Occupy Vancouver's Spokes Council was developed through a democratic process of five work groups.
Problems and Purpose
Occupy Vancouver attracted a large number of participants necessitating the creation of a democratic process of oversight and decision making. Working groups were held to determine the final structure and schedule of the governing Spokes Council. During the occupation, the movement also used the General Assembly model and developed
Background History and Context
Occupy Vancouver began like many others on the 'Global Day of Action': October 15th, 2011. One month later, on November 15th 2011, the occupation of the Downtown Vancouver Art Gallery outdoor plaza began with the erection of a tent city.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
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Participant Recruitment and Selection
The work groups organized to develop a Spokes Council were open to all.
Methods and Tools Used
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.
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.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Five work groups were held 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 final model was based on the experience of Occupy Wallstreet and Occupy Portland. 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.
The following structure was proposed:
Committees - 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.
Caucus - a self determined group of people who share a common experience of marginalization by society at large.
Outside Organizations - those that have given public support to Occupy Vancouver and wish to collaborate with our efforts.
Spoke - 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 - 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.
Schedule: 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.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Occupy Vancouver Spokes Council was adopted. It is unclear how long the Council lasted or how often it met. The group is still active although their public presence is apparently confined to their Facebook page .
Analysis and Lessons Learned
According to Occupy Vancouver, the Spokes Council developed had the following advantages:
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.
Molly Osberg and Tim “@DiceyTroop” Fitzgerald, "Assembling, Generally," Occupy! Gazette, October 28, 2012, http://occupywallstreet.net/story/assembling-generally
This case is based off the living document created by Occupy Vancouver's Spokes Council Work Group drafted on Dec 12th, 2011.
Lead image: Dan Toulgoet | Vancouver Courier https://goo.gl/nzn4r6