I did not check the links, but I have a reply:
I am exited to be learning about the great stuff that is happening in this area of the world ie; transition whatcom and related efforts toward sustainability. Organizing groups sounds like a blast and a great way to get things moving, and keep things going.
I could love to chat with people about how they have organized groups, facilitated groups, and accomplished things with groups.
There's an interesting thread on the "Transition In Action" site, where Tamara Sunsong from Transition Victoria asks for help on how to deal with consensus decision making in Transition organizing groups. Lots and lots of replies. My reply to her is below, which I think more directly addressed her question than some of the other more more broadly theoretical replies about governance.
This is a very important topic. The problem of using full consensus, allowing newcomers and those with less commitment to an organization to be able to participate equally in decision making is a common one. As Vicki Robin said to our Initiating Group after our Great Unleashing, you need to limit decision making to those "with skin in the game." I don't think this line of thinking violates the Transition principle of inclusiveness.
The solution that I've found to be elegant, is to employ the idea of concentric rings of responsibility as described in the Acorn / 8 Shields model of organization. I have worked with Alan Seid of Cascadia Workshops, who teaches this. He explains it very concisely on his website.
Alan writes that allowing anyone who shows up to participate equally in decision making is a "big mistake." Instead he says, "Design your group's structure so that it can accommodate varying levels of participation, engagement, and commitment, so that people can contribute at a level that works for them. These levels of participation also equate to varying degrees of access to decision-making, according to people's energy to give, level of responsibility, commitment, investment and/or legal liability. Furthermore, clarify your "threshold of commitment" for each level, so that expectations and requirements are transparent. Always keep in mind that at the center is the group's vision, mission, and purpose."
These "thresholds of commitment" can be drawn or visualized as concentric rings. At the center is the vision/mission; the next ring out will be your initiating group or operating group. You can limit membership of this group and have a process for electing people to this ring (I can share the Transition Whatcom process if you'd like). This group, if kept to a manageable scale, can use full consensus decision making. Then each circle out from that has a little less responsibility and makes decisions appropriate for that level (these might be Transition working groups, etc.).
The process is fully explained here:
Read Tamara's discussion topic at the Transition In Action site: "Help! Governance and decision making within Transition Groups"
One thing to improve communication is having discussion meetings with a moderator. We all need personal associations to find happiness in our lives. So rules need to be added to our friendly meetup type groups.
It is a very simple process. Someone has to be a moderator and he/she controls the time and who speaks next. Group members raise their hands to indicate to the moderator that they have something to say or want to ask a question of the speaker or someone else at the meetup. The moderator makes a list of who wants to speak next.
The other task of the moderator is to stop any side conversations and to take a break after a curtain time. The moderator job can be shared once group members get the hang of it, like stopping people from jumping in on the conversation to make comments without permission from the moderator. At first this game play may be very hard for some people to deal with, but some they will be surprised at how good the discussions get.
Now this structured party type conversaton is like Roberts Rule of Order in a formal group meeting.
I enjoyed your commentary here! Especially was caught with this part:
"People the world over are denied that which has intrinsic value (such as food, shelter, clean water, clean air, etc.) because they lack that which does not, a social construct with no value outside of the human mind. A social construct that has turned "living" into a noun, as in "a living." And turned living beings, including humans, into commodities. Think about the insanity of that. It lies at the root of so many of the world's horrors. It can even lead to turmoil among well-meaning, thoughtful, compassionate Transitioners."
I don't have much to add to that - I just wanted to acknowledge to you (and others that may follow) that truly appreciate your perspective here.
I am also planning on looking into Jeff Vail's work. I often feel stymied in conversation by the lack of vocabulary I have regarding what I am thinking. I am guessing he may be able to help me out here. Thanks for the reference!
Garrett Snedaker said:
This is more in response to what David posted than to the topic at hand:
An anarchist in spirit, if not in action, I see "central governance" (to use Tamara's phrase) as something to avoid like the plague. For one thing, it's about as sustainable as our present industrial-technological society. In other words, it's not sustainable. Dunbar's Number is not to be trifled with.
I'll mention again how much appreciation I have for Jeff Vail's A Theory of Power. Even if Vail has stopped writing about rhizome networks, I think he totally has the right idea. In a nutshell, loosely-connected, non-hierarchal networks.
Be very wary of power, of hierarchy. A line from the most recent Batman movie was quite profound. "Structures become shackles." A major problem I have with the likes of Deep Green Resistance adherents is the talk about "taking back power." Power is a disease. I opt for not engaging it.
And, as at least one other person told Tamara, leave money out of the equation. Think for a moment about just how preposterous the monetary system is. People the world over are denied that which has intrinsic value (such as food, shelter, clean water, clean air, etc.) because they lack that which does not, a social construct with no value outside of the human mind. A social construct that has turned "living" into a noun, as in "a living." And turned living beings, including humans, into commodities. Think about the insanity of that. It lies at the root of so many of the world's horrors. It can even lead to turmoil among well-meaning, thoughtful, compassionate Transitioners.