Initiating Group Form, Process, and Demise
In this governing document, we – the Initiating Group – use ourselves as a guide for the entirety of Transition Port Angeles. Because this document is written by group process, it is our hope we have described ourselves honestly and accurately. Our methods, process, and form are what we have found to be the best practice.
We fully understand that how we do things will not necessarily work for other groups, at least in the particulars. However, we hope that the spirit of what we are trying to establish will help to inform future groups, and provide a solid foundation upon which to build.
Our mission is to put ourselves out of a job, by ensuring that Transition Port Angeles broadens and deepens to the point where it is thriving and self-organizing. We will do so by pursuing objectives which move toward our group’s demise, including those described in the governing document The Path of Transition Port Angeles.
At some point, the Initiating Group will evolve into the Steering Group* and represent the completion of our overall mission. We expect that this will occur quite near the Great Unleashing – the large public event to generate enthusiastic participation in Working Groups* and their emergent projects. Whether this evolution occurs before or after will be left up to the process; if this evolution occurs earlier, it will be a definite sign that the Great Unleashing will need to be held in short order.
By analogy with gardening, we are simply staking out a new plot and installing a handful of raised beds. Perhaps we will be fortunate enough to plant a few hardy perennials as well. But at some point, we must hand off the garden to the gardeners.
Because we are initiators, we are self-appointed and temporary. The Initiating Group has a definitive lifespan, after which it must dissolve for the good of the entire Initiative. To do otherwise – to have an Initiating Group which continues past its purpose and mission statement – will do incalculable harm to the positive energy and forward momentum which Transition Port Angeles will need to tackle the four challenges*.
*The four challenges are discussed in the governing document The Path of Transition Port Angeles.
To that end, we decided to begin the process described in The Transition Handbook, and to clarify and codify this evolution for our circumstances.
The first step of the Initiating Group’s demise is when four Working Groups have formed. Once those Working Groups feel they have coalesced sufficient mutual trust, they will each select one of their members to represent them. These four new representatives will then automatically join the Initiating Group, and thereby radically change its nature and dynamics.
The four new representatives will hold a special meeting with the Initiating Group, for the purposes of dialog-building and coalescing as a new group. At this point, members of the old Initiating Group have the choice to either request the opportunity to stay onboard, or to step down. The new representatives will, at their discretion, invite willing members of the old Initiating Group to join them. At this point, the Initiating Group ceases to exist, and the Steering Group is born.
This evolution can come either before or after the Great Unleashing, depending upon how swiftly Working Groups coalesce and become self-organizing. Regardless, this evolution will show that Transition Port Angeles is healthy and growing, and increasingly ready to get down to the big-picture project of tackling the four challenges.
Upon dissolution, control over all the Initiating Group’s information sharing platforms will be transferred to the Steering Group. This includes but is not limited to providing passwords, email lists, account access, and editorial control. These sharing platforms are discussed in the governing document The Path of Transition Port Angeles.
We explicitly adopt the Transition US Governance Toolkit as our basic governance model. The Toolkit is available from the Transition US website, as well as the homepage of Transition Port Angeles. While keeping the Toolkit as a foundation, it is our evolving traditions which we utilize in our meetings and group process.
In the future, we expect that our traditions will carry forward, albeit changed by new members and the nature of the new groups. Those groups will almost certainly make their own additions to what is passed on to them, and in so doing help to improve the depth and effectiveness of the traditions.
We explicitly reject majority rule in favor of consensus-building. We seek a 100% consensus on every decision, with the understanding that some decisions will take a very long time to be made. Through the interaction of different perspectives, and the resolution of conflicts, we believe that consensus will yield far superior results than a majority system, since it ensures that all are heard and have equal facility in forming group decisions.
A part of the consensus process is blocking. This is where a participant in the consensus process engages their right to prevent a decision from being made. A block is a very weighty matter, and should be invokes only when participants feel all other options have been exhausted.
A participant in the consensus process must immediately state the nature of the invoked block. In our opinion and experience, there are three different kinds of blocks:
- A Facts Block is made when a participant believes a decision is being made with erroneous information.
- A Values Block is made when a decision goes against the blocker’s principles.
- A Procedural Block is made when a participant believes a decision is outside the scope of the group, or indeed outside the spirit of the Charter or the Transition process.
A block which is made on the basis of interpersonal conflict is invalid, as is a block whose basis cannot be clearly defined by the blocker. These limits to blocking are made in order to prevent our group’s process from becoming stifled by inappropriate use of the blocking power.
We utilize the methodology described in the governing document Transition Port Angeles Conflict Resolution Methodology. As that document requires, we embrace conflict resolution as an intrinsic part of our consensus process.
Disappearing Task Forces
To effectively tackle our projects, we use Disappearing Task Forces. Members of the Initiating Group volunteer to take on a particular project to free up more group time for issues which require the attention of the entire group.
Every Disappearing Task Force has a concrete project, with an easily identifiable result. Task forces pursue the project on their own time, and bring their result to the entire Initiating Group for review and discussion. Upon completing the project, the task force dissolves – or disappears.
Disappearing Task Forces also enhance subsidiarity by replacing standing committees, which can inappropriately assume administrative functions and potentially usurp various decision-making powers. Task-specific Disappearing Task Forces preserve the dynamic nature of the group and make the most of its resources.
Because we operate upon the principles of mutual trust, organic process, and consensus, we reformulated the idea of a quorum. Rather than using either a fixed number or a percentage, we chose a method that can form a quorum based on the people who show up. These principles are discussed in the governing document Operating Principles of Transition Port Angeles.
If members of the Initiating Group can make a decision or take an action which would be binding for the entire group, they must clearly and explicitly ask if they feel it appropriate to do so. When the answer is a consensus yes, a quorum exists; if there is no consensus, then there is no quorum.
This fluid definition of a quorum aligns with our principles of trust and consensus while relying on the Transition maxim that “the right people are the people who show up.”
Expectations and Assumptions
We hold that anyone may be a member of the Initiating Group. In keeping with the Initiative’s anti-discrimination stance*, we do not believe that eligibility should be contingent upon anything personal to an individual. We also do not believe that eligibility should be limited by an artificial restraint on the size of the group. The Initiating Group will be as big or small as it needs to be to get the job done.
*Anti-discrimination and further principles are discussed in the governing document Fundamental Principles of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Because of the unique challenges of the Transition model, our process involves demands on our time and energy. It is expected that every member or potential member willingly accepts these expectations, and assume in good faith that those who step forward understand what is asked of them.
We expect members to read The Transition Handbook and the Charter, and agree with the spirit of both. Most importantly, we expect that members are willing to help grow Transition Port Angeles and to help each other move through personal transitions.
These expectations serve two purposes.
First, they ensure that people who join the Initiating Group are committed to what is involved and are prepared to immediately begin to learn by doing.
Second, if someone opts not to join the Initiating Group after learning the scope of what is expected, that person will still have a strong understanding of the Transition model and will be in a position to assist the entire Initiative going forward. In this case, it is the duty of the Initiating Group to assist this person in finding a circle of participation, to maximize their energy and interest to benefit themselves and Transition Port Angeles.
Generally, the Initiating Group holds a regular weekly meeting, a monthly day-long work session, and a quarterly day-long retreat. Work sessions focus deeply on a few very broad and important topics, while retreats provide opportunities to learn, review, and reënergize. Care is taken to ensure that meeting days, times, and locations are convenient for as many members as possible.
We expect members to be willing to see each meeting through until its natural conclusion, and to honor the time each process takes. We also expect that members will make honest and earnest attempts to attend every meeting, while recognizing that life does not always work out as planned.
The work of the Initiating Group is not something to be shouldered lightly. By making expectations explicit, we show what we expect of ourselves as well as other potential members. To have a constant flux of members in the Initiating Group could be stressful and hamper the group’s progress.
We do not expect that people interested in joining to the Initiating Group be fully versed in, for example, consensus-based process or other methods of conflict resolution, but rather that they be interested, primed, and ready to begin learning by doing.
We ask that potential members sit in on at least two of our regular weekly meetings as an observer, as well as read The Transition Handbook and the Charter – if they haven’t done so already – and agree with the spirit of both. This is a method to help both the Initiating Group and the potential new member proactively work on building mutual trust and an understanding on how group process will evolve.
Then a special item to add them to the group will be placed at the top of the next meeting’s agenda so that the new member can get right into learning by doing.
As we all know too well, life rarely goes quite as planned and members might need an extended leave of absence from the group for personal reasons. This is understandable, and need not be a barrier to participating.
We request as much notice as possible from the member taking leave, as well as a general return date. We also expect that extended leave be respected as something for occasional use.
Anyone may leave the Initiating Group with fair notice, taking time to meet with the remaining group members, or even the entire group, to talk about the reasons for leaving. After this final departing conversation, the next meeting’s agenda will begin with an action to remove the departing member.
Unfortunately, it might become necessary to remove a member from the Initiating Group after all forms of conflict resolution have been exhausted. As mentioned in the Governance Toolkit, people who do not accept the process itself must be ejected for the good of the group, as well as the Initiative. If such a situation should arise, an item will be added to the top of the next meeting’s agenda to remove the exiting member.
It is incumbent upon both the Initiating Group and the exiting member to establish how to keep that member within the overall Initiative, if possible, assuming that is what the exiting member wishes. Using established conflict resolution methods are clearly necessary throughout this entire process.
Affirmation of this Document
In the spirit of the future we wish to facilitate, we affirm our whole-hearted support of this constituent governing document of the Charter of Transition Port Angeles by our signatures:
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