info to be consulted in a more deliberative way.

Short-term, less important and less durable decisions can likely be handled in such contexts. However, proper notification and information sharing is likely essential if eligible participants are going to feel that they have ownership of decision-making processes.

Telephone/Video

Telephone may be the weakest link here, except for one-on-one exchanges. Video conferencing is clearly the next best thing to being there. Either format can be recorded and posted to online platforms, as in the case of media interviews.

Email

Email is valuable for secure mass mail-outs to eligible participants. Email addresses are relatively secure means of authentiction, so email can probably play an important role in managing membership communications. Email can certainly be used for sharing any relevant documentation: notifications, motions, debate positions, relevant background info, voting options, even email-in ballots, and results. Because it is relatively secure and private, it is perhaps the best membership management tool.

SLACK

SLACK is perhaps best used as an additional conversation aid. It is used by some but not all eligible participants. There is no ranking feature. Supporting documents might be posted externally via Google Docs, but otherwise there is little utility for organizing the documentation of decision-making processes. It certainly is not a one-stop shop for such processes. Nevertheless, it does afford a window for conversations being shared among eligible participants.

Facebook

Facebook does offer many features, insofar as anyone (with an online device) can post, see the results, and like items. It is also possible to create private groups and pages. Supporting documents can be posted. The biggest benefits of Facebook are perhaps that it offers the largest electronic user base, facilitates most of the features (posting comments and documents, liking, private and public groups and pages) needed for decision-making. It's one major drawback is relatively poor navigational aids, once a body of documents begins to pile up.

Twitter

Primarily a supplemental communication tool. It's public and instant messaging characteristics make it a relatively weak tool for internally documenting decision-making. Rather it is likely better for getting public mass messaging out (rather than in.)

Wordpress (the website)

Wordpress (the website) can handle all of the above tasks and more but requires more sophisticated knowledge to be set up and managed. Over the short-term, Facebook might be the best initial platform, but over the longer term, a full-fledged document management system, like Wordpress, might be the one-stop info hub for all decision-making documentary needs.


Summary

Process comes first:

  • community conversations: informal dialogues
    • generate topics for discussion
  • topics become motions in more formal decision-making meetings
    • debates present points of view and supporting documents
    • motions, debates and voting requires notification
    • all decision-making info should be documented & archived
  • all decisions should start as tentative or "standing orders"
    • initially bylaws & constitutional articles are empty (blank slate)
    • bylaws and constitutional articles emerge in later stages

Emerging Structures

  • informal community meetings
  • semi-formal discussion meetings
  • membership criteria
    • fees, attendance, values
  • emergent committees
    • core, hubs, caucuses
  • future bylaw and constitutional assemblies?

Communication Platforms

  • face-to-face discussions
    • telephone/video supplements discussions
  • email:
    • primary membership management tool
  • SLACK:
    • conversation supplement
  • Facebook:
    • initial tool to build a documentary decision-making process
    • post, comment, like, file uploads, private/public groups/pages
    • largest user base but poor navigation aids
  • Twitter
    • primarily external mass messaging
  • Wordpress
    • full feature set, but more complex to manage
    • solid navigation features, document processing
    • likely replace FB as documentary decision-making process

Governance: Table of Contents

  1. Robert's Rules of Order http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/roberts_rules/toc.html. ↩︎
  2. Green Party of Canada https://www.greenparty.ca/en/party/documents. ↩︎
  3. LEAP Thunder Bay http://leapthunderbay.org. ↩︎