1/22/12

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CWG working group meeting 22 jan 2012.
Tess, Daniel, Alex, Allison, Sarah, Anthony

setting agenda:
1. brainstorm problems with consensus process in current GA
2. talk about how to put learning into practice
3. ways to consolidate ideas
4. draft a consensus guideline, if only for us
5. identify concerns with current consensus process
6. how sex offender proposal failed (vis a vis process).

1. why are we here?
Tess: interested in working with consensus more. 

Daniel: feel there's a general sense that the way we make decisions is about consensus. would like to see us hash those ideas here and ultimately produce a statement about how we make decisions. (rebuilding trust in the community; bring people into decisionmaking process. increased buy-in).

Alex: things are messed up (at OB?) and need to be fixed. that's why i'm here. want us to not have the process be separate from the individuals of the GA. want the process to disappear, that it's so transparent we don't even notice it happen because we're invested in making decisions that way.

Allison: many of things Daniel said. feel OB came together quickly, whimsically, on a surge of energy. think we cobbled together a decisionmaking process without investigating consensus and how to put values into practice. have felt unable to dialog about process because we do not have unifying set of values. interested in documenting what we find and sharing what we learn with the community. also, consensus connects us to the global democracy movement. consensus is a foundational piece of global transformation.

Sarah:wonders why things aren't as smooth at OB as they've been at other organizations she's been involved with. wondering what we can do to encourage more full participation.

Anthony: (was talking so didn't type)

[i think daniel is taking notes.]

Talking about Allison's Google document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XXTYwdshi-cGtSIa9aN0mFXr-8wrIxYnWNZXOsj7gQc/edit

Specifically values like trust. E.g., should we assume everyone is operating from a position of good will until there's a good reason to believe otherwise?

The wikipedia consensus guidelines sound useful. We're looking at those.

Considering changing "non-violence" to "non-coercion."

[i'm going to try to grab concerns]

concern: some people have extended an assumption of good faith for too long and no longer feel able to.

Sarah: facilitation is a concern for me. Yo ucan't facilitate a community that doesn't understand consensus. We had people who were coercive and we have no way to handle it. No way to take care of it. We had people yell at another person in small group discussions until the other person was crying, and the only thing that happened was de-escalation. Nothing that validated the person who'd be yelled at. We've also seen people tell stories that were very difficult and we did not acknowledge the vulnerability of those people.

...other concerns with consensus process. Felt disgusted with how Sarah Barney was singled out as the person responsible for the proposal. Onus was on her the entire time (vs. group ownership e.g.). She was called disgusting, vilified. That's not what presenting a proposal should look like in a real consensus process.

...also, person bringing a proposal that they know will be contentious being willing to table the proposal on their own (being their own vibe manager in essence).

Alex: don't feel empowered to speak my concern. Not in GA, no online, not in small groups. Feel like there's strong emotion associated with the events that went down, and if I express what sounds like a dissenting opinion it'll be harmful to me or perceived as harmful to others.

...also I've lost the ability to assume a particular person in our community is coming at this in good fatih.

Anthony: concerned that in the discussion of the sex offender proposal in particular, people were raising abstract/hypothetical concerns without offering an actionable alternative (e.g., objections to the level 3 phrase, but didn't offer an alternative statement that could be put in its place).

Alex: felt Sarah's behavior was problematic during the discussion of the of the proposal.

Discussing the idea that consensus is about the community acknowledging a concern that a member is bringing.

Sarah: concerned about the way this particular proposal was blocked. Felt that the people who were blocking the proposal have oppressive voices, and their voices prevailed. It was hard to watch.

Allison: we have to commit to some method for calling out oppressive speech, while also hearing whatever valid points might have been made.

tentative consensus values:
non-coercion
valuing disagreement
assuming good faith
limiting personal attacks
addressing interests, not positions
safer space

cooperation (come with attitude of help and support)
  consensus is not about tearing something down but building something up.
unity of purpose (clarity of shared purpose).
self-empowerment
  if you don't think of yourself as empowered you've either deferred to authority or you're giving up responsibility.
  "delegation of authority is a failure of responsibility"
reasons groups fail at consensus: groups often allow anyone to join decisionamking process without instruction or screening.

Interesting idea that's been popping up. Some proposals have different stakeholders than other (e.g., the camp GAs vs. the braoder GAs). Would it help to try articulating who those stakeholders are? Or, would it help for GA to empower subgroups (like spokes) with certain kinds of decisions, and not hear proposals like that at all? No clear answer at the moment but worth digging into more.

We're talking about whether it'd be valuable to read (some subset of) our statement of occupation at every GA.

If we specifically articulate that one of our principles is consensus, then shouldn't it be legitimate for someone to  block a proposal process because they've perceived what's happening in the room is not consensus-building?

There's the value of consensus, and then there are consensus values.

We agreed as a group that an ideal of consensus to strive for would include the ability of a single person to block a proposal. (for instance, if we assume they're coming in good faith, and are aligned with the group's values, their block needs no further validation).

Could we use a wiki-like process to develop and bring forward a statement of consensus values?