An Open Source Decision Making Model for Society
We are an open spokescouncil, designed to welcome the organizing people of Portland — with new people and groups always arriving, with profoundly different perspectives, experiences, needs, values, ideas. This diversity is valuable, a source of wealth.
A core purpose for the spokescouncil is for our groups to hear each other, to discover who agrees on what, and who disagrees. Those who agree can find each other and take action together. Those who disagree can find each other, discuss and debate, and create new solutions that take more perspectives into account, building broader agreement.
In many (perhaps most) situations, this is enough. Collective action does not require everyone-- or even two thirds of everyone -- to agree. This protocol is intended to make the space efficient and useful for such discussions, even if they do not reach an “agreement of the spokescouncil”.
On other occasions, there will be important actions or positions for which speaking in the name of the Neighborhood Confederation Spokescouncil as a whole is valuable. This policy provides tools to address those occasions, while minimizing the risk of ancient ideological disputes or entrenched ego conflicts sidetracking the other work of us all.
How To Use Open Decisions
There are very different kinds of proposals that come to the spokescouncil. We ask of such a proposal: how urgent is it? how much does it affect everyone? how logistical is it? how political is it? etc. Depending on such differences, different outcomes can be sought.
Often, the most valuable outcome of bringing a proposal to a spokescouncil is to discover who agrees to it, so that groups and individuals can act autonomously with that information in mind.
Often, the most valuable outcome is to discover who has strong concerns with a proposal, and what they are, so that more work can be done to create a more comprehensive solution.
Sometimes, however, it is important for the spokescouncil to know that a proposal can be understood to “speak for the whole”. This confers a particular legitimacy.
Which outcome is needed for which proposal is something we hope to explore together in practice. “Open Decisions” are an attempt to formalize a process that can support all the outcomes above, as needed.
Proposals may emerge from open discussion at an assembly or spokescouncil, or from the internal deliberations of a group. However, all proposals to be considered for formal decision by the spokescouncil will be shared in writing to all delegates at least 3 weeks beforehand. This period is intended to provide both:
- opportunity for groups to discuss and determine their collective perspective; and
- time to discuss and refine the proposal online, through the Portland Assembly HumHub and in other ways.
After discussion of a proposal, facilitators will ask to “see the degree of agreement of the spokescouncil”, by asking which delegates agree on behalf of their groups, which disagree, and which stand aside. These proportions will always be recognized and recorded, as the basis for further development of the proposal, and/or autonomous action by those that agree.
- Stand asides will be distinguished from abstentions. Stand asides refer to those groups that have concerns with the proposal but do not oppose it, and will be recorded and count towards the degree of agreement. Abstentions are those groups that lack adequate information or investment to affect the decision, and will not be counted.
- The notetaker will announce a “rough estimate” of the degree of agreement. Then, if there is dispute about whether a threshold has been reached, anyone may ask for an actual count.
If there is very strong support for a proposal, the facilitators may ask to see if there are any remaining concerns of principle (rather than details of implementation). If there are not, this can be considered a “full agreement of the spokescouncil”. This has the greatest legitimacy for action on behalf of the whole.
In various situations, particularly urgent ones, an agreement of 2/3 or more of the spokescouncil can be considered an “agreement of the spokescouncil”. Depending on the proportion, this has relatively less legitimacy as “speaking for the whole” and should be used cautiously with understanding that there are unresolved major concerns.
- If it is important for a proposal to “speak for the whole,” full agreement will always be sought first. If it cannot be reached, the spokescouncil will engage in at least two rounds of seeking changes to the proposal that adequately address the concerns, either between spokescouncil meetings or, for especially urgent matters, within the same meeting. Those that raise objections are responsible for meeting with proponents and trying to address all the needs.
- If, after at least two rounds, there remain major objections, the proponents may ask the spokescouncil to recognize the decision as an “agreement of the spokescouncil” with only 2/3 agreement. The facilitators will ask the spokescouncil, “Is this proposal so urgent or otherwise necessary that we are willing to override the objections of up to 1/3 of the spokescouncil?” If 2/3 of the spokescouncil agree to do so, then the proposal may be considered an “agreement of the spokescouncil”.
Rodrigo proposes a resolution to demand a municipal bank. 60% of the spokescouncil agrees to it. Rodrigo sets a meeting time to get together with those groups that agree to distribute flyers, lobby councilmembers, etc. (Such literature may indicate that 60% of a Portland spokescouncil agreed to the demand.)
Desiree proposes an action to occupy Umpqua Bank offices to stop clearcutting. 40% of the spokescouncil agrees to it, but 50% of the spokescouncil agrees to an action to occupy Wells Fargo to stop investment in DAPL on the same day. Both groups set up times to meet and plan, while also setting up a meeting of those with particularly strong feelings one way or the other to see if a combined or linked action is possible, to be brought back as a revised proposal.
Allison proposes that no one come to the Portland spokescouncil under the effect of drugs or alcohol; 70% of the spokescouncil agrees. It’s referred to the logistics and security committees for further action, with understanding of the weight of support for the idea “speaking for the whole”. At the same time, those with the greatest ideological and practical concerns with the proposal meet with some of those supporting it to address the concerns.
Thami proposes a resolution supporting Rojava/Northern Federation. 60% of the spokescouncil agrees. Groups discuss further, refine the proposal, and at the next 80% agree. While this can when necessary be acted on as an “agreement of the spokescouncil”, there remain some important concerns. Several groups continue to work on addressing those and refining the proposal. Deep discussion ensues, combined with growing experience with the process. New people constantly enter, being trained in the evolving process (including the concerns outstanding). Eventually in two weeks, full agreement (of the 60 reps at the spokescouncil) is reached except for three spokes: an affinity group that has blocked any support of non-anarchist groups as authoritarian, accusing those who proposed the resolution of being infiltrators; and two new religious groups arriving for the first time who think any form of violence, even against Daesh, is unprincipled. This is considered a strong agreement of the spokescouncil — though not a full agreement. Everyone involved is proud of their work, has learned a lot, understands the process much better, and has stronger relationships with each other.