CWG working group meeting 8 jan 2012.
Greg Murphy, Martin, David, Sarah, Alex, Dennis Jorge, Anthony, Zara, Dan, Randy
Talking about why this meeting was called and why we're here.
Anthony: Read draft mission statement. Interest in principles/values underlying consensus processes, how those align with our process.
Alex: Problem with blocks motivated me to start this group.
Sarah: step up/step back. Introverts with something important to say.
Dennis: came to see if this is a group that would help explore and raise issues important to Occupy Boston. Less interested in a study group about consensus theory. Recounted some history of what happened with the Clamshell Alliance, how it fractured. Sometimes "consensus" became manipulative. Doesn't think our process is actually consensus; it's horizontal and non-coercive, but not what he thinks others would recognize as consensus.
Jorge: curiosity. "OB style decisionmaking" came from a cut-and-paste from wikipedia. Quoting C.T. Butler: "many different methods can be efficient if every participant shares a common understanding." Want to learn.
Martin: OB is hierarchical; we have a shadow leadership structure we don't want to acknowledge. We all know facilitation is running the show at GAs.
David: interested in consensus. My hero was a Quaker who freed slaves in Puerto Rico via a consensus process. And I like the crowd.
Greg: never been in a consensus community before. Would like to live in one. When OB started I gravitated to the FWG group. Realized I'm used to running meetings, but that's different from consensus. Believe in my heart a beautiful thing is possible. Want to learn more.
Dennis commenting on what was said: FWG might be criticized because we're using the language of consensus but not really implementing it. "If there's ever a vote, it's not a consensus process." (C.T. Butler). Think we can't have a consensus without the ability to stand aside. Also, how can a group without a common set of values use consensus. What brings us together is that the economic decisions over our lives are not made by us, but by a small minority. Someone could be an anarchist, a Republican, a liberatrian, and still believe that. We won't agree on the fixes, but we can at least agree on that. We also don't want a hierarchical structure internally. The value of consensus/GA is one way of trying to deal with that. Not all leadership is bad; someone who's trusted or a recognized expert, vs. someone who was appointed to be in charge. Also, OB is based on an anarchist model, but many members don't know or have experience with that (ii.e., might be a reason for the confusion and conflict we've seen). Cathy Hoffman (sp?) has been at GA and told us that the way we do blocks is not how blocks are meant to work.
Alex, re: blocks spec. one block that occurred on Sat. night. Second block was about how GA was proceeding, not about the proposal itself. We do not have a mechanism for something like that, and may have silenced a voice that needed to be heard.
Greg: think blocks are being used politically.
Sara(h?): saw things at GA and have thoughts that may or may not help the process.
Dan: saw problems that have occurred at GAs, interested.
David (about values): That was the purpose of Ideas WG, developing values. Took a month of work and they're on the wiki. Our process is a bootleg version of what is used in Spain.
Greg: thinks finding shared values is critical to the health of our movement. Would have been a tremendous thing if Ideas WG brought a values statement to GA and put it through our process, so that it can ba guiding star for our process. Do you (David) know why it stopped?
David: We did bring it to GA.
Jorge: it was tabled. They made a nice word cloud, but the statement itself never passed.
Sarah: how do you think that relates to consensus process specifically? (to Greg)
Greg: it relates to whether it's possible for us to have a consensus process. It's a critical piece.
Zara: this is a huge group with people filtering in, leaving early, getting tired, sometimes being beaten down. The process is not working for the size of group we have. (seems to prefer a spokes-like or affinity group model).
Greg: C.T. Butler has a consensus model for cities so maybe we can talk about that.
Martin: work in marketing/advertising professional life. Ideation process with a new client works better than our consensus process in OB sometimes even though there's an overt leadership structure. Rely on success for livelihood, trust co-workers enough that veto card is only pulled in serious situations.
Sarah: if you're afraid of losing your job or losing your money, that is coercion, not consensus. Idea highlights what people's motivations for OB.
Greg/Zara expressed interest in "theoretical," reading/study group.
Martin: recommending striking the use of the word "consensus" from GAs, till we are clear about what we mean by that. Also, perhaps we should call an emergency GA to talk in a wider group about recognized difficulties.
Jorge: think some of that (Martin's comments) is more appropriate for the Facilitation WG. Extend invite to everyone to FWG meetings.
Alex: differentiating FWG from CWG. Think it's appropriate to talk about modifications to the process if the convo is about the values those processes espouse (vs. the nitty gritty tech details).
David: what I was mentioning about Ideas was the Declaration of Occupation. (Jorge clarifies that's different from the tabled proposal we discussed earlier).
Dennis: GA has never agreed to the definition of a block, definition of consensus. Think it's long overdue. Have meeting with GA to get feedback.
Greg: would like to see us have more time together to discuss, share knowledge at meta level before having the emergency meeting Martin suggested.
David: we haven't empowered ourselves. We should be more autonomous (e.g., if we develop a new process, we use the old process to decide to use the new process)
Martin: I do feel a sense of urgency about GA. Think people who are interested in bringing a new process should put up announcement inviting people to come meet and talk about it..
Jorge: I don't think FWG owns anything. Just, if we're going to change the script of what we say at GA I think you should have FWG do it. Think CWG is the perfect laboratory to come up with new ideas. We don't have to take anything that comes up at CWG through FWG.
Greg: I also feel a sense of urgency. E.g. Noah's proposal. Don't want the mvmt to splinter and fall about because of this. Concern: we don't have shared values in place. We have a group of people who have minimal shared values. Would like to keep pounding on the idea that this ia first step before we do any work together. Think there's splintering in FWG because of that.
Dan: we're less of a mvmt than a community group. We have so many people coming in we're charting new ground in figuring this out.
Alex: (reading excerpt from a Jan 29 prop that includes a sense of shared values). Having shared values is a good starting point, and we have some of that. Need to have a community that knows what's going on and is committed to what's going on. We don't necessarily have to have core values; we can have shared "meta-values." We need to build trust, community, and understanding.
Anthony: perhaps we do have shared values, but are lacking in follow-through. We state the values, but don't live/follow-through with them.
Martin (passes around a sign from Dewey: "in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in everything love.").
David: we took a values census. Maybe we should bring that to GA and have everyone highlight them.
Alex: loved when the GA owned the process and was active in the Facilitation process.
Greg: think that reflects the tension in the FWG. Some people want efficiency and expediency; others want to make sure all voices are heard.
Zara: (to Alex). Is that process you describe something that happened at Dewey Square.
Alex: yes at Dewey, also at the GA in South Station when it was very cold outside.
Zara: think that mic check created space and made people active listeners. Think the process has changed since we started holding GAs inside. Also, think the shape of the room and the shape of the group impacts the process. Consensus works better in a circle, not with a "hierarchy" with people in the front of the room talking to us.
David: (on Alex's comment) that started when we had floor aides. Idea was for the floor aide to help decide whether comments were CQs, POIs etc. That changed to using your neighbor to do that.
Dennis: thinks these comments (whether you raise your hand yourself) are important for GA, but aren't important for the decision (consensus) process. Not sure how that helps consensus process itself. Think it would be good for the group to read about different forms of consensus. (e.g., mentions that this wouldn't have had an impact on his decision whether to block a proposal).
(Dennis mentioned he would have blocked the decision to go to court. We're having some back and forth about the history of that).
Alex: I really think we should do stand asides. There's a level in our process in which you can't express something that you need to express. Stand asides can allow some of that.
Sarah: when i started going to GAs you'd go to FWG meetings and then facilitate at GA. Think that gave the sense that the community was upholding GA. Now we've become accustomed to seeing the same faces facilitators and we've internalized that.
David: yes. People get better at facilitating. Also, people do stand aside (but we don't count it that way).
(some clarification about what stand aside means, specifically what it could mean in the context of our process at OB. David, e.g., says they have stand asides at OEB, and the 75% count is done among the people who do not stand aside.).
(some back and forth about discomfort and trauma from GAs, vs. philosophical discussions of consensus. What's appropriate for FWG vs. CWG again).
Randy: I don't see an exclusivenes between philosophical vs. specifics of GA process. Some people think consensus is the process that they learned. They come to GA without any experience in consensus and think aha! these hand signals are what consensus is. It's important to get people to the next step as soon as possible, that consensus is a relationship between people and the process is a process that either achieves that or hinders it. There are things you can say clearly: what consensus is not. It's not voting, e.g.: the relationship you get among people via voting is not the same.
Sarah: I think we shouldn't have a facilitator for the first meeting here. After that we can start facilitating.
Alex: there is no facilitator because we should all be facilitators. Would like us all to take ownership.
[ab: collected a list of attendees' contact information]
empowering people orienting people including peoplefolks feel part of something folks feel listened to