Working Group Name: Volunteer Services
Meeting Date/Time: November 27, 2011/7PM
Location: 60 Wall Street Atrium
Meeting #: 2
Attendees: Alex, Lisa, Ravi and Anthony
2.1.1 Report Backs
2.1.2 Future meetings
Alex: How do you all feel about moving our meeting times to an earlier time on Sundays? Say 1pm? (General agreement.) Also, I have spoken with facilitation and they have promised us a facilitator for our next meeting.
2.1.3 Volunteer Services Harlem Space
Alex: I visited the Harlem space today and it looks like it’s going to work fine. Tomorrow, I am meeting with Mary K. who is donating $500 for necessary renovations to the space. We anticipate getting more.
2.1.4 Proposal for $700 from General Fund rescheduled
Alex: Facilitation has asked us to bring the proposal to SC on Wednesday.
2.1.5 Internal Disagreements W/R/T Group Purpose
Alex: Some of our volunteers have felt that their feelings and opintions aren’t being given consideration. VS is a direct action group; we fill needs in real time. We need point people to step up and fill those needs..
Lois: If everyone responds shit doesn’t get done. We need coordinators.
Alex: What good are we if we turn people away? I am more than willing to give out responsibilities to others as long as I know they are available. I don’t want to turn down people who want to volunteer just because they are not able to volunteer full-time.
Anthony: So you are saying if you want to just show up and work when you are free, you really might be better served plugging in with the Part-Time Caucus. Whereas, if you know you can be in X location from noon to six on Saturdays then Volunteer Services wants you. VS need dependable people.
Alex: No, we want anyone who wants to volunteer. But the reality is that we are a direct action group. How do you get consent for immediate action from a group where only a fraction of our members are reachable when immediate action is needed?
Anthony: Well, in the case of immediate actions in response to emergencies, I think transparency and accountability with regard to what is done may trump the need for group consensus
Alex: What if we implement report backs after emergency DAs so that the person who decides what needs to be done is then required explain what happened, what decisions were made and the process involved in making that decisions.
Anthony: I think that’s workable as long as those who are making decisions in the instance of emergencies participate in these report backs and take criticism of actions to heart moving forward with future emergencies. In other words, while Alex might handle something one way, I might handle it differently and really not be all that comfortable with Alex’s implementation. But if this is discussed, Alex might be faced with a similar decision in the future and address it in a slightly different way bearing my previous concerns in mind.
(Everyone seems fine with this becoming our process with regard to emergency direct action.)
2.1.6 Post-Eviction Status/Logistics of Volunteer Services
Alex: Volunteer Services is maintaining office space at 50 Broadway on a more or less full-time basis. Matthew and I have been meeting a lot of the volunteer requests from this location. (Christine Kraus will be joining Matthew and me again starting tomorrow.) By operating from this space, I feel like we have a great opportunity to nteract with other groups and through that grow more able to ascertain where Volunteer Services help is needed most. Also, tomorrow morning we have a volunteer who is going to retrieve a bin of t-shirts from the Department of Sanitation to deliver back to SIS for the Silk Screen Guild.
2.1.7 Fundraising efforts
Alex: Volunteer Services is eligible to receive up to $2000/month ($100 per day) from Finance. The money we have taken thus far has been used for printing, office supplies, etc. We have to keep detailed receipts for our own records and then we return them to Finance.
POI: I can provide a not insubstantial amount of free copies every week. (Anthony)
Alex: We are making a proposal to SC and GA for a onetime $500 donation to cover repairs on the Harlem location. We are looking into the possibility of getting this amount through donations to VS. Ideally, we want to be able to cover over own expenses. If and when this happens, we will cease taking the per diem from Finance. Additionally, I think it might be nice if we try to find some additional funds to cover us all going bowling together. I think it’s important to keep morale high. Volunteer work is stressful and it’s easy for people to get burnt out.
Anthony: I agree that volunteering can be draining. However, I am not comfortable with anything that looks like rewarding people for participation. If you are here, it’s because you are committed to the movement.
Alex: What if instead we get together every once in a while as a group and everybody brings a dish. It could be a group solidarity event.
Uptwinkles all around.
2.1.8 Further Report Back on Post-Eviction Status/Logistics of VS
Alex: Ravi, Christine and I have a meeting scheduled Tuesday at 50 Broadway to discuss a volunteer management resource. I recommend Volgistics. It would cost $40/month and is a great management software for volunteers.
2.1.9 Further Report Back on Harlem Location
Alex: My goal is to have this location up and running by the second week of December at the latest—although I would prefer to be in their ASAP. How does the group feel about applying our per diem from Finance towards this? I think we can make it happen sooner that way.
Anthony: Who all is in the group? Who needs to be consulted to build consensus?
Alex: Right now it’s Christine, Lois, Anthony, Matthew, Regina, Renee and me.
Anthony: Should we clear this with the other members who aren’t here (Christine, Matthew, Regina and Renee)?
Alex: I have consensus from them already. It’s up to those of us here.
POI: The office is a straight shot up the west side. Two stops from Columbia. If someone thinks it’s out of the way, I want to know if they have a better location? (Lois)
Anthony: So do we have consensus on this?
Lois: I donated the space when the eviction occurred. I sent an e-mail to a bunch of different OWS’ers; Alex was the only one who responded. Since you can’t occupy the park, I want you to take this space.
Lois has gone so far as to—because of all these funding issues—that she’ll front the money for the space if she’s paid back by eventual donations. My vision of the space is to have seven or eight people there to meet the needs of VS. Bills will be electricity and phones. Once fundraising is in full swing, we will be more than self-sufficient. (Alex)
Anthony: It appears that we have consensus with this moving forward.
2.1.10 VS and SC
Anthony: I want VS to make sure we have someone at every SC. Also, it needs to be different people each time. I have a major concern with repeating spokes.
Alex: Definitely. Let’s do that.
2.1.11 Thanksgiving VS Direct Action Report Back
Alex: We anticipated only 40 volunteers; 85 show up. We fed 1500 and had enough to feed 6K. Everyone who volunteered was wearing VS shirts. We formed a line fire brigade style to bring food into the park. Everyone got to eat including volunteers.
Lois: Who issued the call for volunteers?
Alex: Haywood approached me about it. I sent out a blast e-mail requesting help. We had 68 responses before the end of the day. We had a person who donated a sleeping bag he slept in in the Himalayas. DA instituted it.
2.1.12 Report Back on Technology
Ravi: I have information on different CIVICRM modifications—mailing list management tool. We want to get together a bunch of people to talk about mailing list policies. We want to send an opt-out email to everyone already on our lists (or maybe an opt-in message). Also, we want to develop a clear sense of what each list is supposed to do..
Alex: Can VA get a email@example.com e-mail account?
Ravi: In order to become an official group VS needs to go to spokes for money. Also, Tech Ops needs guidance from GA or SC regarding who is allowed to have things (like e-mail accounts). Right now GA doesn’t have a policy with regard to establishing new e-mails.
Alex: But SC going to be dismantled.
Anthony: That proposal is scheduled to be brought to Tuesday’s GA.
Alex: Will Tech Ops still help us when we are in Harlem.
Ravi: Yes. Tech Ops wants to support things.
Alex: We may have a server that is being donated for the Harlem space; I don’t know…
Ravi: Send me all the specs you have on it.
Alex: Do we need a server in Harlem?
Ravi: Maybe not. We’ll see. You’d input mailing lists. Tech Ops make sure it works.
Alex: Does Tech Ops have anything to do with the website.
Ravi: We deal with nycga.net. occupywallst.org is an affinity group.
Alex: We are searching for viable fundraising methods outside the Finance per diem.
Ravi: You need to talk to Finance about that.
Alex: Their take is that if you are a working group capable of fundraising then you can’t keep taking the per diem. We’re fine with that. As it stands were keeping all of receipts. Our goal is to have the Harlem ready space by the second week of December. When that happens I want to unplug from 50 Broadway and move to Harlem.
Ravi: To navigate OWS you need to be a really big self-advocate.
Anthony: Hell yeah to that.
Ravi: And there are people who just don’t have that skill set and they miss out. I am really committed to VS because it meets that need. Like how many times have I been asked what are these damn hand signals about?
Anthony: POI: I think there’s a document on Info’s NYCGA page regarding the hand signals
2.1.13 Intra-Group Communications
Alex: Some people have issues with me not communicating in instances where immediate direct action is required. I would rather handle that via report backs. If there’s a need, I want to fill it immediately. It’s not that I don’t want to communicate to others; it’s just that shit needs to get done. I am not trying to withhold info from anyone.
Lois: In emergency situation and urgent situations can be handled immediately. More long term problems need to be open to group consensus. Example: If we are getting evicted and are called about needing a van to get down there and move shit, we can’t wait for consensus. We need to fill that need.
The suggestion of a policy stating “all pertinent information will be about emergency direct actions undertaken by VS will be disseminated at group meetings where all facets of the action and decisions surrounding it will be open to strict accountability and transparency standards” is suggested.
There has been some controversy regarding this issue previously—specifically Alex having resources he wasn’t sharing with others. Some of the fallout of that disagreement has been Amy Miller’s desire to leave the group and not return.
2.1.14 VS Point Persons
Alex: I don’t know how to address this point person issue.
Lois: Just explain it. There are people that have stepped up and said they can do the job.
Alex: VS is a direct action group of the GA. We are needs of other groups as we become aware of them. I stepped up and have been doing this for the last two weeks. I am eager and willing to step up and do my best. But I can’t do it all myself. Speaking from the standpoint of 50 Broadway, they only want two (2) people in the office at a time. I think VS needs point people; these people should be responsible for acting upon direct actions needs.
Anthony: There’s a problem with the term ‘point person’. This is a horizontal, directly democratic culture. The concept of a point person, semantically, flies in the face of that.
Alex: Then let’s call them Direct Action Contacts (DAC). Anyone willing to commit on a full-time basis can be a DAC for VS>
Meeting is adjourned.