Sheffield 2019/ Cotech governance

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During the 2 days, a working group was formed to discuss how to understand some of the problems that are hindering CoTech's progress and look at ways to improve how CoTech operates and therefore furthers its aims. The following is a proposal for a change to the Constitution which will be posted on Loomio for voting on by members.

Background

CoTech’s constitution going into the Spring Gathering 2019 included the following statement:

How do we make decisions?

The network currently makes member decisions using a consensus process on Loomio - an online decision making tool. The process for this is:

  • a proposal is created on Loomio with a deadline of at least one week,
  • votes are cast on a one coop, one vote basis,
  • the proposal passes if there are no 'disagree' or 'block' votes.

Proposal

CoTech forms a general “decision-making” circle that meets virtually on a synchronous basis once per month. This meeting should be attended by one representative of each member coop. The number of co-ops necessary to constitute a quorum for decision-making is one-third of the membership.

Context

A number of issues have been identified through discussions at the last two CoTech Gatherings that are hindering the progress of the network.

After extensive discussion at the CoTech Gathering in Sheffield, it was felt that this proposal would be a step in the right direction, though it does not seek or claim to solve these.

These include, but are not limited to those listed in Appendix 1.

Purpose

  • To further the objectives of CoTech
  • To streamline the decision-making process
  • To encourage greater dialogue between member co-ops

Remit

  • Review and approve new member applications
  • Form new policy and processes (including necessary sub-circles)
  • Collect and distribute news to members

Who

Each member co-op chooses a representative to attend the meeting. Representatives may change at any time, but it is the responsibility of each co-op to properly brief their representative on the minutes and actions from previous meetings. It is the responsibility of the representative to communicate outcomes of the meeting to their coop members.

How

Attendance is voluntary, however the decisions of the circle are binding once voting has taken place. Voting is dependent upon attendance at the relevant meeting, because a good decision can only be made after hearing what people say in the meeting.

Agenda building

All meetings will have a clear structure, inspired by sociocratic principles, and each agenda item will aim to achieve one of the following:

  1. Understanding
  2. Exploring
  3. Decision-making

This is outlined in more detail in Appendix 2.

When

The circle will meet at 16:00 UK time on the last Wednesday of every month. The first meeting will therefore take place on 29th May 2019.

Where

The circle will meet in https://office.coops.tech/call/optosaq7

Backup is https://meet.jit.si/cotech-general-circle

Roles

The circle will appoint a note-taker, co-ordinator and facilitator. These roles are rotated every 3 months.

Note-taker

Responsible for taking and sharing the minutes

Co-ordinator

Ensure the meeting happens, communicate how to join the meeting, create the agenda for the meeting.

Facilitator

Chair the meeting fairly and effectively.

Communication

Minutes from the meeting will be shared on the Wiki and posted on the community forum.

Appendix 1 - How this proposal may help solve specific issues

Issue How this proposal may help
Involvement - it’s not clear to new coops and their members how to get involved. A regular, synchronous meeting gives a specific place for new co-ops to be given guidance. They can air their concerns/confusion in a context where they can be most easily addressed.
Time - there is a lack of time for ‘CoTech’ activities, not much happens outside of CoTech Gatherings. Provides a circle with a clear remit to act, and a small time commitment to get involved.
Benefits - you don’t need to be a member to benefit (i.e. the benefits are unclear) Attendance at the meeting is limited to representatives of CoTech member co-ops. An improved process around decision-making makes clearer the difference between members and non-members.
Responsibilities - there is a lack of commitment due to unclear responsibilities of membership. Attendance at the regular meetings will be taken, making it clearer which co-ops are putting the most effort into growing and helping with the smooth running of CoTech.
Engagement - there is a lack of engagement within the network - organisation / volunteering is done by the same few people. CoTech exists to promote collaboration between co-ops. This is a very human process, and so regular meetings helps put that human element back into the mix.
Event planning - it is hard / labour intensive to put on events such as CoTech Gatherings. Regular meetings makes it easier to ensure continued momentum around event planning, while distributing effort amongst co-ops.

Appendix 2 - Agenda building approach

The following is an approach to sociocratic agenda-building:

  • Understanding  – gain shared and mutual understanding from participants so that they understand what is happening and why. Any questions here should focus on clarification. It is the facilitator’s job to make sure that the focus is on this and not exploring ideas in depth.
  • Exploring – aims to share a variety of ideas and make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Used for getting feedback on a possible proposal or approach to an issue so that a group can go away and work on it. We are not aiming to converge on one single idea, necessarily, nor are we looking to make decisions.
  • Deciding – make a decision using whatever process is the agreed norm.