We aim to organise in a way that is understands how hierarchy develops and work to deconstruct those hierarchies. Our decision-making process is based on consensus, an inclusive process we hope will lead to decisions based on a cohesion of perspectives.
The guidelines below are an attempt to outline how this Co-operative wants to organise in order to achieve our aims.
In many other groups and networks conflicts have arisen around different understandings of structure, hierarchy, agenda-setting, and openness/exclusiveness. Differences on these issues have led to uncomfortable processes, hostility, frustration, and ineffectiveness, sometimes making it impossible for people to continue working together.
Specifically, we’re trying to avoid:
- exclusiveness, which prevents growth and learning, and makes us unwelcoming or arrogant
- distraction/disruption/arrogance/rudeness in meetings making it impossible to get things done or getting everyone frustrated
- having to go back to square one in every meeting
- security risks
- being unable to maintain political/ecological principles
- lacking trusted working practices
- becoming centralised or dictatorial
- importing outside hierarchies, including, but not limited to, those based on education, language, self-confidence, money, time, age, sex, gender, race, class, disability.
- a lack of internal trust leading to opaque trust networks and cliques building up
- not giving enough value to work that isn’t meetings, or to physical work
- not recognising or appreciating the work of people who bottom-line, take responsibility, plan and pre-plan, and look out for others
- meetings lasting too long, leading to frustration and people leaving
- people being in roles they’re not suited to or ready for
- working groups, projects, or individuals surpassing their remit from the whole Co-operative
- washing up
- The Co-operative is open to those who agree with its political, ecological, economic and organisational principles and who have completed an induction process.
- Usually, our meetings will be open to members and to people who are interested in joining.
- When a decision is proving controversial, if there are people present who have not yet joined the Co-operative, we can ask them to not participate in the consensus process for that decision.
- We will leave ourselves the option of having meetings that are open only to those who are already in the Co-operative and on its internal mailing list.
- Our consensus process will acknowledge that a block sometimes means a person is excluding themselves from a decision, an activity or from the whole Co-operative, and sometimes means the decision in question cannot go forward.
- We will work within an Agreement of Respect i.e. a Safer Spaces Agreement
- We attempt to ensure that no one is prevented from contributing to our collective processes or activities due to lack of money, childcare needs, legal problems, lack of technical access/know-how, disabilities, language or other obstacles.
- We accept that people have varying amounts of time, commitment and experience (all of which can change), and that this is bound to affect how we work together.
- We don’t want to stifle or disrespect anyone’s contribution. We will encourage both those who are taking more responsibility or think they have a vision of ways forward, and those who have just joined or have less time to commit.
- We recognize that trust and friendship networks form among the people who are most steadily working together. We believe this is natural and supportive, and helps create the kind of action we need. We are committed to ensuring that these networks do not become cliquey, unaccountable or authoritarian, and that others are encouraged and supported to get involved.
- We recognize that people who have worked on something as part of a subgroup (working group, project, action group or affinity group, etc.) will have gathered information and thought things through in ways that will be useful to all of us. In meetings, gatherings, actions and online, we need to make time to hear those who can see needs, possibilities and potential problems that others may not be so aware of.
- We intend to work against the tendency to get too attached to our own proposal, prose, or argument, however hard we’ve worked on it.
- We will continue to take account of “capacity” in reaching our decisions, checking that enough people are committed and able to carry them through. What each person commits to is a matter for themselves to decide.
- We accept that preparing agendas involves balancing needs: being as inclusive as possible and helping meetings achieve their outcomes efficiently.
- The ideal for making decisions is full consensus, where all present agree with a decision before it is made. Listening to everyone’s reservations and taking them into account will often lead to an improvement in the original proposal and to unanimity. But for many decisions there will be some “stand-asides”, where people don’t think the proposal is a good idea and may not help implement it, but don’t think it would break any fundamental principles. How many stand-asides are acceptable depends on the nature of the decision, how many people are needed to carry it out, and its impact on the whole collective.
- Where someone feels a proposal does break a fundamental principle and is unacceptable to them, they may “block” it. This does not necessarily mean the decision will not go ahead, but it may mean they leave the collective: a very serious move which should make the whole meeting think again.
- Provided it is within the principles and working practices of the group, groups within the Co-operative should be able to act autonomously from day to day.
- People who are putting the group’s decisions into action should always be accountable and open to advice, direction, well-intended criticism and alternative ideas coming from other people.
- Any decision made in the name of the group or its groups should ultimately be subject to whole Co-operative decisions.
Joining the Home Co-operative:
- There will be an email address on our website and materials where people can contact us to express an interest in joining the Co-operative..
- In addition to the ‘whole Co-operative’, will also comprise of: working groups and action groups.
- The process group’s remit will be admin (newsletter, emails, minutes etc), co-ordination, chasing things up, and pre-planning, which will include taking part in setting agendas.
- Working groups should have continual rotation, but also ensure continuity. Someone may stay in a working group for a long time, as long new people are joining and there is some rotation. Working groups are encouraged to think about how they are involving new people in the group, and make sure people who want to are taking on tasks. Anyone who joins a working group is encouraged to buddy with someone already in the group.
- There should be a rotating tranquility role, separate from the process group, to deal with problems that can arise from time to time e.g. disruptive people, abuses of power, personal grievances.
- Working groups, should give quality report-backs to meetings of the whole Co-operative which include outlining the problems and questions that arose between whole-Co-operative meetings, and the information and considerations they took into account when they worked out proposals or made interim decisions.
- Groups should then be open to and accountable to suggestions, questions, criticism, from the whole Co-operative, and ultimately to rejection or blessing of their plans or past actions.
- Occasionally, between meetings, a sub-group might have to make a decision about something that is potentially controversial. When this happens, they should liaise with the process group in making a decision about whether or not to call a full (or spokes) meeting to discuss it.
- Agendas should be planned in advance on the basis of everyone being invited to send in suggested items and should be circulated to the group or Co-operative before the meeting where appropriate.
- The agenda should be proposed at the start of the meeting with an opportunity for amendment, addition or rejection.
- We will make use of open space techniques and parallel discussions where useful. Any decisions taken should still be the decisions of the whole Co-operative.
- Proposals should be stated, clarified, discussed, adjusted and re-proposed if necessary, and then tested for agreement. The facilitator should ask for consensus, then stand-asides, then blocks. People standing aside from a decision, or blocking it, should always be invited to state their reasons, and the proposal should be retested after they have done so.
- We accept that it can sometimes be useful to use models such as spokes and delegates in which people accept decisions made in their absence, so that everyone does not have to be at every meeting.
- Where appropriate we will take into account the views of people who cannot attend the meeting but who have fed in their opinions before the meeting.