Monday, Feb 13 2012 Notes

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OB spokes WG meeting Feb 13 2012

Patti, Allie, Justin, Noah, Eli, Peter, Jackie, Jorge, Sarah, Anthony

Agenda items

  • Do we even want to do spokes?
  • Using stack for the spokes
  • How should WGs communicate internally during the meeting (to avoid issue of distracting side convos)? Paper notes? Electronically? Quietly chatting? Timeouts? All of the above?
  • We need a bigger space. Ideas where?
  • (Why) do we need to use a consensus decision procedure among spokes?
  • What is the purpose of the spokescouncil?
  • "How do we handle "ouches"?
  • Anti-oppression/progressive speech?
  • Debrief of Sunday night experiment.
  • Ability to switch from spoke to spoke

Debrief of Sunday night

Patti described the situation that arose when Robin switched from feminist caucus to media spoke.

Talking about the constitution of the room last night, which WGs were present, how many people, etc.

Talked about what happened during the night: going over agenda, going over principles, talking about potential mock proposals.

Patti recounts the tense conversation that occurred, the livestream being turned off, the frank conversation that occurred after that. "A lot of people got a lot of shit off their chests." "People had to leave, but the rest of us heard each other out."

(interesting question of whether catharsis was reached; seems there was).

Question about whether this conversation should/would come up at GA.

Lead into a conversation about the right way to structure such a conversation (when/where appropriate)

Jorge: emotional conversation: something I needed to have a month ago, three weeks ago. Recently, just walked away (to protect myself). Procedurally: last night we were trying to figure stuff out. Things that OWS said came true: the dysfunction, etc. Need to be on the same page w values. Think we made a small step . Flailing in the dark trying to figure out what to do. Think that space (CCB) is not very good. How to make it easier for people to hear and listen.

Patti: had a problem with people sitting behind each other. Understand it wouldn't be that way in a larger setting.

Noah: space is an issue for a lot of things. Action assemblies are only half of what they could be till we get a better space. About "elephant in the room" conversations: think we shrink when these conversations occur. The movement will dwindle to a core group.

Peter: people I know who are not involved in the core of this movement want to be involved in actions but don't want to be involved in elephant of the room sorts of conversations.

Eli: my roommate left, won't go to a single action.

(I lobbed out the question of how to handle when some people feel these conversations should happen and others don't)

Allie: don't think we should build our structures around the assumption that everything's a crisis. Should have other structures like mediation to help prevent getting there again.

Jorge: if that hadn't happened last night, the next meeting would have been just as dysfunctional and unproductive. Think there's a conversation that still needs to be had but we can check it at the door.

Allie: if we had a Dewey square there'd be a tent where you could take that conversation. I don't know what you could do at CCB. Think that if you have a space for one purpose (e.g. spokes) and it's used for a different purpose (elephant in the room convo), that's usually going to be bad.

Noah: we do need an oulet. Think we're also suffering from a crisis of definition. GAs have been co-opted by individuals repeatedly and turned into something they were not meant to be. Need to define and protect our functional meetings. Think if we're going to have a spokescouncil we need to have a clear protocol to protect it from becoming what it became last night. You can delve into these issues forever; they are a bottomless abyss.

Did people like the spokescouncil? Is this something worth pursuing?

Justin: theoretically yes, but not what happened there.

Peter: at affinity group training, there were 30 people there interested in spokes. Seems there is a constituency for the idea.

Allie: feels like it'd be a challenge having a functional spokescouncil at this point. Been involved in 2-3 WGs. Feel there are systemic issues in WGs and constituency groups. Think spokescouncil will reflect those dysfunctions. Love the idea of having a model that could scale to conversations to levels above the WG level. Think there's a lack of vision sharing among WGs; think spokescouncil could serve that purpose. Think it's critical to purpose spokes but doing so in a vacuum would be more destructive than constructive.

Noah: see at least two valuable spokes functions. One is coordination for actions among affinity groups and WGs. Think it'd be complimentary to the action assembly, if it was coordination and not consensus based. For consensus/decisionmaking, I see spokes as playing an important role in growing beyond a room of people. It'd have to be very clear what it's for, even more clear than a GA. There might be only one proposal per meeting, described in advance. Each model is awesome. Think the coordination for events is more realistic. Don't think it'd even need facilitation; think the action would be enough to bind it together and keep it focused. Any other model would need a strong agreement about what its purpose was and have a strong facilitator to keep it on topic.

Eli: found professionalizing my relationships and leaving my shit at the door has been important for me at occupy boston. Treat it like a job. Think if we all did that and started leaving our drama and shit at the door, spokes could work. A lot of people may not like that and may not be receptive to the idea. If we continue to bring this up at spokes it's only going to be hurtful. Think we should do spokes at a different location from the ones we've already used; those places all have traumas and ouches.

Jorge: Christ Church in Cambridge would be perfect for spokes. They had been offering it free, but now they want us to pay $50/hour.

[ed: might be worth asking the Democracy Center; their large room could work for spokes perhaps]

Eli: we should also talk to Occupy Harvard. they might be able to reserve spaces for us.

Jorge: when i first saw the document about spokes I thought "why not?" we've had philosophical discussions about consensus, supermajority etc. After the second hour last night, I think we crossed a hurdle and thought we were definitely going to do something here. I really think this could happen, it's just a matter of getting over the initial bumps and finding our way.

Patti: I think there were a few things working against us last night. I don't think most WGs knew what was happening.

[ed: perhaps advertise better next time and make sure to invite lots of people from the WGs we think should be present]

Patti: it's an interesting concept. I wonder how it would work if there were 30 working groups present. Are there spokes within spokes?

Eli: one time a bunch of ows people left a spokes meeting because they felt nothing was getting done. They decided to create a project-based spokes. People had to be involved in the project or they didn't get to speak. They wrote up a proposal but I don't know what the status of it is.

(talked about how to organized if there are many WGs, say 30. clusters; must they be formed a priori, can they be formed ad hoc in the room?)

(talking about the use of consensus in spokes again. what does it mean to not come to consensus in a voluntary spokescouncil?)

Patti: isn't the theory behind using full consensus that no WG should ever feel the need to get up and walk out of a spokescouncil?

Peter: what if one WG is deeply opposed to some part of the action?

Sarah: I think it was a good model because the discussion was less convoluted and there was less back and forth. It was harder to take things personally because you were working on behalf of a group. I think it'll be easier to be more intentional and more rational.

Noah: think it would be great if were in a place where we were speaking in a place of agreement among individuals. Last night it rubbed me the wrong way that people were pretending to be talking for a WG when they were really talking from their individual opinions.

(issue that comes up: when you're talking about actions, which are voluntarily, what does consensus mean?)

Allie: is the point of the action spokes to actually do the active planning of the action? Or to discuss the orientation/meaning of the action? Actions have larger messages etc.

Eli: figuring out details of planning in such a public place rubs me the wrong way. Security culture holy shit! E.g., out of the group of 15 who planned for Duarte, someone leaked information and people were arrested.

Jackie: idea for action spokes came out of ows, who has an action spokes. Eli can you speak to how ows handles this?

Eli: Duarte was planned by an affinity group which allowed for security culture. You have to know ahead of time how much you're willing to put out there about your action.

Noah: consensus can be used to agree on certain ground rules of an action. It wouldn't be about what exactly you're doing. Could be used to address e.g. what happened in Oakland building occupation.

Peter: also, possibly messaging.

(talking about what we mean by messaging. having a narrative that we develop and promote, the purpose of the action).

Noah: I have a draft of messaging for an action from Gunner. Set of 13 questions you want to ask yourself about an action. Think we would want to decide upon the questions we were going to ask and agree upon. What is the messaging strategy, what is the security strategy; after that it's more about coordinating.

Jorge: what can we leave here with that'll help us tweak this for next Sunday?

Peter: is what's called for strong facilitation of these spokes meetings?

Patti: don't like saying ouch. would prefer if it's some sort of hand signal or a different word. maybe we can work on some something else. Also, would like to see us put it out there to the WGs that they should go and be prepared to pick a spoke (Noah: or online) would like to see this go out on listservs and explain to WGs that they should plan to attend.

Jorge: would be nice if we get a core of the same people back. If we get a slew of new people, we're going to have to start all over again. Somehow get the word out to the people who were there, emphasize the importance of coming back and bring more people from their WGs. As dysfunctional as it was last night we did set down a cornerstone and started walking a path; I'd like to see us keeping on it.

Patti: self facilitation didn't work. I think the spokes need to choose facilitators themselves.

Jackie: we diverted from the process we wrote down. There was supposed to be someone who was called to be a facilitator for the spokescouncil.

Justin: if you don't have an agenda beforehand it's just a discussion. (mentioned the clamshell alliance's use of spokes)

Patti: if someone volunteers to be facilitator, do they get to talk to their WG at all? It might be hard to get people to volunteer to facilitate.

Sarah: think it was clear last night too that people were not used to not dominating the conversation. A facilitator can't inject themselves in the conversation.

Jorge: maybe moving into next week: setting agenda in advance? how far in advance? let's have a facilitator.

Sarah: and also, let's have a minimum number per working group (more than two people).

Allie: contra the idea that facilitators shouldn't be involved in discussions. Think that is underutilizing what a skilled facilitator can do. They could be a neutral body involved in the conversation.

Eli: think facilitators can help reiterate things that someone else might not be understanding.

(question from Jorge is what happens when spokes are recalled or switched, etc., does that mean they can't be spokes at next few meetings?)

Todo items

  • Eli will set up an agenda sheet on notes.occupy(??).net that we can work on.
  • Justin will put together a (mock?) proposal.
  • Set agenda in advance
  • Pick a facilitator
  • Check issues at the door
  • Tentative meeting 8:30 PM Sunday CCB.
  • Someone to announce spokes meeting at GA.
  • Idea to bring new proposals to next spokescouncil meeting, for consideration at the following one.