Friday, May 2, 2014

Updated Draft of the Mission & Vision Statements, Anti-Oppression Policy, Structure, Consensus Scheme, and Name!

And don't forget to make it to the next coalition meeting, tomorrow (Saturday) at 3pm at 1029 Santa Fe Drive in Denver!

NAME: Communities United Against Mass Incarceration (CUAMI)


The mission of Communities United Against Mass Incarceration is to end the system of Mass Incarceration. We exist to unite all those organizations and communities in Colorado that are either directly impacted by Mass Incarceration, working to end it, or both, with the aims of unifying movements and fostering broader collaboration. Given that structural inequality, concentrated poverty, and a culture of punitive social control have disenfranchised massive swaths of the populations as part of the system of Mass Incarceration, we prioritize the struggles of those directly impacted by this system. Mass Incarceration inflicts systemic violence; therefore we must deal with it systemically. And though different communities are impacted differently by mass incarceration, it will take all of us uniting to end it. And though many of our individual efforts are successful, together we wield far more power.


CUAMI envisions a future in which the systems of racial and economic oppression that provide the framework in which mass incarceration is both encouraged to proliferate and profitable ceases to exist. The current “justice” system incarcerates away and punishes individuals rather than confronting the root problems that got them there, such as poverty, homelessness, mental health, addiction, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, violence, and militarism. Instead, CUAMI seeks to confront these issues head on, rather than locking up our neighbors, and envisions alternatives such as restorative and transformative justice models, rooted in collective liberation and healing, that utilize community collaboration to effectuate justice and peace within our society.


Communities United Against Mass Incarceration reaffirms its commitment to a policy of anti-oppression, on the basis of, but not limited to, ethnicity, language, race, age, ability, sex, sexual or gender identity, sexual orientation, family status, income, citizenship, nationality, place of birth, and political or religious affiliation, in all aspects of its operation and at all levels of the coalition. We recognize that racism, sexism, and other modes of oppression still exist within society, and that pursuing anti-oppression work begins by acknowledging our own relative privilege. Because we are an organization dedicated to anti-oppression work, we will take action to recognize and address oppressive dynamics both in society and within our own organization.


1) Steering Committee – 2-10 people self-nominated and chosen by group consensus (reviewed every 12 months, with re-nomination and consensus process as necessary) to perform the administrative tasks of the coalition. Nominations shall be made in writing (email acceptable), stating the reasons for interest in the membership and qualifications (to include extent of membership in coalition and/or dedication to the issues) circulated among the members at least two weeks prior to the coalition-wide meeting where the consensus process will take place.  This role does not have decision-making power but is intended to see out the necessary administrative tasks. Steering committee members may be recalled via proposal submitted by no fewer than three active partners (partners who have previously attended at least one meeting prior to submission) at any time via the consensus process, and if removed, the meeting facilitator should take a temperature check, based on the advice of the rest of the steering committee and the meeting attendees as a whole, on whether it is necessary to reopen the application process for a new steering committee member to replace the lost member.
Responsibilities of steering committee members include:
        Finding a location for coalition-wide meetings, scheduling and announcing meeting times and locations, as well as securing facilitators on a rotating basis for each meeting
        Disseminating announcements and updates on a weekly basis
        Managing the member database, listservs and the blog/website
        Doing one-on-ones with new organizational partners and regularly checking in (every two weeks) with those organizations to get updates on projects, campaigns and events
        Calling/scheduling/publicizing the quarterly meet-n-greets (see below)
        Stay in the loop on committees’ activities in order to be able to connect new partners with committees based on shared work
        Money handling (we only have about $20 right now, unofficially, so at the moment this isn’t in high demand)

2) (Substantive) Committee Structure – leave as is – autonomous – but make sure that there is at least one liaison to the steering committee to keep open those lines of communication and that there are regular report-backs to the full coalition of committee work

3) Twice Yearly Roundtable Meet-n-Greets – this would be an event to occur either two, three or four times a year to bring together all the partner organizations and community members that don’t have the time or resources to be present at most coalition meetings. Mingle, network, make friends – whatever you call it, these events would serve to reunify and reenergize the community. I imagine this as a potluck. We would have a go around where each organization (and individual, if they like) gets an opportunity to speak on their current campaigns, projects, events, etc. After that, there would be time for mingling so that people can connect with others who are working on similar projects, or just to network or make friends! 


Coalition Consensus Scheme – Adapted from the work of Terese Howard
Special thanks to Jennifer Murnan for her help

Communities United Against Mass Incarceration (the coalition) runs on a 9/10ths consensus model, meaning that we strive to reach widespread agreement on major decisions. The consensus model aims to facilitate collaboration, empower people to take on responsibilities and to speak out on matters of importance to them, and to be part of the decisions and ultimately direction of the collective itself. In structuring our decision making in such a way, we intend to foster a sustainable community that can withstand conflicts.

The meetings of the coalition serve as a space and time for anyone to directly shape the direction and decisions of the movement through face-to-face discussion. Those present collaborate by working together from their diverse perspectives to come to consensus concerning proposals. The purpose of this document is to offer a guide to the consensus process and procedures used in coalition meetings.

Here is how the facilitation team of the General Assembly for the Puerta Del Sol protest camp in Madrid described the consensus process of the General Assembly. The Puerta Del Sol camp was part of the so-called “15th May Movement,” or “Indignants” in Spain, beginning in 2011 and continuing to the present, which is a response to the economic crisis of Spain.

The consensus process is diametrically opposed to the kind of thinking propounded by the present system. The normal response of two people with differing opinions tends to be confrontational. They each defend their opinions with the aim of convincing their opponent, until their opinion has won.

The aim of consensus, on the other hand, is to construct. Two people with differing ideas work together to build something new. The goal is not my idea or yours; rather it is the notion that two ideas together will produce something new, something that neither of us had envisaged beforehand. This focus requires that we actively listen, rather than merely be preoccupied with preparing our response.

Consensus is born when we understand that all opinions - be these opinions of our own, or opinions of others - need to be considered and that a collectively created idea can transform ourselves and our own opinions.

The following are upfront agreements that embody some of the important concepts behind the coalition’s form of participatory organizing and decision-making:
-       Participatory Democracy/Direct Democracy - A kind of democracy not limited to voting and holding office but a democracy expanded to include opportunities for everybody to make meaningful contributions to decision making.
-       No Representation - Using political representatives to make decisions for others does not value the unique and irreplaceable perspectives of all people, and it takes away peoples' direct influence on decisions that effect them.
-       9/10ths Consensus Decision Making - A group decision-making process that seeks the consent, not necessarily the agreement of participants and the resolution of objections. We use 9/10ths consensus for the following reasons:
o   To ensure that the vast majority of people involved support the decisions of the whole. In this way, decisions are more likely to be effectively carried out. The process of coming to consensus on decisions facilitates fuller collaboration in designing the decision/action.
o   The coalition is an organization with open membership. That means there is always the potential for co-optation and infiltration. In order to minimize the impact of those negative forces, we require 90%, rather than 100% agreement on major decisions.
o   Decisions based on consensus are less likely to be highly divisive.
o   This scheme enables the group to more seriously consider the opinions of dissenting voices and come to agreements that reconcile with these perspectives.
-       Leaderless(full) - When there are no leaders, everyone is a leader. No one holds a position where, as an individual, they make final decisions for the movement. Everyone holds a position where they can take initiative to make things happen.
-       Step Up/Step Back – The meaning here is two-fold: first, if you are the type of person that ordinarily does not speak up during meetings, we invite you to step up and contribute. If you are the type of person that speaks frequently at meetings, we invite you to listen, step back, and check how much you are contributing relative to other people. Secondly, some individuals within the coalition are allies, meaning they are less directly impacted by issues of mass incarceration relative to the rest of the organization. The coalition prioritizes the voices and struggles of those who are marginalized as members of the directly impacted populations. Therefore, we invite those who are less directly impacted to temper their contributions in light of this distinction, and invite those directly impacted to step up to contribute.
-       St. Paul Principles: The St. Paul Principles came out of the resistance to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Because there were so many organizations involved, with different visions and different tactics, and because historically these differences have been used to pit groups against one another and create division, the organizations united to draft these principles and extinguish that potential for divisiveness. Communities United Against Mass Incarceration is a coalition with a diversity of membership bases, tactics, and perspectives; therefore in order to remain united we make the following agreements with one another:
1.     Our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the plans of other groups.
2.     The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of time or space.
3.     Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.
4.     We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence. We agree not to assist law enforcement actions against activists.
-       As necessary, additional rules and procedures may be added in order to facilitate the healthy functioning of our movement and to keep our organization on task in adhering to its mission and vision.
-       Partners in need of alternate forms of communication (no access to internet, deaf, etc.) should notify a steering committee member ASAP to work out a system of communication whereby all information disseminated to the coalition is also made available to those partners in a timely manner and any contributions they make will be received by the coalition. Proposals submitted to Loomio should simultaneously be disseminated to these individuals to give them an equal amount of time to contribute feedback and raise objections.

Procedure for bringing forth proposals
1.     What is/is not a proposal - A proposal is something that needs the consent of coalition in order to take effect. Proposals can be actions/events bottom lined by the coalition, actions or events for the coalition to support by spreading the word and attending, statements for the coalition to endorse, changes to the coalition procedures, or other issues that require the collective support of the coalition. Proposals must have a specific concrete goal. Proposals should not require that other people do things without their consent.
a.     Proposers should be able to answer the following questions:
                                               i.     Have you formulated a concrete proposal, or do you just want to open something up for general discussion?
                                             ii.     Is this a proposal, or would is be more appropriate as a breakout group discussion or announcement?
                                            iii.     Has this already been discussed with the necessary people/committees?
                                            iv.     What is your desired outcome for this discussion?
                                             v.     Who needs to be present at the meeting it we are to reach a conclusion on this item? Do we have everyone, all the info we need, etc.
b.     Every proposal must include these elements:
                                               i.     What is being proposed
                                             ii.     Why it is being proposed
                                            iii.     How it will be implemented
2.     How to get a proposal on the agenda: Alert a steering committee member and provide them with the information required in part 1(b) of this section ASAP. Proposals without the requisite information should be re-worked until they satisfy the elements of section 1(b).
a.     If there is enough time to disseminate the proposal to the full membership before the next coalition meeting, the steering committee member will do so via email and other means necessary for inclusivity of all members. (If an email has already been sent to the membership that week, it will go in the next week’s email or wait to be raised at the meeting. We don’t want to send more than one email a week given concerns about overloading our partners’ inboxes.)
b.     Regardless of whether the proposal can be disseminated to the full coalition, the steering committee member or the proposer (the two may work this out on their own) posts the proposal to Loomio to start an online discussion. Loomio is an app ( that enables discussion and online consensus-based decision-making
c.     Also regardless of whether the proposal can be disseminated to the full coalition, the steering committee member will put the item on the agenda for the next coalition meeting so long as it complies with the requirements of section 1(b). See section 4(a) on proposals raised for the first time at meetings.
3.     The role of the proposer - The person/people bringing the proposal are responsible for answering direct questions about the proposal. The proposer has priority to respond directly out of stack if there is need. The proposer should also be prepared to take amendments from the others into their proposal. They will need to reply if they do or do not agree to an amendment (whether the amendment is “friendly”), and restate the proposal at the end with any amendments. Their goal should not be to push through a proposal to get it “passed.” The important piece is not in passing proposals as law, but in finding proposals that carry support from the group such that they will work together to ensure its success.
4.     Final decisions will be made only at coalition meetings, given that access to technology can create disparities within the group. Individuals who want to contribute but cannot attend the meeting should add their contribution to the Loomio discussion thread and/or alert a steering committee member. All discussion contributions collected on Loomio and via alternate forums will be read out during the in-person meeting while the proposal is being discussed.
a.     Proposals first raised at meetings must go through this process (of email circulation and collecting feedback) if there is any disagreement. Proposals that are not contentious may be decided at the meetings at which they are raised.
b.     Proposals first raised at meetings that are contentious must be circulated to the membership via email and posted to Loomio and all partners to collect feedback as soon as possible after the conclusion of the meeting. No decision will be made on the proposal unless it has been posted to Loomio and made available to all partners for at least a week (to give members an opportunity to comment and respond to others’ comments). The proposal may be directed to a vote no earlier than the following (second) meeting after it is proposed. In this instance, if the proposer wishes to continue with the proposal, they should make sure the steering committee adds the item to the agenda for the following meeting.
5.     No last minute decisions or endorsements will be made outside of this procedure.
6.     Procedural issues/decisions should be addressed towards the end of coalition meetings so that newer folks do not feel obligated to sit through them.

Consensus/Voting Procedure: Much of the consensus process is actuated in discussions on the proposal, pros and cons, accommodating objections, etc. In the case of this coalition, that discussion will happen in two places: (1) the coalition meetings, (2) Loomio, and (3) other forms of communication necessary for inclusion of those members without regular Internet access. However, votes will only be taken at coalition meetings because as an organization we recognize that the Internet is not accessible to all our partners. A quorum is needed for votes, and a quorum is seven people. Partners unable to attend a meeting should alert a member of the steering committee if they would like to call in to attend the meeting remotely via conference call.
1.     The proposer first presents the proposal. The facilitator will then ask if there are any clarifying questions for objections.
a.     If there are no objections, the proposal passes.
b.     If there are objections, the facilitator should open up the item for full discussion. Any feedback collected on Loomio or in other forums of communication should also be read aloud at this point. When it appears that there may be widespread agreement, the facilitator should direct the issue to a vote.
2.     Anyone who has attended at least one meeting may vote. No one may vote if it is their first time at a coalition meeting. The purpose of this rule is that we don’t want people who are not committed to the coalition having undue influence over its decisions. Anyone, including first timers, may contribute and give feedback about decisions, but only those who have attended at least one meeting may vote.
3.     Votes are called in this order: Blocks, Abstentions, No, Yes.
a.     A block means the person believes this proposal to be fundamentally opposed to the values or principles of the coalition, and that if the proposal goes forward, they are willing to leave the group.
b.     If there are no blocks and the “no” votes constitute less than 10% of the voting population present, the proposal passes.
4.     If there is a Block, we will follow the following procedure:
a.     The person(s) blocking will be asked to explain why they are blocking.
b.     After the explanation time, additional time will be given for the group to discuss the concerns of the blocker and attempts will be made to reconcile the issue.
c.     After this discussion, a vote will be called for again. If the blocker’s concern convinced enough others to block or vote against the proposal, such that the vote does not reach a 9/10 consensus, the proposal will not pass. If this is the case, we encourage the blocker and proposer to meet and see if they can reach agreement, in which case they may reintroduce the proposal.
5.     If the discussion did not lead enough others to block or vote “no”, then the proposal will pass.

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