Spokes Council Meeting Protocols Proposal
Contact Name: Sean McKeown
Working Group: Town Planning
Spokes Council was envisioned as a high-functioning system for having conversation between Working Groups. Using a distributed model for decision-making that uses a horizontal system of direct democracy, Spokes Council compensates for the use of verticality in its design by providing equal access to power: individual members rotate through the position of Spoke for their Working Group, with rules in place to ensure this position cannot be used for unequal distribution of access to power, and Working Groups are defined as groups composed of at least five members, making it reasonable that if a spoke is not speaking for the will of the group they shall be recalled and the voice of the group re-balanced accordingly.
This model is not presently being followed through as it was intended to; attendance is low, and the types of conversations being had at Spokes Council are not presently the types of conversations Spokes Council as a model was designed to bear. The usefulness of the Spokes Council model comes from the ability of a Working Group to have agenda items in their hands before the meeting, to discuss beforehand as an individual Working Group and discuss between groups to address concerns and answer clarifying questions in a less structured setting. By design, we are supposed to be off-loading a large bulk of the conversations we are presently having at Spokes Council outside of Spokes Council itself, and this friction is creating frustration and likewise cutting back on attendance at Spokes Council – <I>those who do not feel it is worth their time, show their support (or lack thereof) with their attendance</I>.
There are a few things we can do to actively return Spokes Council to the functionality it was designed to work under, and this proposal seeks to improve Spokes Council functionality in the following ways:
1) Proposal Time Delay
Spokes Council works best when Working Groups and Caucuses have been given sufficient time to discuss upcoming proposals and their ramifications, and many times it has been said that we wished it were possible to present a proposal on one night, then come back another night to step through the consensus process on another night so that we have time to think about the proposal and really digest what it means and what our concerns ought to be. It takes time to craft any proposal into the thing the group as a whole wishes it could be, and by implementing a time delay we can accomplish some of that while choosing not to potentially waste our time sitting through the same meetings twice in a row. Considering that it is impossible to present a proposal one day, then consent upon it formally the next meeting without re-presenting the proposal in full first, it makes the most sense to cut full presentation out of this process on the first day – but otherwise try to hold onto it as much as we can.
All proposals seeking to be on the Spokes Council’s agenda must be distributed via printed handout one Spokes Council session before the meeting it is to be voted on. Additionally, all proposals seeking to be on the Spokes Council’s agenda must be emailed into Facilitation by 4pm of the Spokes Council session it is to be voted on, and posted on the NYCGA.net website accordingly in advance of the meeting.</B>
Concessions for emergency proposals going to Spokes Council shall follow the same time-sensitive requirements of emergency proposals going to General Assembly. Non-proposal agenda items do not have to follow these same strictures as a matter of course – as we are not asking for consensus, a lower bar for discussions is very reasonable – but it may potentially be recognized as a best practice overall to set the agenda for the next Spokes Council meeting at the conclusion of the current Spokes Council meeting, and seek to honor that agenda as fully as possible given the fact that needs may have changed with the development of events in the intervening time.
2) Starting Meetings On Time
Spokes Council is listed as beginning at 7pm, and presently we have fallen into a rhythm of beginning considerably later than this time for no apparent reason. Given that our end-time of 10pm is often not something we can continue past, the logical decision if we wish to have more time for Spokes Council and the discussions and work that happen within the Spokes Council sessions… is to begin our meetings promptly on time.
The one time we decided beforehand that we would actually begin the meeting promptly at 7pm, <I>the meeting began promptly at 7pm</I>. There are a lot of sticky logistical questions about what constitutes a valid meeting, and the minimum threshold we have to cross in order to hold a valid Spokes Council meeting – but the fact of the matter remains, if we seek to actively improve our meetings and combat the laxity that we have accidentally embraced with our delayed start times, questions of quorum or minimum components required for meeting validity will not be something we have to face. The key to starting meetings on time is to say we are going to do so, and then actually doing so. Keeping our promises to honor each others’ time instead of waste it will see those who do not like their time being wasted participating actively in Spokes Council, and more time for the things we need to discuss at each individual meeting. A simple shift of individual scheduling – to bring dinner with you, instead of stop and eat with friends beforehand; to leave work on time instead of staying and finishing that one email you wanted to write to that working group list you’re on – can see meeting attendance on time individually for 7pm, but it is predicated on this being something that is <I>worth doing</I> for the individual.
The Spokes Council shall convene at 7pm, as opposed to 7:30, 7:45, 8:15, or “whenever the food gets here and I’ve got my metrocard”. A strict meeting start time prevents time lost by the dedicated individuals who are committed to attending in order to address the logistical issues and pressing conversations that need to be had and which are brought before the Spokes Council as agenda items. Additionally, the meeting shall not halt for lines being formed for meals served at Spokes Council or metrocard distribution – these things will still occur, and will of course be encouraged during the course of the meeting, but the meeting will not cease or pause because they have arrived.</B>
While it would be ideal if we could simply wish it were so, it does not, and desiring this prompt meeting time forces us to face the question of what the minimum acceptable requirements are for a valid Spokes Council. While there is presently no accepted quorum for General Assembly, the same is not necessarily implied of the Spokes Council – by its design, it is intended to function in a directly democratic fashion with the involvement of multiple spokes, and spokes with support of others within their Working Group for discussion during the session. Additionally, the Spokes Council model includes traditionally marginalized groups which have been granted the ability to delay proposals until the next session based on the need to call their caucus and draw additional members to attend the session at which that proposal will seek consensus. Mis-application of any such rules of quorum being applied could potentially marginalize these groups which we recognize as being most marginalized outside of Occupy Wall Street, and we should strive actively to include their voices.
A minimum quorum of attendance before a Spokes Council can convene shall be recognized as at least 20 individuals, representing at least seven active Working Groups and at least one recognized caucus, and not counting any individuals who are presently required to take minutes, record livestream, or facilitate the meeting. A Spokes Council meeting which has these numerical requirements, plus at least one livestreamer feeding footage into the official NYCGA livestream feed, shall be empowered to select Facilitation staff from within those present already if the meeting’s Facilitation team has not arrived on time; in the event that no one is present to take meeting minutes at the start of the meeting, the livestream feed will be considered sufficient to capture and summarize the events of the meeting in question for the purpose of calling a valid start to the meeting.
As-needed, the meeting can pause with its own consensus, but best practices shall be established as not breaking up the agenda of the meeting for outside events such as the arrival of the Kitchen working group with food, or the Housing working group with metrocards for distribution. Additionally, should the planned-for Facilitation not be present at the start of a meeting but later arrive, the question shall be brought before the Spokes Council whether they are happy with their current facilitation team, or would rather have the newly-arriving Facilitation team intended for that meeting in their stead.
Addendum: Text for what was consented upon at Spokes Council as a result of this proposal:
A minimum quorum of attendance before a Spokes Council can convene shall be recognized as at least 20 individuals, representing at least seven active Working Groups and at least one recognized caucus, and not counting any individuals who are presently required to take minutes, record livestream, or facilitate the meeting. A Spokes Council meeting which has these numerical requirements, plus at least one individual feeding footage into the official NYCGA livestream twitter feed (#NYCSC), shall be empowered to select Facilitation staff from within those present already if the meeting’s Facilitation team has not arrived on time. Likewise, minutes may be taken by an individual selected from the group and one such individual must be in place before the meeting can begin.
Consensus achieved 2/15/12