The spokes council model is a structured, democratic process used within organizations and protest movements including the Zapatistas, Chaipas, the Women’s Movement, and Anti-Nuclear Movement.
Problems and Purpose
The spokes council model is a structure for democratic process that has been used within organizations and protest movements 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 has also been used by Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Portland and Occupy Vancouver.
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.
Origins and Development
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Participant Recruitment and Selection
Anyone can attend the Spokes Council. A Spokes Council is used as a way of organizing a movement or group, so attendees will usually be those involved with that movement. 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.
How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making
Committees 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 the movement and wish to collaborate on joint efforts.
A spoke is a rotating, agreed-upon representative of a committee, caucus or outside organization. Spokes are considered a neutral spokesperson, not the unilateral decision maker for the group. They should be thought of as a facilitator rather than temporary leaders.
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 the movement. 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 two 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.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
Note: The following analysis is the view of Occupy Vancouver's Spokes Council Working Group.
Access: The Spokes Council 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 the 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.
“Spokes Council Model,” P2P Foundation Wiki, last modified July 23, 2017, http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Spokes_Council_Model.
"Category Archives: Spokes Council," Occupy Wall Street Library, https://peopleslibrary.wordpress.com/category/spokes-council/
“Clusters & Spokes Councils,” Organizing for Power, Organizing for Change, December 3, 2012, https://organizingforpower.org/clusters-spokes-councils/.
This entry was originally submitted by the Spokes Council Work Group of Occupy Vancouver and is a living document.
Lead image: Occupy Wall Street Library, https://goo.gl/av54bv