Whoever degrades another degrades me, And whatever is done or said returns at last to me. Walt Whitman
... the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole. But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god... Aristotle
These days, i am working at the Portland Nursery. I'm interested in resilience and mutual aid, sourdough bread, contra dance, feminist science fiction, open pollination literal and metaphorical, perennial food crops, knitting, formal consensus, sunlight and shadow.
And if human personality is an illusion? And if, as biology tells us, every single cell in our body is replaced every seven years by another? At the most I hold in my arms something like a fountain of flesh, continuously playing, and in my mind a rainbow of dust. Lawrence Durrell
- The relevant pieces of 2011 governance proposal should be extracted and made into something like governance structure, so the proposal can be a historical document and the policy stand on its own for reference and updating as needed.
- Council needs to be updated. Should have a history of the entity.
developing council thoughts
- Bylaws establish Council as part of FG structure and source of short and long term vision
- Principles are the required guidelines for Free Geeks, to be monitored by FG-Intergalactic when it is created. includes democratic, transparent, non-hierarchical operation.
- Free Geek is a "million-dollar organization", requiring strategic planning
- we want to continue to attract and retain brilliant, dedicated and compassionate staff
Current state of the council:
- made up of self-selected volunteers, staff, and board members who follow the email list (lists.freegeek.org/listinfo/council) and attend monthly meetings. barriers to entry mainly time, ability to attend, access email.
- agenda partly set (mainly reports), mostly driven by items added by individual council members (often staff). tends to be reactive.
- though priorities (the current formulation of how council reconciles/sets a big picture plan) was added to the agenda, actual discussion & planning have not much resulted from it.
How does priorities process fail?
- inconsistent pursuit (picks up and falls off)
- changing makeup of council means re-framing and re-explaining often necessary
- tools useful when consistently used, but confusing in a start-stop process
- not much work done outside of meetings to either maintain momentum or engage non-attendee stakeholders & collect background information
- big picture lost in details (hard to keep scale consistent)
- people most consistently engaged have many other responsibilities
- only tangentially tied in with budget process
- no coherent vision/plan within which to contextualize individual projects
- framing it as a priorities process, comparing the relative importance of different projects, loses the big picture
Some of these failings can be dealt with by creating a vision statement and a plan for maintaining it. Others might be dealt with by creating work groups to develop materials outside of meetings, or delegating people to do research outside of meetings. Many, however, point to problems in council.
- How should Free Geek figure out what to do next?
- How do we make it possible for new people to engage effectively in council without derailing process?
- How do we make it possible for people with good ideas to put them in action quickly?
- How do we make it possible for people to share ideas and concerns without large time commitment?
- How do we ensure that necessary between-meeting legwork is done?
Some notes from conversations
- MC: to keep priorities discussions rolling/maintaining responsibility -- weekly council workgroup for preparing agenda and presenters, developing proposals and making sure people have background information. facilitator would have to come.
- MC: increase opportunities for volunteers to participate in council (surveys, workshops, posting things more often). decrease burden of responsibility to widen the base. narrow the focus (through single-issue venues like surveys) to prevent off-topic time wastage. make data gathering easier for any council member.
- LH: create process for people to get background on issues ("i want to address x. is there any history i should know?") better email list use? email list style guide/howto? (background request, proposal, agenda, minutes)
- DH: some council participants have a hard time separating personal needs/desires from the needs of the org.
- DH: have a minimum volunteer time commitment for council participation (4hr/wk)
- LH: continuity editor/ agenda coordinator position, selected from within council
- MC: "how can we fulfill the needs of the community best?" potential donors, potential volunteers, potential recipients
- only 2 months in the last 12 have seen council minutes sent to the minutes list
- LH: annual agenda calendar: combine board selection calendar with vision development and assessment cycles