This document was introduced at the Apr 1 GA, and is posted here for review and feedback.
THE SPOKES COUNCIL AND THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The General Assembly defines the spirit and character of Occupy LV as a whole including our declarations, principles, and vision. The Spokes Council discusses practical, logistical matters that often require detailed plans, coordination between Working Groups, and more reliability from participants.
There will sometimes be overlap between these two areas of concern. Whenever Spokes Council decisions could have a major impact on the spirit of Occupy LV, those decisions should be brought to the General Assembly for consensus before being enacted. Similarly, whenever General Assembly decisions could have a major impact on the logistics of Occupy LV those decisions should be brought to the Spokes Council for further discussion and consensus.
The General Assembly can revisit any decision of the Spokes Council.
There is no point planning an OLV Action or implementing an operational function if The People haven’t said they want to do it. For this reason, the Spokes Council takes its lead from the decisions of the GA – the voice of The People – and implements them via the organized efforts of the Working Groups, Affinity Groups and Caucuses.
TYPES OF GROUPS INVOLVED IN THE SPOKES COUNCIL
- Affinity Groups (AG): Affinity Groups form essentially without the GA's endorsement or request, and have the most autonomy of all groups. Affinity Groups decide on their own internal structure and procedures. The only requirement is that an Affinity Group must have at least some overlap with the overall mission of OLV. Affinity Groups may conduct their actions entirely autonomously from the GA, the only requirement is that they not use the name of OLV in doing so unless the GA has approved sponsoring or co-sponsoring the event.
- Working Groups (WG): The Working Group is the highest level subdivision of the GA itself, and is devoted to specific, need-based tasks. Unlike Affinity Groups, Working Groups are formed by the GA to serve a direct need of the GA, and also unlike Affinity Groups, Working Groups must go by the consensus model (although their meetings may be more informal than GAs). The GA may delegate tasks to a Working Group, and the Working Group may act autonomously only within the scope of its area of expertise.
- Caucuses: A Caucus is an assembly of people united by ethnicity, cultural marginalization, under-representation or some other shared trait external to OCCUPY. In many Occupy cities you will find examples such as the “Elder Caucus”, the “Aboriginal Peoples Caucus”, the “People of Color Caucus”, etc. Caucuses participate in voting and consensus just as Affinity Groups and Working Groups do. A special example is the “Cyber99 Caucus” of OccupyLV, which relies on a “Cyber Wrangler” for its spoke. Another special example is the “Open Caucus.” Any visitors to a Spokes Council who are not members of an existing Affinity Group, Working Group or Caucus are considered members of the “Open Caucus” – which possesses no voting or blocking power.
SPOKES COUNCIL DECISIONS & DECISION-MAKING
The general types of decisions made by the Spokes Council include:
1. Decisions related to the logistics and operation of Occupy LV, including both normal business operations and in-field operations (i.e. Actions & Events).
2. Approval of Occupy LV budgets and expenditures.
3. Amendments to Spokes Council functions that don’t alter the power of the GA.
4. The addition or subtraction of Affinity Groups, Working Groups and Caucuses to/from the Spokes Council.
All Groups that adhere to the criteria for Affinity Groups or Caucuses (see below), and that agree to abide by any Principles of Solidarity* set forth by the GA will be accepted upon a decision by the existing Spokes Council.
A lack of consensus to accept a group is not a rejection of the group. Relevant Working Group people, facilitators, and/or mediators will be available to meet with members of the group in question to further discuss their work, and, if useful, to connect them with pre-existing Working Groups or Caucuses, as concerns may be about duplication of existing Working Groups.
A group may only be asked to leave the Spokes Council for...
- Repeatedly disrupting the Spokes Council's process or for behaving in a way that seriously violates the GA's Principles of Solidarity*.
- For missing three consecutive meetings.
- No longer fulfilling the criteria for participation laid out in the section below. Proposals and blocking concerns to proposals are brought to the Spokes Council by Affinity Groups, Working Groups or Caucuses, each operating as a whole. Groups may delay any proposal that has potentially negative consequences for them until the next Spokes Council, in order to give them enough time to discuss the proposal with their group.
The Principles of Solidarity, also known as points of unity, encompass the values of our movement, locally and globally. This reference is from the original Spokes Council proposal from Occupy Wall Street, and can be found here. Our hope is that by including them here, Occupy LV will reach consensus on them, modifying as necessary to develop our own Principles of Solidarity.
- Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
- Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
- Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
- Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
- Redefining how labor is valued;
- The sanctity of individual privacy;
- The belief that education is human right; and
- Making technologies, knowledge, and culture open to all to freely access, create, modify, and distribute.
CRITERIA FOR GROUP PARTICIPATION IN THE SPOKES COUNCIL
The following criteria must be met for any Group participating in the Spokes Council:
- The group actively participates and is engaged in ongoing work of Occupy LV.
- There are enough active members in the group to ensure the person representing the spoke never repeats for three consecutive meetings. Ideally there should be at least 2 or 3 additional members present at each Spokes Council meeting as well.
- Working Groups must produce a written description of their roles and responsibilities and how people can get involved.
- Affinity Groups and Caucuses have autonomy to make decisions for their group as they please but should inform the Spokes Council of the process used in their group, the number of active members, and the time of their most recent meeting.
THE ROLE OF THE SPOKE
- The Spoke is not a decision-maker for its members, but rather a spokesperson - they actively discuss all agenda items with all other members of their group who have joined them for the Spokes Council.
- The Spoke is responsible for communicating diversity of sentiments that may exist within their group to the rest of the Spokes Council.
- The Spoke for each group rotates at every meeting, and can be recalled by their group at any time. The same person can only serve as the spoke once every three meetings.
- If for any reason a group cannot consent on a spoke person, a facilitator will be asked to serve as the spoke for the group with the sole role of communicating the diversity of opinion within the group to the Spokes Council.
- Open and Fluid Structure:
- During the Spokes Councils, individuals in multiple groups are free to sit with any group that they are a part of and can move around at will.
- For anyone wanting to participate in the Spokes Council who is not affiliated with a Working Group or other Caucus, there will be a “Open Caucus” with fluid membership. This Open Caucus will be able to participate as a spoke but will not be able to block or otherwise impede consensus. A facilitator will serve as the Spoke and help the Open Caucus by encouraging discussion and communicating the diversity of opinions to the rest of the Spokes Council.
ADVANTAGES OF THE SPOKES COUNCIL MODEL
● Access: The GA is a large public assembly featuring a large and ever-shifting group of participants. The conversations are loose, broad, and often of the “personal-story” variety, since many newcomers are entering Occupy-space for the first time. It’s important not to overwhelm these newcomers with details of process, by making the GA itself very simple and discussion-oriented. However, this means that the GA will be a difficult place to find Groups or Caucuses to join, and for activist work to actually get done. The Spokes Council provides an easy way for individuals to observe the process in action, to find Working Groups or Caucuses they might want to join, and to facilitate the practical operation of OccupyLV as a whole.
● Transparency: The Spokes Council creates a space for all members to understand the roles, responsibilities, and work of all Working Groups and Caucuses.
● Participation: Since there will be very little space within the GA for Working Groups or Caucuses to effectively communicate their needs, the Spokes Council will bring together members of all active Working Groups and Caucuses into a direct dialogue about implementing actions to achieve our goals.
● Functionality: Decisions take longer the more people involved. At the GA there is insufficient time to address the many logistical needs of OLV. The intention of the Spokes Council is to deal with the logistical needs of OLV regarding operations and actions, giving the meetings a clear focus, with opportunity for understanding and supporting the needs and aspirations of all Affinity Groups, Working Groups and Caucuses.
● Decision Making: Attendance at the GA fluctuates continually, which makes it difficult to make well-informed, consistent, and strategic decisions. Spokes Councils encourage more focused participation.
● Financial Accountability: There is no accountability for the spending of finances granted by the GA. The Spokes Council would be responsible for approving major spending decisions. Affinity Groups handle their own finances, and may make requests from the Spokes Council for allotments or reimbursements.
● Time for Visioning: Broader political and community visions are rarely discussed in the GA because it gets bogged down with logistical decisions. Having a dedicated space for the nuanced and detail-oriented discussions of managing logistics in a Spokes Council will free up the GA for movement building and political discussion.
● Trust and Solidarity: The open structure of the GA allows miscreants such as saboteurs and habitual contrarians to hijack the decision-making processes and waste the group's time. While this is certainly a pitiable and disgusting thing, it's less harmful than wasting the Spokes Council's time. The focused efforts of the Working Groups, Affinity Groups and Caucuses - having already passed GA consensus or having been derived from GA requests for specific actions - are more imperative to the operation of the organization. Open discussions in the GA allow well-intentioned members to learn about each other’s visions, despite the occasional bigot, cynic, or argumentative individual, while the more streamlined efforts of the Spokes Council will build greater trust and synergy among our Affinity Groups, Working Groups and Caucuses - the people who actually get the work done - regardless of any such noise arising in the GAs.