Occupy Amherst – Current Norms – Work-in-Progress
(Approved for posting at Jan. 11, 2012 GA)
- Discussions at the GA are respectful. We want to hear from and include the voices of everyone present. Decisions are made through a consensus-seeking process.
- We use the hand signals from OWS and other occupations in order to facilitate communication and consensus. The signals help participants communicate without interrupting the speaker and give us an easy way to take the “temperature” of the assembly when considering proposals.
- The Facilitation Working Group is responsible for facilitating GAs and helping the GAs run effectively and democratically. The FWG is not a decision-making body for the GA.
- In general, proposals and written drafts are prepared by individuals, temporary task forces, or WGs beforehand and then brought to the GA. This gives the GA something concrete to respond to / amend / accept / reject, etc.
- We have not yet discussed issues concerning “progressive stack” or “step forward / stand back” which are ways to encourage participation by everyone, recognizing differences in power and privilege.
- GAs are planned to be 2 hours long, and the group holds to that timeframe. If there’s not enough time to complete the agenda, items may be carried over to the next meeting.
- We usually end the GA with a song. This has been a great way to feel united and inspired after the hard work of a GA.
- Working groups are open to new participants at any time and give report-backs to the GA each week so everybody knows about important happenings.
- Minutes are taken at each GA, with an emphasis on decisions made and specific steps to be taken. Minutes are posted on the website – www.occupyamherst.com.
- 10. OA uses its website, listserv, and Facebook page as important tools for communication and outreach.
Structure and Decision-Making Process of Occupy Amherst
The following proposal establishing the structure and decision-making process for Occupy Amherst was approved by consensus of participants on Nov. 30 (parts 1 and 2) and Dec. 6 (part 3), 2011:
1. General Assembly: The coordinating body for Occupy Amherst (OA) will be called a General Assembly (GA) with the following purposes:
- To encourage enthusiasm and support for a diverse array of people wanting to contribute to the 99% Movement;
- To provide a place to cross-pollinate and share ideas; and
- To provide a clear process for how to introduce new ideas and get them acted upon.
2. Working Groups: Working Groups (WGs) will be formed in order to maintain and develop OA itself, as well as to address the political and economic issues of importance to its participants. In order to be recognized as a WG of the OA, a proposal must be brought to the GA for official recognition and acceptance. WGs will meet on their own, but make proposals to the GA for any actions that require resources / support / or suggest affiliation with OA. The number and scope of WGs depends on the interest, energy and creativity of OA participants.
3. Decision-Making Process: OA will use a “consensus-seeking process” for decision-making. A consensus decision would mean most people are in agreement; some may be “neutral”; nobody presents a substantive disagreement. If there is a substantive disagreement, the group will take time to discuss it. If agreement can’t be reached in the time set aside for that discussion, the proposal would then either be withdrawn or “go back to the drawing-board” — to the individual or group that proposed it, so that they can re-think it based on the discussion. If / when the proposal is re-introduced, the group could then pass it with a 90% majority.
Occupy Amherst – like New York City and many others – uses hand signals at its General Assemblies. These signals give us a “common language” with other GAs. (You can see some of these in pictures here ) The signals are a convenient way for participants to communicate without having to verbally interrupt the person who is speaking. The “twinkles” provide a quick way to assess the “temperature” of the group regarding a proposal, and help facilitate the consensus process. “Stack” is the order in which people are called on to speak. If you want to speak to the topic being discussed, catch the eye of the person who is “taking stack” so that your name can be added to the list.
The following are from LibertySqGA tweets – 11/05/2011.
“We respect the process because we respect each other.”
Up-twinkle = Feeling good!
Down-twinkle= don’t agree!
Mid-twinkle = neutral.
C-with-hand= clarifying question! Usually taken on stack
Point of Information = finger up! Used only if you have an actual fact that addresses the point b4 the GA
Triangle hands = point of process! PoP = someone is straying from the process, talking out of turn, etc.
Point of Information (PoI) and point of process (PoP) are non-verbal, not used to interrupt each other.
Arms crossed = block! Very serious! Don’t abuse the block! Block is used for serious safety/ethical concerns re a proposal
Rolling hands = compassionately, lovingly letting speakers know that speakers can wrap it up.
Step up, then step back! Take leadership, say your piece, then step back and let other people lead/say their piece
Check your privileges: gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, etc. and act accordingly.
Comments that are racist, sexist, oppressive or disrespectful are not welcome
Clarifying questions make the proposal more understandable (hopefully). Stack for concerns comes after CQs are over.