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Author Topic: Constructive suggests for facilitators and GA participants
Posts: 10
Post Constructive suggests for facilitators and GA participants
on: October 20, 2011, 15:18

Just wanted to add that at the Oct 19 General Assembly which started at 7:30, it was very difficult to facilitate for a few reasons. I was not the facilitator, but the backup stack person. Please allow me to share a few reasons about what happened, I can't be at camp today because I'm sick and have to catch up on work besides (yes, I'm lucky to still be employed).

— As a stack person, it was dark, cold, and literally hard to see people who wanted to speak. This caused tension and frustration with people being passed over, then people were frustrated and started speaking out of turn. There must be illumination on the crowd at night, or I think we have to start starting meetings earlier.

— It's really important for the facilitators (or co-facilitators) to go over ALL the hand signals, including NO, (hands waving downward). Last night one of the speakers was "razzed" simply because she presented points of information for consideration. Perhaps we can do this at every meeting's beginning and a quick review after the break. Make the crowd "repeat after you" and do them.

— It's really important to emphasize and stress that BLOCK is SERIOUS. A block is NOT used to say "I disagree" or "I would say no." Everyone should really look at the "block" move as if each of us can only do can only do three in their entire life. Also - the way consensus process is designed, you do a block AFTER the facilitator says "do we have consensus?" Ideally, if you are not happy with the direction a proposal is going, you have to give a fair warning that you WOULD block if the proposal took such-and-such a form. Otherwise a casual block is like saying "I shut this your input down," like booing someone really hard. And it's really offensive to people participating.

— Life at camp is stressful. You even get "positive stress" from euphoria when things go really awesomely. Maybe by 7:30 at night, people are tired. By 9 we're ready to relax with friends rather than have meetings that stretch to 10 at night only to start all over again at 5 in the morning. Maybe we have to do less and get our camp stuff in order before we can do once-a-week demos.

— It's important that our camp moderators, police liaisons and marshals don't do updates FOR everyone. As much as I love Mike Thomas his update was gigantic and really covered ALL the working group updates, and took up too much space in the GA. If we want to keep this everyone's camp it's important that the implied authority behind this devolves back to the assembly.

— I don't think Mike intentionally hogs the mike (see what I did there? :) but has too much responsibility as one person for the whole camp. At the next GA I can attend, I will be proposing that there be a police liaison committee (with Mike on it) rather than just one "expert negotiator." What we'd do is shadow Mike and come to agreement with how to deal with cops between say three people. I realize that Mike is talented and the police liaison role is crucial, but that's exactly the reason why ALL of us need to know how to do it.

We don't have consensus (discussion, mutual agreement, rotating roles, and mentorship) unless "something more important is going on" (like police liaison duties), consensus is the operating idea of the GA. The police liaison committee would still have autonomy for how to do things (with appropriate accountability from the GA), it doesn't mean the committee would have to come back to the GA for every word spoken. It's just to keep the "negotiation" accountable, because right now I think too much authority is being concentrated into one liaison/spokesperson who does updates for liaison AND night watch, etc. The side effect of this is the rest of us get lazy - thus reinforcing the need for a "camp cop" who corrals people.

— It's important that we don't call on "people with experience" for roles in which expertise isn't needed. Signing authority is one of those things. For signing authority, we only need someone committed to the camp who is there a lot or who can appear on short notice if texted.

— Finally, I think that all updates should end on "does anyone have any questions?" — including police liaison, marshals, night watch, etc.

Finally, last but NOT LEAST AT ALL:

—If you noticed last night, the GA got smaller and smaller and mostly who left was women. Even if we're impatient with how stack is conducted, I think we guys have to really check ourselves and NOT rush the mike or "jump in," or otherwise act in an aggressive, mike-crowding manner.

I think we have to keep in mind that while a lot of other activities we do are gender-equalized, politics and political meetings are one of the last places where men treat each other like we have all the answers. We (as men) feel empowered to jump in any ol' time, cut off others speaking (but especially if they're women), and that is extremely insulting to people in the process. Even if you don't agree with my analysis entirely, I think we can all agree that women make up at least 50% of the 99% we want active in our movement.

The appropriate way to express frustration is to raise a point of process and say "I think that the stack is getting a little out of control." And try to have a constructive suggestion that might be helpful for the facilitators. Like, "hey, I notice that there is no light and we might be hard to see." As a facilitator, it's SUCH A RELIEF and so helpful when someone stops to do this point of process, and offers something constructive as opposed to just a criticism. This is because it's REALLY easy when you're up there facilitating to start mirroring the stress of the assembly when things are getting out of hand.

It's really way that we also have a "vibe watcher" role, there wasn't one last night. The vibe watcher is empowered to interrupt (you're entitled to, but you may also talk to the facilitator first if they aren't already speaking) and say "hey gang, I notice we're all getting a little agitated, can we all just back off for a moment, take a breath," or actively reconstruct what just happened for people when there is a misunderstanding.

I'm at camp usually a few hours a day and usually wearing an engineer's cap and I love to mentor. If anyone wants mentorship on how to facilitate, or even how to participate (along the lines of "what would you do if the facilitator goes like this? Or the assembly does this?") I'm totally willing to help out and offer suggestions and ideas. I'm rusty (because the orgs I'm in now don't use consensus), but experienced.

Joanne C
Posts: 1
Post Re: Constructive suggests for facilitators and GA participants
on: November 20, 2011, 00:22


I am from Occupy Calgary. I understand that Occupy Edmonton is facing possible eviction...and I also understand if you would like to limit this forum to your members.

I would like to ask though how you're dealing with accessibility for GAs. Do you allow people to participate remotely and have part in the consensus. This is obviously an issue at all times for those who have limited access - people with certain disabilities, parents with small children, people working multiple jobs. How do you avoid reproducing hierarchies?

Also, with the worsening weather, we are experiencing smaller numbers at GAs. Again, do only those at camp get a say in the decision making or do you have infrastructure and processes in place to enhance accessibility.

We are experiencing a real or perceived divide between the participants who camp and those who don't with the latter beginning to feel they count less. For me this is a strategic concern.

I'd greatly appreciate any feedback on this issue. If you prefer to limit the forums to members you can find me on Facebook - Joanne Costello.

Thank you and solidarity.

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