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Spokes Council - Occupy Vancouver
Occupy Vancouver Spokes Council Model
Submitted by the Spokes Council Work Group
(A Living Document)
Dec 12th 2011
Brief History of the Spokes Council:
The spokes council model is a structure for democratic process that has been used for many years. It has been employed by many organizations and struggles including the Zapatistas, Chaipas, the Women’s Movement, Anti-Nuclear Movement, and Global Justice Movement. It is also currently being used by Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Portland.
How does the Spokes Council work?
The spokes council works like the spokes of a wheel. It is designed to allow for large group participation and small group discussion to work together with consensus. Each committee, caucus, or outside organization consenses on a representative, a rotating spokesperson or ‘spoke’ who meets in the middle with the other spokes for form the council. The committees, caucuses or outside organizations sit directly behind the spoke for direct consultation on decisions being made.
Committees are groups that contribute to Occupy Vancouver’s operations regularly. They are open to everyone and can only exclude people for constant disruption or violating General Assembly Agreements.
A Caucus is a self determined group of people who share a common experience of marginalization by society at large.
Outside Organizations are organizations that have given public support to Occupy Vancouver and wish to collaborate with our efforts.
A spoke is a rotating, agreed-upon representative of a committee, caucus or outside organization. Spokes are considered a neutral spokes person, not the unilateral decision maker for the group. They should be thought of as a facilitator rather than temporary leaders.
General Assembly and the Spokes Council
The General Assembly will continue to happen with the Spokes Council operating with a mandate from the General Assembly. The Spokes Council will oversee committee work and logistical matters leaving the General Assembly open to more broad visioning, goal setting, and more open ended political discussion.
Open Access and Transparency
- Anyone may attend the Spokes Council
- Anyone can participate in the council by joining a committee or caucus. Also new and non-affiliated members can participate in the open caucus which has a voice but no say in the Spokes Council consensus process.
- The Spokes Council will take place in a well publicized space.
- Minutes will be taken at every Spokes Council and posted online.
- The Spokes Council will be livestreamed whenever possible.
- All decisions made by the Spokes Council will be reported back to the General Assembly for questions or concerns.
The Spokes Council will meet on Tuesday at 7pm and Sunday at 1pm every week.
History of this proposal
This proposal is based on the work done at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Portland. You can find their models here:
These models were used as templates to be built on. We held 5 work groups to gather information about problems people had with the model and work out mechanisms to correct the issues raised. The first work group had over 30 people attend and created a long list of potential issues to be worked out. The subsequent work groups tackled each problem on the list while opening the floor to new issues until there were no more foreseeable problems with the model. Like all documents in Occupy Vancouver, this is a living document, and as such, is open to the process of revision at any time.
Access: This model creates greater access for those outside of Occupy Vancouver and within. It has been difficult to find committees and caucuses within the General Assembly. This creates a central location for people to easily find a group they wish to participate in.
Transparency: The Spokes Council enables greater communication of committee work, roles, and responsibilities.
Process: With a clear mandate to make decisions over committee work and logistical matters and because of the efficiency of the model, the Spokes Council will greatly increase our ability to make decisions and follow through on them.
Marginalization: The General Assembly is currently not an empowering model for marginalized people. The ability for marginalized groups to create a caucus and have a spoke on the council will allow for greater participation from marginalized voices.
General Assembly: Taking the logistical and committee work into the Spokes Council frees up the General Assembly to talk more about broad visioning and goal setting while at the same time opening it up for more open ended political discussion. The General Assembly remains the highest decision making body.
Trust: The General Assembly does not give participants much time to interact with one another or build meaningful relationships. A more structured environment for the group members to interact creates even more time to communicate and build relationships through continued interaction. This will do a lot towards building trust within our movement.
Spokes Council Model in Detail
The Spokes Council and the General Assembly
The General Assembly will continue to operate in conjunction with the Spokes Council. The General Assembly will define the goals, vision, character, and spirit of Occupy Vancouver.
The Spokes Council operates with a mandate to oversee committee work and logistical decisions. The Spokes Council must report its actions to the General Assembly to allow for questions and concerns.
Sometimes there will be overlap in decisions made by the General Assembly and Spokes Council. In such a situation a decision made by the General Assembly that directly affects the logistical realm of the Spokes Council should be brought to the Spokes Council for consensus. Likewise decisions made by the Spokes Council that greatly affect the goals of Occupy Vancouver will be brought to the General Assembly for consensus.
Because of the General Assembly’s authority over the Spokes Council, if members of the General Assembly feel that a Spokes Council decision goes against the core values of Occupy Vancouver or General Assembly agreements they can form a work group to discuss the issue to create a veto proposal. The proposal is then brought to the General Assembly and put through the consensus process. If consensus is achieved on the veto, the Spokes Council must cease work on the decision and rework the idea for future General Assembly approval.
It is mandatory that a record keeper be established before the Spokes Council can begin. When the Spokes Council breaks to speak with their groups the spokes are responsible for making sure someone is a record keeper within their respective groups.
Role of the Spokes
The Spokes Council is made up of rotating representatives from caucuses, committees, and outside organizations. Spokes are considered neutral spokes person not the decision maker for their groups; they must share the differing views and decisions that their groups have come to consensus on with the Spokes Council. The spoke is a facilitator rather than temporary leader of their group. The spokes must rotate and can be recalled by their group at any time.
The function of the council is not to unilaterally make decisions for the rest of Occupy Vancouver. Issues are brought to the Spokes Council, the council then breaks into their respective groups to discuss the issues and come to consensus. The council then reassembles and reports the diversity of opinion and consensuses reached. A committee or caucus must send a spoke and at least 2 other members to the Spokes Council.
Dissenting voices in a committee or caucus that feel their voice is not being represented by their spoke are encouraged by the Spokes Council that try and resolve the issue within their group. If differing or dissenting opinions are not being represented in the Spokes Council, the members of the spoke’s group can show a point of process and the Spokes Council is responsible for addressing the issue. If a group feels so strongly that the spoke is misrepresenting the group’s views, the group can ‘mic check’ to interrupt the spokes council and recall their spoke.
Note: It was recommended that a comment box be created for dissenting views to be recorded.
Definition of Groups in the Spokes Council
Committees are groups that contribute to the operations of Occupy Vancouver regularly. They are open to everyone and can only exclude people for constant disruption or violation of General Assembly agreements. Each committee is responsible for one aspect of Occupy Vancouver’s day to day logistical operations; for example, Media Committee, Direct Action Committee, Legal Committee etc... Committee’s spokes have a say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council.
Caucuses are self determined groups of people that share a common experience of marginalization from society at large. These caucuses have a say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council to create space for greater participation from marginalized voices in our decision making process.
Both committees and caucuses must have at least 4 members and be registered with the Spokes Council to be allowed a spoke on the council. There is no maximum to the number of people allowed on a committee or caucus.
Outside organizations are organizations that have given public support for Occupy Vancouver and wish to collaborate with Occupy Vancouver’s efforts. They do not have a say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council except in decisions that directly affect them. Their spoke does not have to rotate and they do not have to attend a Spokes Council if they do not wish to. They also have to register with the Spokes Council to have the right to a spoke.
Both committees and outside organizations must have a mandate approved by the Spokes Council or General Assembly.
Open caucus is a caucus that is always available for anyone to join and participate in. This caucus is primarily aimed at allowing non-affiliated and new members of occupy to see how the process works and allow their voices to be heard. This caucus has no say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council but has a spoke and the ability to have its opinions voiced.
Livestream spoke is a representative from the Livestream Committee that is charged with representing the views and ideas of those on the Occupy Vancouver Livestream (www.livestream.com/occvan). This spoke will have no say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council until an appropriate mechanism is in place to allow for a fair consensus of the livestream to be reached. They are only there to give voice to the opinions of those on livestream.
Moderated seat of dissent is a seat on the spokes council that is reserved for a moderator whose sole purpose is to voice any dissenting views that feels their voice is not being represented by their spoke. Any member of a caucus or committee who feels their opinion is not being properly represented by their spoke can approach this moderator anytime during the Spokes Council. This moderator does not have a say in the consensus process of the Spokes Council.
- Spokes’ rounds
- Basis of Unity read un-mic checked
- Role of spoke is explained
- Registrations of new Caucuses, Committees, and Outside Organizations
- Follow up on old proposals the Spokes Council came to consensus on at the last meeting.
- Body of the meeting*
*The body of the meeting was left open. This was to give the Spokes Council and the facilitation team the freedom to choose how to facilitate the meeting and how long to discuss specific agenda items.
An example of the body of the meeting would look like this:
- Old proposal that was postponed at the last meeting open for discussion
- First new proposal for discussion
- Second new proposal
- Committee announcements
The Spokes Council will meet on Tuesday at 7pm and Sunday at 1pm every week. Once a month there will be a Spokes Council meeting that all registered committees must attend, or be required to submit a report explaining their nonattendance.