74 Responses to “Spokes Council Proposal”

    • Gregg O

      Hey Dan,

      Somehow this hasn’t been updated here. Please post this updated version. This is what was presented on Friday: http://bit.ly/qPvcBB – this is the official document coming out of Structure WG.


      • Reb Deb Gordon

        Wouldn’t it be useful to date the revisions as well?

        And I second his request, please update this page with the most recent version of the document.

        • Gregg O

          Good point on the date. I’ve uploaded a revision available at the same link.

    • Marisa Holmes

      Thank you all for your comments =)
      We will be posting an updated version on Wed.

      (Structure Working Group)

      • jemcgloin

        Thank you for filling us in on some of the structure working group’s ideas. If any of the members could fill in more detail it would be helpful.

    • c2inomah

      So what exactly is it that qualifies you to re-engineer society?

      You and your group, by all appearances, are seriously unqualified: (Unemployed, or uninspired work history, virtually no experience in economics, unable to enunciate clear and attainable goals, unfortunate tendency to jingoism at the expense of rational thought).

      Now, read up on Trotsky.

      Just sayin’.

  1. vala

    I don’t see why working groups can’t all be represented. Why must they be subordinated to a cluster which does not have the same purposes or experiences?

  2. Matt Lepacek

    Sorry for the spam but this is important

    Hi, I’m Matt from Open Source, Internet, Global Revolution-Livestream, I’m one of the technical people here and I really need you to ignore the length of this letter and still read it and even click on the link to the product I am discussing here.

    In Open-Source we have readily available tools that can be factored into the problem of our growing GA, to facilitate further brainstorming about the SC model solution.

    These tools are a system of quick-voting and polling tools both physical (paper) and electronic. We envision the solution to direct democracy is providing tools that will give every attending participant a voice on important issues.

    A number of ideas have been tossed around including

    a) handing a printed ticket with unique serial code to each attendant to identify their unique votes for the session so that the system can not be manipulated by people not in attendance. That ticket could be turned in physically for voting or for a time period could be redeemed electronically via one of the below electronic mediums

    b) a phone system that users can dial into to vote using touch-tone and voice response

    c) a smartphone / iphone / android application for quick voting

    d) a web-site for voting e) text messaging for voting

    f) professional audience response polling electronic equipment for focus groups. My personal assessment for our needs is the last as it is the most efficient and most “disposable” system we can achieve (it isn’t reasonable to give everyone cell-phones or androids).

    e) all of the above

    Before you call me crazy for the next proposal please consider that what we seek to create here is a model that will inspire the world, and continue to give us media publicity and traction. Adapting Spanish ideas are wonderful, but lets consider the advantages technology offers us and open our minds to the possibilities of this direct-democracy we dream of. We have received nearly 300k in donations and can purchase the following system for nearly $5,000 – $10,000.00. (which sill support 1,000 people). We can also rent the system on a trial basis for $500-$2500 a day depending on the number of participants.

    Here is a link to a manufacturer of one such product (least expensive legacy product): http://www.replysystems.com/reply-products/replymini-worldwide.shtml http://www.replysystems.com/how-reply-devices-work.shtml

    We give each participant in the GA a handheld wireless remote control to vote. All answers and instantly recorded and presented on a projection screen for all to see.

    Yes, theft will be an issue that we can come up with another solution for (perhaps user registration). However, they aren’t that expensive to replace as we are using outdated technology which is readily available at under $7 per remote voting device.

    My summary of the proposal-as-is:

    1) consider introducing this as a trial-charter, ensure it can be dissolved by the GA

    2) make a list of the issues/transactions that must go to the GA for approval

    3) ensure that important GA decisions are made by the dedicated people of our movement by not scheduling big decisions for days that Unions are joining us or we are anticipating a extra-large attendance

    4) however at the same time we must clearly announce all upcoming discussions and decisions /votes as soon as possible on the web-site, and establish a minimum notification time for a issue to come to vote for a defined list of issues/transactions

    5) limit the scope of what the spokes council can do without the GA’s consent and revisit this conservative list at a later date.

    6) Ensure that the SC is elastic in nature of its relationship to the GA, has an active role in determining what transactions/issues are necessary to be brought to the GA.

    7) Consider that if a unanimous consensus is not reached in the SC then the issue/transaction will be brought to the GA.

    • jemcgloin

      All of these techno solutions worry me for the same reason that electronic voting in US elections worry me. It is to easy to hack into these things and fix the results.

    • Marisa Holmes

      Hi Matt,
      These are intriguing ideas and wonderful reforms of the GA.
      I’m thinking that that wireless voting system could be modeled
      off of a dotmacracy system in which people are able to mark
      a spectrum of concern rather than a reg vote.
      We can institute a spokes council and reform the GA.
      They are not mutually exclusive.


  3. RanDomino

    I like the idea, but just like the GA this seems like a misimplementation of established practice. Stop trying to use “modified consensus”- no one seems to understand that proper consensus already addresses the problems that the “modifications” try to patch over. The other problem is that Consensus (and especially Spokescouncils) is designed to bring together existing affinity groups and organizations using a delegate system, but OWS is a ‘mass’ movement in which every participant is an atomized individual. Still, it should be able to be made to work without having to resort to any kind of voting schemes. And the idea of working groups voting on each others’ proposals is just silly.

    • John McG

      How does ‘proper consensus’ work? And how does it address the problems that modified consus paper over?

      • Marisa Holmes

        Consensus is a way of addressing the feelings of a particular group. Its a holistic and humanized way of seeing where people are in relationship to a decision being reached. It also allows people more autonomy than voting, because one can register concerns and stand asides on a particular proposal without blocking the proposal. In a voting system, as an individual, you can only say up or down. There’s no room to register concerns. I’d love to try full consensus. The GA decided to use modified consensus (in which we drop to 9/10 majority) early on, so we’ve continued to use it.

        (Structure Working Group)

  4. Etan Ben-Ami

    I wish I had been at the 10/20/11 GA — BLOCK!

    We don’t need a council of Soviets and a new set of pseudo-representative politicians. We need patience, longer meetings, a friendly venue, and more experience. I have seen Quaker meetings (which operate by full and very formal consensus) take on everything from emergency budget proposals to gay marriage without resorting to a representative structure.

    • Charles

      If a non-representative structure ever came to a vote at the GA I would block it.
      Funny how the powers that be probably won’t allow such a vote to take place! The anarcho-conspirators have done a good job….

    • snafu

      I don’t think that a Councilist reform has anything to do with a Soviet. Social movements have been using councils all over the world for every kind of mobilization. This is a reform proposal that places the emphasis on collective work and disables the power of individuals who may have never participated in single meeting to trash the work of activists who are more heavily involved by simply crossing their forearms.

      It is important, however, to make sure that the Spokes Council is open to ideas that come from outside the Working Groups as sometimes the best ideas come from those who not being heavily involved can approach an issue (or a set of issues) with a fresh mind. In companies they call them consultants…

      • jemcgloin

        I understand your concern about people dropping by just to screw up the process, but it may be better to just make it easier to overcome a block. I think it used to be a 2/3 majority before it was changed to 9/10, which I always thought was too extreme. I think part of why this movement grew so big so fast is that it is very inviting to regular people. You can show up and get right into the governing body. If we are not careful, we could mess that up very quickly.
        I think some people forget that just because you don’t recognize someone doesn’t mean that they are not intimately involved in the movement.
        Also I think your right about outsiders having fresh ideas (although I just spent three hours having some idiot getting paid $250,hr to waste my time telling me how to do my job, so please don’t use the ‘c’ word.)

    • Les evenchick

      I agree with Etan. The spokescouncil is just a way of taking power away from the general assembly aqnd giving it to a self selected elite. The real solution would have been to do away with all the phoney democratic consensus models and get back to simple majority rule after full and fair diswcussion. The Quakers are certainly no group to look to for direction. In spite of there so called pacifism, they refused to call for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam. I remember a meeting addresswed by a Quaker. he was very arrogant and defended the johnson administration. And remember Nixon was a Quaker.. Consensus may work in a small group of like experienced people but mostly it is used as a manipulation tool by behind the scenes activists.. Spokescouncils is the wrong direction. let the GA actually rule.

    • Cathy Weaver

      “In matters of conscience the laws of majority has no place” – gandhi
      Ya’ll seem to be becoming everything you oppose?

  5. lambert strether

    It may be that the term “Spokes Council” is a problem. When I heard it first, I was reminded of “spokesman,” who is in fact representative.

    Just reading the text and without benefit of discussion, I note that the duties of the GA are nebulous (“relationship of the occupation as whole to the broader movement”) whereas the duties of the SC are well-defined (“budget and capital expenditures”). That’s a cause for concern, since specificity will trump generality.

    Further, if the GA has the duty of “make decisions that concern the relationship of the occupation as whole to the broader movement” how does that not contradict this duty of the SC, “attend to … declarations that propose to represent the OWS as a whole.” Suppose the GA to makes a decision concerning the occupation as a whole. Does the SC then attend to the declaration of the decision? That seems cumbersome. And how does the GA ensure that the declaration embodies the decision?

  6. John McG

    A lot of people have been saying for a while that it is difficult to find the working groups or know what they are doing. There is also the problem of deciding where to spend money (a nice problem we must admit) and how to keep the finances transparent. Communications and logistics are vital to having a successful movement and these are difficult things to maintain in direct democracy. The current structure has served us well in a lot of ways however. I always say consensus is lie a river. Slow but unstoppable.
    I am not sure if your proposal is going to make things better or worse, so I have few questions I would like answered by someone on the structure committee. Most importantly: why do we need clusters. Just having meetings limited to working groups and caucuses, if each one had a spoke in the council, would shrink the size of the meetings a lot and limit it to mostly people that understood the process. This seems to me one layer that could help, but I am not sure what the second layer (clusters) would achieve. It would likely push together only loosely related groups, and might cause friction between groups. (You should also make clear that each working group and cluster would need separate facilitators at the meeting so that all of those decisions could be made and communicated through the spoke to the council.)
    One: How does this system contribute to transparency, communication, and accountability? Requiring groups to post minutes and invite people to regular meetings, and account for their spending does not require a cluster or even a council, does it? And how does having a council force theses things to happen?
    Two: How does the GA, as the voice of all of those involved, maintain control of the council and not get co-opted by it? I think you accepted the ability of the GA to dissolve the council and the clusters by consensus, with 2 weeks notice of the proposal going to the GA. Am I correct that that is in the proposal now?
    Three: I would prefer that the GA be allowed to veto decisions by the council (by consensus).
    Four: Does it make sense to have different spending levels at which money could be spent, without express permission. For example, $10 for a member of a group, $100 for a group, $1000 by a cluster, $10,000 by the council, and anything above being consensed on by the GA.
    Five: Can the GA have its own budget?
    Six: Can the phrase “well-publicized” in relation to the times and location of the meetings be better defined?
    Shouldn’t the “Relationship to the General Assembly” section be at the top, if only to belay the fears of possible blockers?
    Seven: How would working groups be “encouraged to cluster with similar groups” and who would make those decisions?
    Eight: Wouldn’t the possibility of splitting into two smaller clusters to double the vote mean that working groups would tend to split from clusters (or resist joining them)?
    Nine: Where are the minutes for your meetings and teach-ins?
    Finally mathematically speaking, how is a structure that has four levels of structure (GA, council, clusters, working groups) end up being less hierarchical (more horizontal) than a structure that has two levels (GA, working groups)?

    • suresh

      Hi John,
      Some answers:
      0) We are removing clusters from the current proposal. There are only Working Groups and Caucuses
      1) By having all the working groups in one room and able to have detailed conversations, much more transparency and communication can happen than at the GA.
      2)The GA can now dissolved the spokescouncil with a 1 week notice. We would like to suggest that the use of the term “control” is misplaced. GA and Spokes Council are just different processes for different kinds of decisions. Autonomous working groups and caucuses are the real loci of control.
      3) Again, we do not want to establish layers of hierarchy. This is not the “congress” vs the “Senate”. Its just different processes. Would you like to propose the vote as a formal amendment?
      4) It could make sense, but many big purchases should be deliberated in a detailed way that we think best happens in spokescouncil. It is difficult to debate detailed benefits, costs, and alternatives to a 10K proposal in GA.
      5) Yes, the GA can have its own budget.
      6) Yes, we will announce them at the GAs and post them online.
      7) it would be autonomous and up to the working groups. Nobody forces anybody.
      8) Decisions are still being made by consensus, so having an extra group doesn’t get you that much more power. And everybody has an interest in the meetings running smoothly and efficiently.
      9) They are on the structure working group page, in the documents section.
      10) Hierarchy isn’t necessarily structure, its a vertical organization of power. In the spokescouncil, power starts in all the working groups and caucuses; at the tips of the network, and flows from there. And the working groups are fluid and open, so individuals can move horizontally between different parts of the structure. We really care about maintaining decentralization, and so the building blocks of the spokes council are the working groups and caucuses.

      • John McG

        Thank you for answering my questions. I agree with most of your answers. I think it is wise to remove the clusters. If the council gets too big you can probably add them later.
        I also appreciate the outreach that you have done since last week. I know everything is very time consuming.
        will be at the GA tonight and will try to help the GA come to consensus in favor of your proposal. I think it makes sense in the big picture.

  7. JZ

    Re: Open Source tools – I suggest using the free code http://publicmarkup.org from Sunlight Labs for online commenting at the sentence level for proposals. Figuring out what the boundaries are when using this is another matter.

  8. JZ

    One more idea that I should probably post elsewhere:

    We need to help make the GA process better and faster without haste. I suggest an LED screen that shows text on the screen after words are spoken to be used during GA’s so that we don’t have so much time taken up in the repetition that happens with the “people’s mic.” There is an iPhone and Android app that has this capability that would have to be programmed + plugged into an LED screen. I’m sure there are other similar possibilities. I think it’s a great idea and totally necessary after experiencing Friday’s exhausting session.

  9. Nabeela

    Dont be afraid. Try it! If there are problems like everything else. Bring it to the GA to modify or dissolve the council. But there is too much hesistation. We need to be more fearless

    • jemcgloin

      We need answers to our concerns. This is the biggest step since we voted to Occupy Wall St. I am all for adjusting systems to make things work better, but somebody needs to come on here and explain why it is better. Contrary to the rhetoric, this proposal adds two layers of hierarchy to a structure that was designed to be as flat as possible. I need real answers to my real questions. Why is this forum here if the structure committee will not use it?

      • snafu

        Because the GA places too much power on individuals Jem. By giving each individual the power to block a proposal, it makes it very easy for anyone to disrupt collective work in the matter of few minutes. The Spokes are not elected representatives but activists who rotate and the GA is still a place where individual concerns can be heard. However, as of now the GA is unable to get anything done and for this reason I am very much in favor of a Council that will be more hierarchical but also more organized and effective. The need of having clusters as opposed to a spoke for each group, however, is a legitimate concern that should be discussed.

        • Marisa Holmes

          We’re thinking of doing away with Clusters in the proposal.
          Its likely they will be needed down the road, but it’s adding
          a layer of confusion thats not helpful.

          (Structure Working Group)

          • jemcgloin

            I think if you put the limit that triggers the need for clusters above the number of working groups now in existence, than the clusters could kick in gradually and organically and only if the number of groups was so big that the meetings were unwieldy.

      • Marisa Holmes

        The Spokes Council is kind of a misnomer.
        There will not be spokespersons in the sense of representatives.
        This is not a hierarchical system.
        It was invented by anarchists of the CNT in Spain,
        who wanted to destroy hierarchies not build them.
        The spokes rotate and are immediately recallable.
        They do not have any power to voice their own opinions.
        The council only exists during meetings,
        when all members of working groups and caucuses
        are able to attend.
        There’s no standing council body.
        I hope this helps =)

        (Structure Working Group)

        • jemcgloin

          I think about things (especially structures) mathematically and I think it is undeniable that the working group becomes part of the cluster which is part of the council, which is part of the GA. This is hierarchy. It may be that we need a little hierarchy, I really don’t think a large country or even NYC could be run without a hierarchical structure. But I think we need to be clear on the reason why each level is needed, and what its formal and informal functions are.
          The need for working groups is long established and the need for them to come together regularly and communicate in a council, seems almost as well established, but the need for clusters, is less obvious.

  10. Patrick Wilson

    The problem I see in the current ‘Spokes Council’ proposal is this:

    The fundamental difference between the hierarchical and the horizontal community is largely in the difference between the facilitator – who’s effort it is to be neutral in speaking for the consensus of the group; and the leader – who is licensed by the group to act in there behalf. The second case is by far the quicker because you don’t always have to go back for clarification. But the facilitator model takes away the autonomy of only the one voice (and this only temporarily) and leaves the most possible autonomy for the larger group; while the leader (hierarchical) model does, approximately, the opposite. Increasing structure then is not so much the danger as is the need to have a constant check on the integrity of the fundamental relationship between the ‘spoke’ (or the facilitators) and the group.
    The danger in the current proposal, then, is in the fact that the difference between leader and facilitator is largely implicit, while, it needs to be explicit to the extent that the actual practice can constantly be corrected against the ideal of neutrality and clarity in the facilitation process. Anything less, I am afraid, would be prone to devolve.

    *I have come to this discussion late so I don’t have spicific suggestions for language at this point… but I will think in that direction in case there are any others who see the need for more clarification in this proposal.

  11. jesse goldstein

    While I understand the desire for empowering groups of people, and having better decision making facilities, I have to admit that this idea does worry me. However, I would feel more comfortable with a proposal like this if a few extra stipulations were added: the first about mandatory rotation/power sharing so either:

    1. no individual person can serve as a ‘spoke’ more than once in any two week period


    2. individuals can serve as spoke for one week, but then cannot serve again in this role for at least 6 weeks.

    if people were uncomfortable with mandating that representation be held on a rotating basis, than I would be uncomfortable with the system of representation.

    Second — I don’t see the need to delineate what this body does vs the GA — why can’t they both do the same things but in different ways? The nature of the organizational form will result in different forms of conversation, and you wont have to take any authorities away from the GA. If the GA wants to spend money then let it – if people from various spokes don’t like this idea, then block it… AT THE GA MTG.

    This sounds like a bunch of people who want to “make real decisions” and not be ‘bothered” by the “nuisance” of the people’s mic and the disorder of a meeting where new people are always present and empowered. annoying as it might be – its the strength of this occupation and whats helping it become a movement – if you try and circumvent this you’ll be shooting yourself — OURSELF — in the foot. Its imperitive – I think – that people attending spokes meeting feel the NEED to attend GA meetings. Otherwise this sort of thing is terrible.

  12. John McG

    As someone who blocked this proposal at the last GA because it was moving too fast, I now support the proposal. I think the last week of outreach, workshops, and rewriting has strengthened the proposal. Taking out the clusters was wise because they were an unnecessary impediment to consensus building within the council.
    I do think that the language that makes clear that the council is subordinate to the GA is very important, since the GA is the voice of all of the people, and the spokes-council is a more specialized creation of the GA.
    I urge those of you considering a block to think about letting this proposal go through, because the problems listed in the proposal are real, and the ability of the working groups to function smoothly and transparently is critical to the success of the movement.

  13. Etan Ben-Ami

    Why the 10/27/11 Spokes Council Proposal is a Danger to the Movement

    1. The proposal is nothing less than a new constitution for the movement. It is complex and it has a wide range of ramifications for the movement. This is too important a decision to be made on a street-corner, in the dark, using the human mic. Despite Structure’s teach ins, many of the people attending this meeting will not have read the curent version of the proposal or had time to read it and evaluate it for themselves. Any consensus we arrive at will be a poorly informed consensus.

    2. The proposal strips the GA of most of its power to engage in practical work. It hands almost all effective control of the movement to the Spokes Council.

    3. Though the GA has the ability to dissolve the Spokes Council, this is a sham. It would require a modified consensus of 90%, including all participants in the Spokes Council who choose to attend. A notice period of one week will enable working groups and caucuses to gather their members to oppose dissolution. In essence, the Spokes Council cannot be dissolved unless it chooses to dissolve itself.

    4. The Spokes Council, is really only accountable to the GA on the level of reporting what it wishes and hearing concerns from GA attendees. The GA cannot revoke a poor decision by means of a proposal. The GA cannot amend the charter of the Spokes Council.

    5. The GA loses control of the OWS budget. It can only make budgetary decisions related to the Occupy movement as a whole. The Spokes Council controls all OWS finances.

    6. The Spokes Council can amend its own process without consulting the GA. For example, it could end 90% modified-consensus decision making and replace it with a simple majority. No one could stop it.

    7. Smaller caucuses and working groups have disproportionately large representation under this system. In a “one-group, one-vote” system, a caucus with three members is equal to a working group with one hundred. This lends itself to corrupt and subversive practices, such as reciprocal voting agreements between groups (vote swapping).

    8. Blocks to Spokes Council proposals can only be brought on the group level. This eliminates the safety provided by individual insight into the discussion of a proposal and its ramifications. Blocks can only occur by the workgroup or caucus as a whole. This means that any block would have to be brought as a proposal within a group and achieve consensus there. This is unlikely to occur, especially in response to a discussion during the Council meeting.


    Please carefully consider the proposal and its ramifications. Join me in blocking on these points.

    — Etan

    • Les evenchick

      Again, ETAN is exactly right. The same thing is happeneing in New Orleans. The GA was told it could not even schedule its own assemblies and could not tell working groups what to do. This even without a new structure proposal. Someone is trying to take over this movement but I dont know who. Anyone know who is in the structre committee and what their politics are?

  14. Judy--is this going to appear in print?

    Thanks for all the great work you and the other leaders of OWS have been doing. Two points:

    I’m really glad OWS has moved to a much tighter, though still democratic structure. I don’t think OWS can change the robber-baron/capitalist system without a highly disciplined organization of leaders. There’s nothing wrong with leadership–it would be, to quote something I read about challenging the IRS without a lawyer, like going to a duel without a weapon. This is why I believe the blocks give too much power to an individual, who may have all kinds of reasons to oppose what might in fact be the very actions that OWS needs.

    The Trotskyist group I used to belong to 40 years ago spoke about the “crisis of leadership” as the reason so many revolutionary movements had failed since the time of Marx. Not from lack of heroism, commitment, or even funding, but because they didn’t have the right understanding to smash a highly organized, powerful class, the 1%.

    The SWP talked about something it called democratic centralism, which meant that members were free to disagree, but once the party had voted for a proposal, the entire membership had to act together to carry out the majority decision. Otherwise, nothing could have ever gotten done.

    Maybe OWS will develop its own system independent from the Democratic party to maximize its power, but I think it’s still too diffuse–with people wandering in and out of GAs, no commitment by a larger whole, and having to deal with drug dealing and other illegal, anti-social activities. The requirement of having to actively participate in OWS to join the Spoke Council is a very good idea.

    Re the website, which is fantastic: could you please set up a way to search on the OWS website for certain, specific posts (or even your own)? Now that comments are routinely into the hundreds, it’s become hard for me to locate certain comments I’m looking for.

    Thanks again!

    PS I couldn’t read the entire text of the Spokes Council proposal–it cuts off at the right margin. How could I fix that?

  15. Tim Rue

    “organized structures of work positions to optimize team work benefits for the members of this planet”.

    What came first: The work group or the task, its definition and goal?

    How does reaching the defined goal fit in the big picture and at smaller levels down to the individual performing the labor to reach the goal?

    Would not a list of goals be the place to start for someone looking to join or start a work group?

    Tasks and goals (general and semi refined), can they not be determined via GAs? Refinement details determined by the work group doing the task

    Posting this after the Spokes Council proposal accepted though with above comments considered.
    Is it the collective council or the physical action of goal reaching most important?

    Hopefully, for someone not there, I’m unknowingly being respective to what is actually happening.

  16. Jon

    There are 3 things that come to mind with this.

    1.) Will it help with efficiency? Is it considered necessary step or just an improvement? and what are the dangers and drawbacks of such a move, many of which have been noted in other comments.

    2.) I feel like the GA should still retain ultimate power in everything, and have the final say in all decisions. Unless there can be shown to be some reason why this is not working, or not working well enough. This way it is still at base a majority, overall consensus of everyone on all issues.

    3.) I understand that OWS will have it’s own unique concerns apart from all other occupy movements, Just as Boston will, or anywhere else, and perhaps i’m veering off topic from which obviously is an important development for OWS, but what would Global GA’s or potentially Spokes Councils or whatever other kind of overall, global organization look like? If it is true that Occupy represents everywhere and the 99%, then wouldn’t it be in everyone’s interest to get both some worldwide strengthening of organization between all groups representing Occupy everywhere? The faster that can start, the deeper our roots will ultimately be. I know this is maybe paranoid, but forming these contacts between each other now can allow for better communication should the internet, youtube, google, twitter or whatever be taken out, just remember what happened in Egypt, and listen to what Homeland Security has also been saying lately. Forgive me if this is off topic, feel free to disregard it, but putting it out there kind of as an aside i guess.

    I love a lot of suggestions i’ve seen thus far, and in regards to the ‘version 1’ proposal of the ‘Spokes Council’ i must admit i like and find appealing. In particular, rotating the spokes person of each group. Another advantage of this, besides preventing anyone from being given too much power, is that leaders will be harder to identify and thus targeted by those who oppose Occupy.

    Just some thoughts.


  17. Jon

    and to just to add, is the ‘Spokes Council’ another, seperate governing body? What immediately jumps out at me with this is then now there is the possibility of division, and the opportunity to sow the seeds of division. With this in mind, i would be more comfortable with saying the ‘Spokes council’ is an *extension* of the GA, which i feel should remain as having the final say in all matters, to keep matters of transparency as easy enforce and regulate as possible.

  18. OccupyEquality

    There is one huge problem with the plan – you are leaving out millions of the 99% who are at home, disabled or otherwise unable to come to Occupy Wall Street. There are many ways to involve us all in the process. I have suggested some to the Queering OWS group but one person objected and the whole idea of live streaming to the net was shot down (tyranny of one is not consensus btw). So for us disabled 99% our voices must be heard and not shut up (like the Ron Paul Koolaid swilling gay bashers on Occupy Wall Street Facebook Group thinks we should be shut up). So open up the process to those of us at home or you cannot say that you represent anyone but your own selfish able bodied protesters and you are not all the 99% – we are.

  19. BradB

    Dynamic Polling , Representative Consensus building … & internet based Spokes Council … ideas

    I’ve been a bit inspired by the Spokes Council structure… and I think there may be an opportunity to expand it with an on-line version… Randall introduced me to ;
    Condorcet Internet Voting Service …re; http://www.cs.cornell.edu/w8/~andru/civs/

    I believe with a bit of tweaking we might be able to dynamically build spoke clusters based on user/member primary interests … using the Condorcet type model… members would be able to quickly change their focus and support of current as well as new topics… we can then real-time present the results of all input at any given snapshot of the data in any given time….

    think about “Consensus” from a mathematical view… all it is … the the picture of what we all view at the time … as we discuss more learn more … the consensus will change … so also the spokes will change … just some ideas before I forget them ….

  20. Brian Tokar

    I read this morning that the spokes council proposal had passed. I’ve followed this debate closely from afar and feel that it is a positive and necessary development. It’s been clear for some weeks that a more functional and accountable decision-making structure was needed, and I know those working on this proposal have an unwavering commitment to direct democracy.

    For further background, I recommend a recent commentary by Michael Albert of ZNet. He is recently back from visiting activists in Europe (Spain, Greece, Turkey, UK, etc.), where people have been able to sustain occupations and militant street actions for many months. Michael argues that the adoption of such structures has been essential to the persistence of those movements and their ability to sustain their vision of a better, fully self-managed society:


  21. BradB

    I now tend to support a hybrid concept… Direct Democracy, with a Representative Consensus, and a People’s Veto …

    here’s my take…

    Direct Democracy…. one person one vote… is the moral & right thing to do… however, if it’s the sole source of voice it does present some problems…

    Consensus… is equality… it is the on-going building of mutual agreement through enlightenment… ie. “We have reached a Consensus”…

    On the SpokesCouncil… Some here beleive that the SpokesCouncil is a governing entity… I disagree…
    the purpose behind the SpokesCouncil is to simply reduce the amount of work and time involved with presentations to the GA’s, allowing the GA’s to cover more issues over the same time… If groups of people unite together under like objectives, discuss, improve presentation.. reach consensus levels…etc. prior to GA meetings… more work can be done in less time. “Spokes” is a good discription, but I think “Consensus Clusters” might be better…

    Patient Change… The easy way to change.. is slow.. we cannot expect to radically change our government over-night without opposition… we can replace the existing leaders over-night.. but people are comfortable in what they know.. change in structure is a process…

    How are we going to interface with our existing government? … As with the power & physical commitment of people on the ground at the Occupations… So is the power & physical commitment of people on the ground in our government… We cannot send a million people to Washington or the state capitol’s for every issue being considered… We must have some form of Representation… Our “Consensus Clusters” give us that… each cluster elects or appoints someone to voice the consensus..
    ie, “Consensus Representation”…

  22. Patricia L

    It would be nice to have this in text form like all of the other GA-approved documents.

    OWS Structure Proposal

    (A Living Document) – Submitted by the Structure Working Group


    Since September 17th, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has grown and inspired occupations around the globe. The General Assembly (GA) is at the heart of this movement. It provides a forum for political discussion and a plurality of ideas. It is, however, struggling to meet the day-to-day operational needs of the Working Groups and Caucuses.


    (Identified in discussions in the GA, Working Groups, and Caucuses)

    • Access: The GA is a difficult place for new people to find a Working Group or Caucus they want to join
    • Transparency: There is a lack of transparency about the on-going activities of the Working Groups
    • Participation: There is little space within the GA for Working Groups and Caucuses to effectively communicate their needs, either to the broader movement or with each other. Many of the groups doing the day-to-day work of the occupation no longer regularly attend the GA.
    • Functionality: Decisions take so long to be made in the GA that there is insufficient time to address the many needs of our Working Groups, and the Working Group members are often left feeling unsupported
    • Decision Making: Attendance at the GA fluctuates from night to night, which makes it difficult to
      make well-informed, consistent, and strategic decisions
    • Accountability: There is no accountability for the spending of finances granted by the GA
    • Marginalization: Some Caucus members do not feel that the GA is an empowering space for marginalized voices
    • Time for Visioning: Broader political and community visions are rarely discussed in the GA because it is consistently bogged down with logistical and financial decisions
    • Trust and Solidarity: The GA does not currently offer its participants the time to get to know each other and build meaningful relationships


    In order to address these problems, while maintaining the non-hierarchical nature of OWS, we propose that, in addition to the General Assembly (GA), we create a directly democratic Spokes Council of Operations Groups and Caucuses.




    The Structure Working Group recommends the following definitions:

    Occupy Wall Street Operations Groups (OGs) are groups that are contributing to the logistical and financial operations of Occupy Wall Street on a consistent basis. They are open and accessible for people to join and can only exclude people for either repeatedly disrupting the group’s process or behaving in such a way that seriously violates the GA’s Principles of Solidarity. Operations Groups must produce a written description of what they do and how people can get involved. The Occupiers (people living in Liberty Park) are defined as an Operations Group.

    Occupy Wall Street Movement Groups (MGs) are groups that are contributing to the Occupy Wall Street movement. They are autonomous and may partner with Operations Groups on a project basis.

    Caucuses are self-determining groups of people that share a common experience of being systemically marginalized in society at large. This marginalization may be based on, but not limited to, their real or perceived race, gender identity, sexuality, age, or ability.



    The GA will continue to have the power to make all decisions about

    • The representation of OWS as a whole (declarations, principles, visions)
    • The relationship between OWS and the Occupy Movement
    • Financial decisions related to the Occupy Movement as a whole
    • Dissolution of the Spokes Council with at least one week notice prior to the proposal. This notice must be given in both the GA and the Spokes Council.



    A Spokes Council is structured similar to the spokes of a wheel: It is designed to combine large group participation (like in the GA) with small group deliberation and consensus process.

    • Each group selects a “spoke” to sit with the other “spokes” in a circle in the middle of the meeting space, with the rest of their group sitting right behind them
    • Spokes have no authority and are not decision-makers. They actively discuss all agenda items with all other members of their group who have joined them for the Spokes Council.
    • Spokes are responsible for communicating any diversity of sentiments that may exist within their group to the rest of the spokes council
    • Spokes rotate at every meeting, and can be recalled by their group at any time
    • During Spokes Councils, individuals in multiple groups are free to sit with any group that they are a part of and to move around at will
    • Movement Groups may partner with Operations Groups and/or Caucuses



    • The four types of decisions that the Spokes Council attend to are:
      1. Decisions related to the logistical operation of Occupy Wall Street
      2. Approval of Occupy Wall Street budgets and expenditures
      3. The addition or subtraction of Operations Groups and Caucuses to the Spokes Council
        • All Working Groups and Caucuses will be admitted to the Spokes Council that adhere to the above definitions of an Operations Group or Caucus and that agree to abide by the Principles of Solidarity adopted (as a working draft) by the GA [available at http://www.nycga.net/about/
        • The only reason a group may be asked to leave the Spokes Council is for either repeatedly disrupting the Spokes Council’s process or for behaving in a way that seriously violates the GA’s Principles of Solidarity
      4. Amendments to the functioning of the Spokes Council that do not alter the power of the GA
    • Similar to the GA, Spokes Council decisions are made by modified consensus. An attempt will be made to reach consensus and if consensus cannot be reached, a vote will be taken. At least 10% of the group must vote against a proposal in order for it to be rejected.
    • Both proposals and blocks to proposals are brought to the Spokes Council by groups as a whole
    • Caucuses may delay any proposal that they think has potentially negative consequences for their caucus until the next Spokes Council, in order to give them enough time to discuss the proposal with their caucus as a whole



    • Anyone may attend a Spokes Council
    • Anyone may participate in a Spokes Council by joining any Operations Group or Caucus in the Spokes
      Council and/or becoming an Occupier (i.e., living in Liberty Square)
    • The Spokes Council will take place in a well-publicized indoor location
    • Amplification and signing will allow everyone to follow the discussion, participate through their Spoke, and ensure that their Spoke correctly communicates the sentiment(s) of their group
    • Each Spokes Council will be broadcast over the Livestream (http://www.livestream.com/occupynyc)
    • Budget details and complete minutes from each Spokes Council will be posted on the NYCGA.net website through open-source technology
    • All decisions made in the Spokes Council are reported back to the GA with space for questions and concerns



    During the first Spokes Council, all Operations Groups and Caucuses will present a description of what they do and how people can become involved in their group. The rest of the groups in attendance will welcome them through the modified consensus process. New groups may continue to propose themselves to the Spokes Council on an
    on-going basis.



    • The GA will meet at 7pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays
    • The Spokes Council will meet at 7pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays




    A spokes council is a structure that has been used widely by democratic movements since the Spanish Revolution and draws inspiration from many indigenous struggles, such as the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. It was used effectively and for many years in the Women’s Movement, the Anti-Nuclear Movement, and the Global Justice Movement in the US. It was also used effectively for years in China in the movement that grew out of Tiananmen Square.






    This proposal has undergone many revisions, taking into account a wide range of concerns. It has been work shopped in: the Facilitation Working Group; the 4 GA discussions; 2 large public meetings; 5 Structure Working Group meetings; and 4 Spokes Council “teach-in” discussions.



    Members of the Structure Working Group have been available from 2-5PM in the Atrium at 60 Wall Street to answer questions and concerns. This will continue on October 27th and 28th. We are also available at owsstructure@gmail.com.

  23. Trish (The 99%)


    Does anyone know where we (OWS) can find Spokes Council’s Charter?

    Where is it posted (Final Version).

    For clarity, we are NOT referring to a proposal to become Spokes Council.

    NYC GA (Working Group) understands all officially recognized groups, affinity or otherwise…

    Must post a Charter, Mandate or Mission Statement.

    Also, please provide a link to the final live-streamed General Assembly which empower Spokes to become an OWS entity, any, and all amendments which may/not have been concensused upon afterward by the NYC
    General Assembly.

    We are attempting to provide clarity, accountability inclusiveness regarding Spokes to all OWS’er.

    Peace & Spokes