Proposal to Improve the General Assembly

Posted by & filed under Assemblies, Past Proposals.

The general assembly is the foundation of our movement. It has provided us with a space for our voices to be heard. I am saddened to say that the GA is not what it once was. It has devolved into interpersonal conflicts, abuse, and financial transactions. Money has torn the GA apart. If it is ever to be improved it must reclaim its sense of purpose, which is that of a space for political discourse. Thus, I propose the GA make no further financial decisions.

46 Responses to “Proposal to Improve the General Assembly”

  1. sumumba

    i agree with this proposal…but i ask how do we make financial decisions? Spokes?

    • Aurelio

      Financial decisions should be made online, in a structure much like Kickstart.com, but with voting.
      Ppl put up their projects in full detail and answers comments, then the community votes on how much money they should get.

  2. Dallas

    FA: Then Spokes has to take props from individuals for project funding… otherwise we will be creating hierarchy by requiring that all individuals go through a WG to get funding for anything.

    • David Buccola

      I understand your FA, but find it problematic that there is a need for individuals to request funding. I really feel like if there is a need for funding it should come from a group, not necessarily the existing working groups, but a group of people working on a project or need. If an individual can’t find anyone else to work on that project it’s probably not very worthwhile. If one person has needs, chances are so do a lot of other people. I think we should create a structure that encourages community building and feel your FA runs counter to that goal.

      • Dallas

        That’s totally reasonable… maybe I don’t understand the way Spokes is supposed to work (since I’m almost always at work when it is going on).

        My understanding is that only a WG can bring a prop requesting a budget as of right now (well, as of the end of the spending freeze)… if it was just a requirement that X people must consent to what is being presented before Spokes will consider it, I’d feel very differently about the matter.

      • sumumba

        i dont have a issue with folks individually requesting ESPECIALLY the full-time members of OWS…we all have phone and other bills we need to take care of and these bills are often the DIRECT result of OWS related activities…

        • Dallas

          Presumably in most cases (if not all) you were doing this OWS work with others who also want phone reimbursements etc. So all of you can bring a joint prop to have all phone bills incurred as a result of the project reimbursed (for example). Voila!

          • sumumba

            sadly it doesnt work EXACTLY like that..its all good…but because we function as we do…folks generally can NOT be a FULL-TIME OWS member

      • drew

        WG’s are open to anyone. If you need money from the GA you should go through working groups. We’d have a lot more accountability if proposals went through WG consensus before coming to out main body.

        I fully support this proposal.

        • sumumba

          IF THAT’S the case…i say each WG just be funded by a AFFINITY GROUP….I’m tired of this mess….if u have a job and or dont do OCCUPY full-time like some of us..its easy to say ‘o lets end financial decisions being made at the GA’….that seems like quite a privileged mindset actually but take away the full-time activists here and say EVERYONE starts to work full or even part time and how much work at OWS is gonna get done? would be nice to have more DIRECT funding and support….so hence the need for AFFINITY group supports…screw the GA process…i say

  3. Monica McLaughlin

    The GA is not the place for project approval. Thousands are given away with a few waves of hands fora projects no one has researched breed on a 2-minute sound bite.

  4. Patrick Conway

    Not sure I agree with this proposal’s line of reasoning: GA has seen interpersonal conflicts and abuse, therefore financial decisions are the reason why? Maybe potentially paid disruptors and a lack of healthy organization in the form of enforceable community agreements have had a bit more to do with the problem?

    One of the major reasons that Spokes was created was to handle budgets. Despite several promising attempts to do that there, it never really happened. Actually, GA passed the first (and so far only) comprehensive budget for OWS, in the form of the spending freeze proposal, which made provision for essential expenses on a continuing basis (credit should go where it’s due).

    And were there no interpersonal conflicts or abuses ever at Spokes? For much of its existence, Spokes has had all the problems GA has had, only greatly amplified. What sense does it make to allow financial decisions to continue their corrupting influence there?

    As I see it, this proposal desires to transfer financial power away from a directly democratic and completely horizontal decision-making body over to one that is not directly democratic and also contains an explicit hierarchy.

    This is a non-starter, I think. Either propose instead to send back all the money and close our accounts, or apply the same treatment to Spokes first and see if the interpersonal problems and abuses there get cleared up before suggesting that we disempower GA.

    If the proposers want to work on alternate proposals for how to improve GA *without* simultaneously disempowering it, I and others have several ideas and would be interested in working with you.

  5. jarret wolfman

    i gotta agree with patrick here. movement groups like politics and electoral reform aren’t even allowed at spokes. at least, that is my understanding. if we can’t go to the ga for funds (not that we ever have i don’t think) then what are we supposed to do?

    • Sean McKeown

      All working groups are allowed at Spokes, presently, regardless of their operational nature or movement nature or frisbee nature or whatnot. So long as your group has conformed to the GA requirements for a valid Working Group, passed by ComHub, your Working Group is a valid Spoke for Spokes Council.

      That at least is where it presently stands, it may shift in the future but presently seems to be working fine.

      • jarret wolfman

        interesting. it’s so hard to keep up! :)

        do you have a link to the actual ga working group requirements passed by comhub (i assume you mean proposed by comhub and passed by the ga)? i’m not even sure i know what the requirements are anymore. :)

        • jarret wolfman

          shit. i should’ve put @smckeown. i wish you just automatically got a notification whenever someone responded to your post! :)

          • Dallas

            *cough*Feedback form*cough*

            :D

            I agree, editing and auto-notification on direct replies would be nice, so I might put that in myself in a few minutes…. but feel free to beat me to it.

            Sorry for the off-topic post.

  6. julie

    “I am saddened to say that the GA is not what it once was.” — Could you clarify what this means? It is vague.

    • drew

      Back in the day the GA had a goal, prepare for sep 17, after that it’s goal was to support and maintain the encampment. After the eviction there was no goal and a whole lot of money.

      Really we just all need to invest in going and making it better, not passing proposals to make it better.

      • Steve Scher

        Drew: I think I understand you, though I’m not 100% sure. I’ve had similar things said to me face-to-face and read it posted. Perhaps another way to say this, which I mention only now to clarify would be as follows:

        given that occupy is a state of mind, given that it’s what people do rather than writing some type of structure or plan of what they will do going forward, given that in general society thinks of investing in terms of money, when in fact a real investment would be collectively thinking, perhaps it’s time to find a way to collectively “do”.

        When I visited the park/plaza initially, before as I recall were even up yet, there was a joyful sense of common purpose simply being there together to sense reality as it is at the collectively plug-in with each other to see what changes perhaps could be made.

        As the park/plaza became a town things became a bit more complicated. Connections between people, ideas thoughts accelerated, negative things surfaced as far as behavior and issues from individuals who I would simply described now as icky poo.

        And then of course there was the pizza. Lots of pizza. Now I’m unemployed, and really have to watch what little money is available, and although with embarrassment I must admit I enjoy fast food, setting five or 10 dollars plus the transportation cost meant infrequent visits, missing out on being a part of that which was. The joy that I felt discovering pizza. Free pizza. Boxes and boxes of it coming into the park, announcements that it was being sent from Liberttis ( I don’t think I have the name quite right ) paid for by donations from New York to California to Italy, Europe and the whole world was incredible.

        Pizza really tasted good.

        I only spoke about three times to a general assembly. I recall the first time fingers hands up to the sky thinking in my head I was watching aliens at work, newly arrived with their strange ways. Appreciating the inventiveness and initiative of what in my mind resembled what I had only read about way back then: “the Greek chorus”. And to stand there watching fingers wiggling up in the air as I carefully spoke in short phrases, was absolutely amazing.

        Returning, walking through the narrow pathways between tents, wondering why the hell people were doing things beyond the logical, things which could only have a negative impact…

        And then a few weeks ago, attending one of the working group meetings at 60 Wall Street. Observing discussion about money. Money, money,… Money.

        Proposals about money, posts about money… Occasionally a proposal that didn’t involve money…

        And then a few words of wisdom from one or two people who I encountered here online and had the opportunity to meet in person.

        I’ve tried to contribute at a distance, from a land far far far away.

        And then there were these glimmers of sense.

        That’s the way I see what Drew says right above .

        Frankly, having not attended a general assembly except for and occasional glimpse in livestream… Not since the eviction… I have no idea what if anything should or could be done with the general assembly, certainly I have no idea how to improve it. Honestly I don’t even know if it should be improved or not… But the idea to simply “do”. Or as others might put it to “occupy”.

        ********************************
        Steve Scher
        718 347 4818
        http://www.BaysideFriend.com
        BaysideFriend@yahoo.com
        ********************************

      • Dallas

        @drew Agreed. I personally wish I could attend every GA, but I realize that I work odd hours and am probably SOL. :)

        Seriously though, as much as money may be a factor in bringing negative energy into the GA or perpetuating said energy…. it seems to me that there may also be a sort of ‘critical mass’ size for GA to function optimally. How many times did you see people cussing and striking each other when we had GAs with 100 or more people? I suspect that having GA with fewer than X people (IMHO about 30) allows people’s egos to override their respect for the group (not that I haven’t been guilty of this myself).

  7. jillturnerart

    Problematic here, is while we anxiously focus on financial resource distribution, the allocation of human resources is sadly overlooked. People stay and argue for awhile and then wander away bereft because their human contribution does not seem valued.

    Spokes Council only recognizes a small somewhat arbitrary collection of working groups.

  8. Darrell Prince

    I agree with Patrick.. this is out of left field as a proposal to improve GA… you want funding, join a working group.. and now people are blocking every GA proposal for a new working group… so you have to work through the existing people to do ANYTHING.

    I don’t have a problem with defining membership for active members.

  9. John Doe

    burn the money! fo rizzle though

    working groups were essential when we had an occupation. now people use the money that should have been spent on helping the actual occupation, on working groups that don’t really have all that much to do with an occupation. even if there doing positive things, the money that was donated was not to these irrelevant working groups, but to the actual occupation. why do we waste our time worrying about budgets, when we should all be basically doing what direct action is doing?!?!

    • Chithra KarunaKaran

      @John Doe
      Yours in a interesting take on how resources are diverted from street action (movement)
      to bureaucracy (GA, WGs)
      It is becoming more and more clear that we are moving away from the practical ideal of a *leaderless horizontal movement.*
      We are now —-
      More status quo, less focused progress towards FAIRNESS in a leaderless, borderless world order
      If you complain about a power grab [Spokes, V&G] you get immediately accused of doing one!
      Extreme Orwell, tht is what we have now.

      I continue to remain optimistic that progress can be made.
      @ethicaldemocracy

      • sumumba

        lol@Power grab by V&G ^ aint that the pot calling the kettle black? lol..and what ‘resources’ are being diverted by ‘wg’s’ can a movement be built JUST on ‘actions’ or street ‘actions’…sorry as part of the OUTREACH AND MOVEMENT BUILDING groups we need RESOURCES to do the actual work..that means flyers, transportation, signs etc….amazing how some people think we need no money or resources to BUILD this movement and ‘actions’ alone will suffice…Only someone with NO knowledge of Movement Building or an agent for the 1% would think and say those things…smdh..and fyi…we are a LEADERFULL not (less) movement….DON’T disrespect the work that countless people are putting into this movement…!

  10. John Doe

    @sumumba, i’m talking about things like ‘meditation working groups’. come on. if they want to do that, that is great, but there is no need to associate it with OWS. we need to simplify the GA’s to being about plans to occupy, and action/event planning.

  11. John Doe

    and a fucking vision statement?? why does OWS need to have a statement on every issue? Why can’t it return to a conversation? OWS should be a question, not a statement. (another waste of time)

    • Monica McLaughlin

      People are putting the cart in front of the horse. A very few people want to make up the rules by coming up with all these statements.

    • John McG

      Do we have a right to peacefully assemble? Are we protesting to empower that right? Do we have anything else we are protesting for? Should we not be able to articulate what our vision of the future is? What is the point of assembling and speaking if it is not to give voice to our vision of the future?

  12. Urbaned

    Meditation is something missing from our current society. It’s a 24/7 grab your money, fortune, and fame. I want herbal tea and OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMM

  13. John McG

    I think one of the major things that has made the GA less effective was the move to 9/10 modified consensus. In the early days we had 2/3 modified consensus. And a block didn’t mean you were “leaving the movement.” Only that you thought it was a really bad idea. The 1/10th block has made it too easy for people that want to block everything (and never seem to leave any way) and too difficult for people that take the process literally to block bad ideas.