Tue 9 Jun 2015 9:22AM

Decision-Making Beyond the Representative Board

DS Danyl Strype Public Seen by 26

In and around the time of the Open Source Open Society conference in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, there were some informal discussions among a number of NZ Pirates, some of them Board members. We floated the idea of dissolving the Board, replacing it with a) a cluster of formal Working Groups, and b) using Loomio to make all party decisions. The original discussion document written by Ben is here:

The working groups provide each Officer (eg Treasurer, Secretary, Communications) with a pool of deputies, who can share the work of that office, and keep the Officer accountable. This has the advantage of avoiding single-points-of-failure, as all work by that Officer and the Working Group will be well documented automatically as the discussions occur, and in the event of Officers going AWOL, another member of the Working Group can be delegated to take over as Acting Officer until a new permanent Officer can be elected.

This discussion is now focused on defining more precisely how this new Board-less/ networked structure will work, through a collaborative document exploring the various practicalities and concerns:

Once we find substantial agreement on the nuts and bolts, we can cut this discussion document down to the essentials, and refine it into our new party constitution.


Danyl Strype Tue 9 Jun 2015 9:57AM

I support the dissolution of the Board structure. Have current Board members discussed this formally? Is there consensus on this suggestion?

One of our values is what I've been calling "deep democracy", the idea that everyone has a right to fully participate in discussing anything that will affect them, and taking decisions, either directly or by recallable delegation. NZ Pirates need to a) walk the talk, and b) distinguish ourselves from other political parties (eg Internet Party).

We can do both of these things by operating, and being seen to operate, as a member-led democracy. Decision-making is taken on by the membership via an online platform, and working groups who send at least one delegate to Party Coordination meetings on Mumble every fortnight to report back and support each others work.

For now, this means making whole-party decisions using Loomio, with our public group, and private subgroups for sensitive discussions (eg moderation discussions and mediation of conflicts).
* all members who participate in a respectful and constructive way have a right to speak and take positions in Loomio discussions
* all unanimous consensus decisions made on the platform are adopted as binding decisions
* if full consensus cannot be found, and a decision is needed urgently, a supermajority vote (80%) can be taken as a binding decision
* binding decisions can be modified or removed by a future consensus or supermajority

Local groups and working groups can make their own decisions, autonomous of country-scale decision-making.

All and any decisions about acting under the party's name can be made according to the '3 Pirate Rule' (as discussed in SwarmWise): any group of 3 or more Pirates can make a decision about what their group will do in the party's name. Abusing the '3 Pirate Rule', and bringing disrepute on the party, can be grounds for being asked to give up membership privileges, temporarily or pemanently.

We can test this for a fixed period, eg 6 months or 1 year, then evaluate whether to bring the Board structure back.

Do any other members have thoughts on these suggestions?


Peter Cummuskey Tue 9 Jun 2015 10:50PM

In my mind, I see the Party being two distinct entities. One is the formal organisation, which requires a treasurer, etc. The other is the Party as a whole.

The board's activities should be dictated by the decisions made by the Party as a whole, as per the rules suggested above, and have no decision-making authority for themselves beyond that granted by their own participation in full-party discussions.

The event that an immediate authoritative decision must be made is reasonable to assume as a likelihood, so in that case a board member should rely on the '3 Pirate Rule', and submit a retrospective review discussion with the Party as soon as possible.


Danyl Strype Fri 12 Jun 2015 11:34AM

AFAIK an incorporated society doesn't require a board or committee, only a President, Secretary, and Treasurer (or equivalent), which can be symbolic or administrative roles with no special decision-making power.

In the "event that an immediate authoritative decision must be made", any 3 Pirates can make it, presumably those who will be expected to action said decision. I see no reason to require any of them to be members of a "Board" (or for said "Board" to exist), as this only seems to result in member perception of a bottleneck on decision-making, which seems to discourages initiative and participation. To quote the Matrix, " we all well know that the reason that most of us are here is because of our... affinity for disobedience." ;)


Andrew Reitemeyer Mon 15 Jun 2015 9:33PM

"In the Swedish Pirate Party, we had manifested this through a three-pirate rule, which can easily be translated into a three-activist rule for any swarm. It went like this: if three activists agree that something is good for the organization, they have a green light to act in the organization’s name. It’s not that they don’t need to ask permission — it goes deeper than that. Rather, they should never ask permission if three activists agree that something is good."


Ben Vidulich Wed 24 Jun 2015 11:27AM

Here's the relevant document I drafted at around the time of the OS//OS conference referred to above: https://gist.github.com/zl4bv/1995e9ff8536ee20a15e


Danyl Strype Fri 10 Jul 2015 4:21AM

I would like to respond to the comments made by @hubatmcjuhes in the discussion about Andrew R's resignation as President ("Chair"):

I have to say I find Hubat's conclusions to be somewhat premature. Firstly, despite the decision to dissolve the Board having been made informally about 3 months ago, it's never been properly discussed on Loomio, meaning we've never come to any clear consensus on how the new working group structure is actually supposed to work in practice. How can you declare an experiment failed when it hasn't properly begun yet?

Hubat said:

We have no groups in place, no speakers, no constitution or CoC, no due processes at all.

AFAIK none of this was put in place over the last year while the Board was functioning either. It seems unreasonable to demand that the membership complete, in a few months, things the Board was unable to do in a year.

Finally, Hubat refers to low participation at Mumble meetings. The four Board members who were regularly attending are Hubat, @andrewreitemeyer, @andrewmcpherson, and Ben V @zl4bv. Andrew R has been very busy in his role as International Officer, as shown by his recently election to PPI Chair. Andrew McP has been very distracted by health problems. I'm not sure what Ben's been up to, but his limited participation on Loomio suggests he too has been busy with something else. I haven't attended the Mumble meetings as I've also been unwell, and trying to focus what energy I do have on engaging constructively here on Loomio, and opening up communications with the Internet Party.

In summary, I think we need to have the discussion, and agree on how the new working group structure is to work, and each put ourselves forward to be part of at least one working group. Then we are in a position to formally propose to dissolve the Board for an experimental period (at least 6 months), starting from when the proposal closes. At the end of that experimental period, and not before, is the time to start evaluating the results of the experiment.

Oh, and David, I strongly suggest you read and familiarize yourself with Ben's proposal document before you make any further comments on this topic, so we're all on the same page.


Ben Vidulich Sat 11 Jul 2015 5:44AM

I’m not sure what Ben’s been up to, but his limited participation on Loomio suggests he too has been busy with something else.

Indeed, I have been busy over the past few months which means I've had to decide more carefully where I spent my time. This project has consumed a large amount of my time for two main reasons (in order):

  1. The work was challenging. I enjoy being challenged and I try to focus my time on things I enjoy. Very often I stayed late in order to reach the pinnacle of whatever problem I was trying to solve - and after 10-12 hours of work I wanted only to relax when I got home.
  2. Some of the deadlines imposed on our team meant our whole team would stay late to complete the required tasks. This was made enjoyable by the moral support of fellow team mates as well as well as the dinner and beer that were purchased for us as a thanks for staying late.

I mentioned enjoyment a lot above because I like to spend my time on things that I find enjoyable and by the inverse property I try to avoid spending time on things I don't enjoy. For a long time the Pirate Party was something that I really enjoyed participating in - often I spent all of my spare time working on things that I believed would benefit the Party in some way. Even if those things were not visible to other people. However, there became a point where I stopped seeing value in spending as much time as I was on PP-related things. At that point my enjoyment of participating in PP was lost. If you've been following my rant so far you've probably guessed what happens next: I stopped spending time on PP-related things and, well, here we are.

TLDR; participating in PP stopped being enjoyable so I stopped engaging.

Back on topic...

Have current Board members discussed this formally? Is there consensus on this suggestion?

Outside of Loomio I don't recall there being much discussion on this topic - at least not recently. I believe our consensus was that we wanted to dissolve the board, but we wanted a benchmark to measure the successful of the change and a sunset clause to restore a/the current board in the event that the change was deemed unsuccessful, say, a few months after the dissolution.

How can you declare an experiment failed when it hasn’t properly begun yet?

Agreed. It seems unreasonable to deem the experiment failed when we haven't started to try it. Also, it is difficult to call an experiment a success or a failure if you have no definition of what those words mean in context.

To put context to my original proposal, I wanted to remove barriers for members to ownership of party-related ideas and activities. If any member has an idea that is supported by other members then they should just do it - regardless of having the board's approval (obviously said idea with have to align with pirate principles / benefit the party as a whole). If I recall correctly this was based on my frustrations of the previous board where despite ample support from other members I was blocked from introducing Loomio for many months because the board couldn't reach a conclusion about whether it wanted us to be able to move discussions there. Now that I'm a board member I've tried to be supporting on new ideas and even when I personally disagree with the idea I've tried not to let that be a blocker for supporters of the idea.

So personally, my definition of success for the dissolution of the board is if more than one member outside of the current board introduces a new idea, takes ownership of that idea, and with the help of other members executes that idea. That definition is quite broad, and could easily be achieved with a board and failed to be achieved without a board, but if it results in more ownership from non-board members than we currently have now then the party will still have benefitted more from having executing the idea than from not.

In summary, I agree with what @strypey is suggesting: that we define the structure of a working group before we attempt to dissolve the board. I also believe we should complete our attempt to write a CoC as mediating any dispute after we dissolve the board will become more challenging. Finally, we should look at re-writing the constitution - perhaps not entirely but enough that it would let us maintain stability within the party in the event that the dissolution results in complete failure. That last point obviously means we would need to define failure in context.


Hubat McJuhes Tue 14 Jul 2015 9:48AM

I am sorry if I sounded somewhat harsh in that comment in the other discussion. Some of the more recent frustrations may have been tainting the colour of my wording. I certainly wasn't up to blame anyone or something (as I would have to blame myself in the first place). I also didn't mean to declare the experiment failed.

The point that I wanted to make and that I think is perfectly valid is that we shouldn't try to react upon the vacancy of the President's chair by formally dissolving the board, even though we are obviously not readily prepared for such a step just yet.

Your point, @strypey , to ask why one should expect that the experimental semi-dissolvement of the board for only two month would have lead to having all our issues resolved by now, particularly as we haven't had broader discussions about the details of the model yet, actually supports my point.

So, yes, please let us have lots of great discussions...


Hubat McJuhes Tue 14 Jul 2015 10:47AM

Some thoughts:

  • Any three or more pirates can form a group (in analogy to the 3-pirate-rule).
  • Every group has to appoint and announce a speaker and a co-speaker.
  • Any pirate can be member of as many groups as she likes.
  • A common group can decide for itself whom they want to accept as members of the group.
  • Examples of possible common groups could be: a copyleft group; a neutralNet group; privacy pirates, sustainable pirates, social pirates,...
  • A group stalls, should the number of members fall below 3. It then looses all privileges of a group until the number rises to or above 3 active members again.
  • A group ceases should the number of active members drop to 0.
  • The constitution defines certain groups with a mandate to deal with certain cross cutting concerns which are essential to the parties infrastructure.
  • The membership may define additional essential groups as they see fit.
  • Essential groups must accept at least speakers of other groups as group members unless otherwise specified by the specific mandate (E.g. a constitutional group could be defined so that only members elected by the party membership are allowed as active members).
  • An essential group must not be allowed to stall, i.e. the active membership must be 3 or more (or a higher minimum number if codified for this particular group) at all times.
  • The constitution must define a mechanism to ensure minimum member numbers for essential groups.
  • An example for an essential group guaranteed by the constitution would be the treasure group.
  • An example for an essential group the constitution or the membership could specify could be a server administration group.
  • Another example the membership could specify as essential group could be a Public Relations group.

Hubat McJuhes Tue 14 Jul 2015 11:08AM

If the above framework would appeal to the current membership, we could outline a first implementation that would suit us right now, given the small number of active members right now, like this:

We define the treasure group in the constitution as a group of X members, elected by the membership, to deal with the parties secrets (formerly Secretary) and funds (formerly Treasurer). Active membership would be limited to elected members, but any pirate must be granted passive membership (full participation and attendance right without voting right).

The treasure group would also be obliged to appoint (as a last resort even out of their own ranks) temporary members for other essential groups where such a group cannot fill their minimum numbers by their own means.

It is pretty obvious that this treasure group is pretty much the same thing as the current board, but embedded into an overall concept that makes very clear that it is an administrative unit only, rather than a power centre. So pretty much what we have always wanted.
This construction would make the transition easy and clearly points out the direction where future development is supposed to lead to.

Once we have grown a little we certainly would love to release the treasury out of the second obligation, for example.

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