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I wrote and researched the following essay over the summer break which was inspired from, and dedicated to resolving, the membership question at TTB.
It puts forward the case for there to be no distinction in decision-making rights between members and non-members, and why I believe this is critical to TTB’s future.
At the bottom are a list of practical questions around membership that will hopefully remind people of that debate, and help prepare them for a governance meeting.
In my view the decisions Transition Town Brixton make over the next few months will be integral to either providing the grounds for its success, or sowing the seeds for its failure.
By incorporating a social movement â€“ a movement of people, volunteers, and in essence every citizen that wants to be part of it – as a company, we have given ourselves a structural contradiction.
Anomalous from other movements, we sit somewhere between the establishment and the protest camp, trying to marry the new participative concepts from one, with the laws and articles of the other.
These other so-called ‘movements’ like NGO’s, charities and parties like the green party, can adopt and keep to standard articles of association and company practice, because they are working within the prevailing political and economic model, chipping away at the old block for greater fairness, from an unfair system.
But our success relies upon so much more than that. We actually have to create the structures, systems, currencies, relationships and types of organizations that transcend and replace the old ones, and re-value and re-constitute, instead of reproduce, the values and principles which give the current system its structure.
Moreover, it might be possible for these other organisations or ‘movements,’ to follow old procedures, but there is another stark difference between our movement and all others, and that is, it fundamentally requires the absolute participation of everybody.
That is why the issue of membership is so critical to either the success or failure of TTB.
In short we must build something completely new, that is fair, that is equal, and that is participative. I believe our very survival as a species relies upon it.
We are therefore, in essence, a transformative organization, both socially, environmentally and dare I say it, politically. Not a pressure or lobby group asking for reform, but a completely new type of organisation that sits outside of the establishment, actually making the changes that others are asking, or campaigning for.
That is why I think it is simply an impossibility to create the type of radical change we need, without embracing that radical change ourselves. How indeed can we follow the old procedures and company articles of association and hope to unite and share the world, when they are designed to carve it up and make a profit from it?
I believe therefore that new thinking, and fresh approaches must replace the old attitudes to the creation of, and holding on to of power, in the ‘interests’ of the people, that so dominates and shapes society, and helps to maintain the inactive status quo.
It is these structures in short that must give way to the people’s total empowerment. For it is only this that will overcome their complete alienation, and it is our organisation that has the power, position and place, and therefore the responsibility, from which it can, and indeed must, do all this.
Problems with Power
In becoming a CIC we have created that old ‘power over’, to which we are currently in grave danger of holding on.
Yet, if TTB is to ultimately bring about the new, open, participatory, non-hierarchical and empowered society, that I believe is not only absolutely vital to engaging sufficient numbers to make transition. But also to maintaining it, and creating a happier, more harmonious and connected world. It must emanate that change, it must reflect that change and ultimately be that change.
That is why we must diffuse our current hierarchy of ‘directors’ and ‘others,’ and not create any further divisions with ‘official’ and ‘non’ official members – creating further rights for some and not for others.
Only by working from a new model can new things happen, only by making new rules to follow can you create different behaviour, and therefore only by being truly open and genuinely equalitative, transparent and participative, can you become truly participatory.
Thus, only at this point will the boundaries between the ‘them’ and the ‘us’ dissolve away, enabling everyone to become not just a part of Transition Town, but to become part of, and a person in, transition.
Therefore, I would work towards creating a membership model that could incorporate everyone that wanted to be, to be a member of TTB, in Lambeth and beyond.
But crucially, I wouldn’t make these ‘members’ more equal i.e. give them more decision making power, than any other volunteers or any other person involved.
Membership could be taken on by some to satisfy the articles, but it should not create greater ‘rights,’ because, by so doing, you exclude, divide, alienate, subject and rule.
If we re-create this structure in any way â€“ the dominant world structure – we prioritise our own security over others liberty, and foster our own fears instead of embracing the greater hope and possibility, provided by the open inclusion of all.
But not only that, we will garner the same results – a passivity that breeds contempt, a disengagement that borders on scorn, and a blame from the people, caused by our division from them, that we would be worthy of. Rather than an understanding of, and action on those issues, that we would gain from their incorporation.
Instead of creating this artificial division, I would advocate a completely open form of organisation for General and Working Group meetings, that would include all that wished to participate – ‘official’ members and ‘non’-members – contributing equally and making decisions on an equalitative basis, whether it is their first meeting or their five hundredth.
Everyone deserves to be given an equal chance at the outset to contribute â€“ it is their society after all, that we are creating. This I believe also, is the only grounds for creating the kind of welcome for the newcomer that he will truly respect. For it is the only one that truly respects him, values him and trusts him as an individual. It is the only one, in short, that gives him the one thing no other will dare â€“ power.
Thus, he will feel, not only is this organisation worth coming back to, but that he too is alsoworthy of being a member of it and making a contribution. The value we have shown in him, building his own sense of self-worth, and reflected back in the resultant value he shows in us.
Organising like this would effectively make all participants – which I would define as anyone present at a meeting, even if it is their first, in terms of the articles and the running of TTB – ‘members.’
Of course, to do this, we would have to undertake an internal resolution that we agreed would prevail over the articles, to treat all participants as ‘official’ members, whether they were or not.
It is in our power to do this. To not do so I think would make us, perhaps not technically, but in practice and essence, a closed organisation.
Yet, I believe it is clear, that we cannot afford to closet ourselves this way, and that we must resist all the temptation that comes with our new found power and responsibility to do just that, and hold on to it.
For we are asking people to change their values and change their lives, in essence to reproduce transition, on a daily, on-going and individually owned and driven basis.
The only way we can do this is together, for support, for inspiration, for community, for belief, for hope, and for a shared vision of a shared future.
If we create further divisions with members and non-members, that shared vision will die away and in its place a ‘them’ and ‘us’ will reappear, that divides energy and divides lives, and reinforces the passivity that pervades our current culture and society.
Our success therefore rests upon the simple, sole premise of total engagement with, and participation from, the whole people, and I believe we must make every effort to incorporate them, as we have in essence ‘incorporated’ their movement. Lest all our efforts fail, not because they wouldn’t work, but because we haven’t broadened ourselves sufficiently, to allow them to reach far, wide and deep enough.
Our articles of association are not designed for a social movement. They are not designed to foster equality, but control. They are not designed to include an unlimited number of people whose contributions and comittment may vary, but whose equal place within it, and right to belong to it, never will.
In short they are not designed to empower everybody to be a part of it, but to ensure the financially smooth running of a profit-making (but not for profit) business.
Thus, by incorporating, we have infact given ourselves something to lose, before we have really gained anything. That is not to undermine the great work of a few to bring us this far.
But by incorporating, instead of creating the conditions whereby we can cater for the many, we find ourselves first having to cater to the fears of a few, whose interests are now very much in contrdistinction to opening up the organisation, and using it to provide for the needs of the many, through mass participation.
What we have to realise, is that the only way of actually helping the people is by enabling them to help themselves. The only way to ensure our succes is to ensure theirs, and the only way we can all succeed together, is if we create no boundaries, no division, and no hierarchies.
To overcome the paradox we find ourselves in therefore, of being fundamentally un-suited to task, strait jacketed in one of the exact structures we are trying to break down, and incapable of including the numbers of people within our organization without whom we cannot succeed, we must embrace the only alternative. That of open organisation.
Moreover, if we don’t do this, we will repeat the same mistakes as every governing institution in this country.
For, we are not a private company by nature but a public body, or indeed a potential body politic, so we must therefore be the public. If we do not we will echo the private nature of every public institution across the land, of which we as people fail to be a real part, and we will end up ruling over, instead of being ruled by the people.
As Einstein said; Insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Things are insane enough. Let us not follow the same rules of the game, the general societal and company articles of association that have led us all to this point. But create our own precedents that overcome them, and that can lead us and the whole world out of the mire, rather than allow ourselves to be lead deeper into it, under the false impression that we are in fact doing things a different way.
Please add your comments and reflections here.
The benefits of open organization
The following pages (not yet added) will expand upon how open organisation can work. Why, instead of providing the grounds for disintegration, it infact bonds organisations together to make firmer, more stable grounds for success, and what exactly is meant by dynamism. How this can push an organisation ever onward, creating a momentum that can actually keep it together, and how this process replicates the renewal and movement found life – thereby avoiding the stagnation and atrophy that otherwise is the cause of much death, not least of organisations.
Definition of open organisation
Interactivity and environment – why we need to embrace open organisatons treatment of these principles
Harnessing energy – what we will gain from being completely open
Dynamism and reality – why, to work at an optimum, we must come to reflect life’s process’
Renewal – how open systems move on and closed systems stagnate
Growth – how open systems provide for personal growth
Overcoming fears associated with open paricipation
The trust principle – show faith and be repaid – creating a new society
The humbling nature of power given – why respect usually precedes abuse
Keeping order with consensus – open meetings not overun – disruptive elements quelled
Who we will exclude – the implications of creating exclusivity around membership in TTB
Questions I need to answer
- In order to hold General Meetings with potentially thousands of members does it comply with the articles to use a T.V. link up screen, so that this way effectively a quorate can be considered to be present together in one room?
- Or could consensus decisions effectively be made by a circle of representatives that didn’t make a quorate with regards to actual numbers of people, but could be considered to do so by way of representation?
- Or could a solution simply be for decisions by a large membership to be fed through to, and then be decided upon by a group of representatives prior to a General Meeting, at which a quorate then simply ratifies those decisions.
General Questions in need of answering
- What is the fundamental aim and nature of TTB and what do we want it to achieve?
- Which Membership structure will most closely help us to do this?
If we want a wide membership;
- Should there be a membership criteria? If so, what? Geographical? Active?
- Should membership create exclusive decision making rights at general meetings? Or should all those willing to turn up be afforded the same rights? What are the benefits to creating or not creating that hierarchy?
- Thus, should there be a Friends of TTB Scheme through which people can donate? Or should membership simply be an honourary position and be instead of the friends scheme?
- What are the merits of open organisations that have open decision making meetings and use consensus? Can they be succesful?
- Therefore, what form of organisation is most appropriate for TTB?
- Would the kind of idea of a Friends scheme, Official Membership with a big M and other non-official members with a small m scheme, be a sufficient way of solving the problem, or would it create an opaque hierarchy of non-participants, active participants, and active participants but without decision making power? Would this matter?
- Is it reasonable to expect people to be liable for a pound and have their name listed at companies house in order to be a strategic decison making ‘member’ of TTB? Who will this exclude? what kind of organisation will it create? Is it appropriate to us? Should we exclude anyone?
- What would be a sensible first step that we could get consensus on at the next meeting, and that wouldn’t exclude a transition towards other options?
- Who decides who can become a member at the moment? The WGF/Directors meeting as it stands?