Hi, Hackers, I just wanted to update you if you weren’t at last Weds’ member meeting – we knew it would be contentious, but it actually in terms of our growth together as a community, I was really proud of how it went. (“Everything negative – challenge, pressure – is all an opportunity for us to rise.” -Kobe Bryant)
Often our member meetings are less formal, more social. But this past Weds we had a lot to do, and it was going to be hard.
We shaped a shared set of agreements at the beginning, which included:
–we don’t interrupt each other
–we assume good intent and care for the space
–we keep stack if needed
–fact-check in the moment if needed
We came in this time with someone experienced in parliamentary structure, Gunnar R, which we haven’t really had before – so he was an immense help in navigating difficult spots using good structures. We used @RGRistroph & @gristroph’s suggested debate structure for each proposal, giving each speaker (for/against) 3 minutes to speak on the proposals. @valerie was focused on chat windows, time, and keeping stack, while I was facilitating.
@JoeN’s nomination went through, with questions from members.
@mrflip’s proposal went through, with enough questions that we wanted to bring it to team members, including Reopen team, to look over and think about and strategize, rather than bringing it to a vote.
@drew offered information on Austin and Travis Co in the context of the pandemic.
At 8:15 came Rob and Gunnar’s proposal, which we knew would be harder. We set aside 45 minutes, we ended up talking for about double that, with periodic checks to see if people were okay with extending time. (Though at 920 we hit a bump and it took us 20 minutes to figure out how to end.)
We had to figure out how to do fact-checks in case people were dropping in rhetoric or not working with a shared set of facts – people were very gracious about this, as we had a couple of false starts, and ended up mostly using the chat-box for fact-checking. Sometimes fact-checkers got fact-checked, which was great. I think this actually really helped us to know where facts were in dispute, to help us get clear as a group. I felt nervous about encouraging members to fact-check each other, but it was good.
Rob voiced concerns about the number of users currently using the space via Skedda, and how if only 30-40 members tried to maintain Hackerspace financially, the money wouldn’t work. I fact-checked but accidentally interrupted his 3 minutes. He was gracious. Sidepoint: I do think it could help us to use some of the data we have in Skedda to help us understand overall useage of the space, that could be very interesting over time I think.
We had one of our founders present via Zoom from California, Matt McCabe @mrmccabe, who helped do some meta-level listening to support better communication. He helped open up the conversation around which specific needs members had that were not being met, at which point the folks in favor of the proposal were able to speak further to that specific question.
About halfway through, a couple of speakers brought up the idea that the proposal to go forward might need big edits or additions or background work before they were comfortable with it going out, and several also brought up the point that had worried me, which was that it would contest the board’s role as policy-setting body, which we take seriously, especially for safety matters. @Tookys @dannym @EricP @Zephyr256k @Stephen-L-M @dondur @wdnatx
Probably 15 people spoke overall, and we got a good sense of the community’s experience and views.
I hadn’t spoken for or against, but after everyone had spoken (a little after 9pm), I had to check in about process. Some speakers had expressed reservations about the vote going out, some people in the meeting were going to call foul if the vote didn’t go out, and I couldn’t figure out how to end the meeting with integrity – I didn’t want to affirm sending out a B-share vote as if I believed the B-share voters could by a simple majority scrap the board’s work, plan, safety policies – and I didn’t want to wave the B-shares ahead to vote, and if it passed, be forced to say, “Thanks, B-shares, we value you, but this vote is outside your wheelhouse and we’re not going to do anything about it.” I’d been told by a majority of board members that if it passed they would leave, so I didn’t want Hackerspace to be forced to rebuild its board either! These were big stakes to try to figure out in a room with divided opinions which was running out of time to solve them.
People who know the ATXHS operating agreement (in its weird and wily wonder) have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, trying to think it through – we tossed around the idea that B-shares are meant to be “checks and balances” for the board (they do have the ability to remove the board with a 2/3 majority) but in the end I could not find a place where it appeared that B-share voters had the right or responsibility to overturn the business decisions of the board. If you think about it, it wouldn’t make sense for people who sign for rental agreements and bank accounts and HVAC and insurance, etc, to be forced to NOT write practical policies for the space, in line with their understanding of finances, basic responsibilities and community needs. (The board’s right/responsibility to do this is also explicitly outlined in the OA.*)
So I expressed this, and Gunnar had wording for this, a “constitutional crisis,” and acknowledged that he and Rob didn’t want to put ATXHS in that position. He helped us out of this jam by jumping in to offer a change in the wording, to how it finally came up – “that it is the sense of the majority of the class B members, that…”
This resolved it for me, as we weren’t saying “the board doesn’t get to set policy” and we weren’t saying “if the b-shares try to set policy we will ignore them” …it was a vote of B-shares’ opinions, respectfully offered, which is useful and needed – and we got there together. It doesn’t solve all the things that came up – around the nature of B-shares, around Covid, around structure questions for ATXHS – but it got us to a place where we could move forward.
In the last 1 minute, and later by email, we got some +'s and some Δ’s on the books:
–Good communication and clarity via the process
–Disagreement but it was civil!
–Went over time
–we have a meager grasp of formal parliamentary procedure
A Δ I’m still feeling is that the proposal was in several different forms (email, Discourse, wiki link in Helios) and the link we linked to in the Helios vote in the end referenced some things like physically locked doors that weren’t accurate, but we put a lot of trust and people-power into this process, and my guess is that this was an oversight, as things went fast and were confusing. Something to think about for the future - where do proposals live? Probably Discourse while they get edited? Wiki once they’re set in stone?
As A Community, We Moved Through This Really Well. And there will be more opportunity to meet new challenges in the future. But we met them with civility, by having good structure.
“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more work.” Jonas Salk, who developed polio vaccine
I’m feeling encouraged that we can do the work together, and I wanted you to know.
Thanks for reading this long thing. It was a really important and encouraging day for us, I think, and I wanted to share that. I’ll edit to add a link to the video if there is one? Checking with our Director of Admin about that.
There are I think a lot of questions we can still ask about B-shares and being member run – and I want us to hammer on these questions – how do we foster an engaged membership that is actively helping to set direction and priorities, how do we create those opportunities which are time-bound and uplifting? how do we make sure that the people doing the work are also the people weighing in on decisions? How do we keep previous members who know and love the space involved, with their experience and insight giving us support? We pride ourselves on being member-run and participatory, so what’s that mean for us? How do we live that out responsibly and with the most possible participation?
Thanks to all who participated and were present* – If you couldn’t make it, know that a lot of people busted their tails at this meeting to keep our community safe, productive, coherent and excellent. I know “going to meetings” doesn’t sound much like a thing that heroes do. But actually it often is, and last Wednesday night especially. These folks are all makers, and last Weds night instead of drawing up plans or ordering materials or blissing out in the shop, they fought for your ability to be in your community workshop, sanding and welding and hacking, safely, and went round and round about what that means and how to make decisions fairly. I feel really proud of them, and of us as a community.
*if I didn’t tag you, I’m sorry about that, you still did an amazing thing and thank you.