Having rocketed skyward from the Masonic Lodge in Shrewsbury on July 29th, the ORMA Transition Team (TT) is in stationary orbit around planet ORMA 1. Its Coordinating Committee is dedicated to piloting the new team through time-sensitive tasks critical to creating ORMA 2 and making it fit for human habitation.
At its July launch meeting, the TT formed five working groups to accomplish its mission:
- Communications: Manage technologies and procedures for collaboration and messaging.
- Inclusivity: To include & invite underrepresented and unrepresented groups into the convention planning.
- Logistics: Focus on convention location, date and venue.
- Program: Design an event that accomplishes its tasks and is also a positive experience.
- Structure: Develop options for a new ORMA and shepherd a process for selecting among them.
What follows is a summary of those tasks and some of the work done up to this point, for consideration both by the Transition Team and by interested stakeholders throughout ORMA.
Where will the Founding Convention be? The Logistics working group has been considering the ramifications of various geographic locations, and tentatively plans a location within Metro-Boston.
When will the Founding Convention be? Among September and October, the four dates at right were preliminarily identified as good targets with the fewest respondents unable to attend. However, a final date needs to be chosen, based on availability of venues and hoped-for keynote speakers. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and we cannot afford to wait too long to make these basic decisions.
Affiliates heeded the Mission, Structure and Planning Team’s request for diversity, sending 22 women to make up the 40-member Transition Team. However, the Transition team is still mostly white, and because of that, we all hope affiliates will begin to reach out to local community churches & organizations that reflect the diversity we are striving for, forming stable coalitions around progressive issues to lead to cross-membership.
The mission of the Inclusivity working group is to guide the transition to a new ORMA that is:
… dedicated to ensuring that our economic, social and political systems are responsive to the needs of all people; one that it is also inclusive of economic and social class, color, country of origin, citizenship status, gender and gender identity, sexual preference, religion and ability.
The Inclusivity working group is compiling outreach letter templates for individual and affiliate outreach use with churches and organizations that champion diversity and inclusion. Affiliates who already conduct such outreach are urged to share successes with firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Inclusivity working group is also exploring the possibility of hosting a panel of representatives from various large diverse groups in the state (e.g. BLM, neighbor to neighbor), as more diverse speakers may bring more diverse members. Last, they have drafted a survey to obtain feedback about its efforts and measure interest in forming “caucus” groups that foster new personal relationships through cross membership.
The work of the Program group will determine whether the Founding Convention is a celebratory kickoff or a dreary deliberation — or something in between. After considering the structural options presented by the MSP’s Louise Parker, Ezer Vierba and Rich Levy in July, the Program committee is faced with a huge decision:
- Should the founding convention be designed to do deep work of understanding, hybridizing, and choosing cooperative organizational models for a new ORMA?
While the decision itself is structural, the choice of how to position that decision within a Founding Convention is up to Program. If we value an inclusive gathering designed for broad, accessible participation, we must avoid privileging those with a background and interest in organizational development.
The Program working group is moving forward with consensus that the convention will be a single day, and may include an optional evening social event. The proposed agenda includes a keynote speaker (inquiries are out to Our Revolution President Nina Turner, and others are being discussed) and breakout workshops/discussions.
There will be at least two votes: a ratification vote for ORMA’s structure, and a potential vote for leadership, both dependent upon the Structure working group’s decisions. Overall, there will be ubiquitous positive, uplifting messaging.
On the 29th, the decision was made to go deeper into organizational models on the Google Group, led by the Structure team. As ORMA’s first representative body, the TT could take responsibility to do some heavy lifting online ahead of the Convention, and present a proposal for formal ratification then. However, the 40-member TT is still a small sample compared to the ORMA support list that numbers in the thousands.
[Perhaps the Structure team should create its own “Federalist Papers” blog where configurations are considered and feedback strongly solicited as blog comments, and share this with the rest of ORMA? Such an exchange could engage and educate ORMA supporters. If a sufficiently large sample size were reached, a survey could be used to support a decision before the convention.]
Perhaps the Structure Team’s greatest challenge is to answer the difficult question of member governance:
- Should ORMA be guided by affiliate representatives, or by individuals representing themselves?
While OR requires ORMA to support individual memberships, an argument can be made that a state organization should be funded by and answerable to regional organizations, given the scale of work, and that the directors of ORMA should represent those organizations. This argument, which could be called “Accountability First”, recognizes that individuals representing only themselves are more susceptible to the bad behavior denoted by “Occupy Happens.”
The counter-argument, which could be called “Diversity First”, is made by those who recognize that the makeup of the current OR affiliates in Massachusetts does not reflect the demographics of our state. These people want to see individuals around the leadership table who represent other groups, from issue advocates (Climate Action Network) and local organizations (black churches) to other state chapters of national groups (Progressive Democrats of America, Black Lives Matter).
How can such a question be answered in a sufficiently representative way, given the ramifications? Perhaps there is room within ORMA for all three governance forms: an affiliates alliance as a board of directors, a one-person-one-vote mechanism for referenda and officer elections, and at-large officers who belong to non-ORMA groups, Answering this problem will require careful communication that engages the ORMA membership, not just the TT, and should take place before the Founding Convention.
The Structure working group is working on a mechanism to elicit further feedback from ORMA membership and affiliates regarding potential organizational structures, building upon knowledge gained in the earlier ORMA poll that offered members several archetypal organizational structures to choose from. The working group envisions a convention wherein most of the structural decisions to be voted upon have been disseminated ahead of time, with minimal floor debate necessary to educate attendees about these issues.
Not everyone who planned to attend on Saturday came. Two were dissuaded from attending after online exchanges carrying forward unfamiliar power struggles. Since then, the Transition Team Google Group has been moderated to prevent the recurrence of negative conversational patterns.
Nobody wants to suppress substantive, respectful disagreement. But to avoid seeing a post moderated, users of the Transition Team Google Group are asked to consider three questions before pressing SEND:
- SCOPE: Is this helpful to the whole group? (If not, send only to people it WOULD help)
- SENSIBILITY: Could someone read this and think I’m a jerk? (If so, change the wording.)
- SENTIMENT: Am I feeling annoyed/angry? (Then hold off on sending.)
A decision to moderate the group, like a decision to decide structure before the convention, walks the fine line between supporting bottom-up process and decision making where it matters and adopting centralized tactics when stuff needs to get done the right way the first time in a hurry.
Until the next full-team meeting scheduled for September 10th, the work of the Transition Team will be confined to working groups meeting via Hangout or Zoom (save when proximity affords coffee or beer), and exchanges over Google Groups. While each working group will arrive at its own recommendations, the burden of shepherding all this decision-making falls on the four members of the Transition Team’s Coordinating Committee, pictured above: Penelope Jennewein, Vicki Dzin, Paul Depalo and Chris Braiotta.
To reach the Coordinating Committee, email email@example.com