STRATEGY MEETING 17/11/2013: PURPOSE OF THE G.A., RMT, KATE’S RESEARCH ON OCCUPY
11am: RECAP on last session
11:15 General Assemblies?
– What is the purpose of holding a GA?
– How can we involve people in assemblies creatively?
– Who will oganise them?
-how do we organise them?
13:00 1h Lunch
13:30 45min RMT
14:15 15min Break
14:30 1h Feedback working groups
1. Feedback from Working groups and actions: (1h)
Occupy the Arms Fair 5min
Occupy the BBC 5min
Basic Income 5min
International WG (15min)
– international convergences (5min)
– Debt (5min)
-TTIP ( US/EU trade agreement ) (5min)
Campaigns WG – Mike for Chris FD (15min)
Putney debates 2014 ?(5mins)
15:30 (30 -45 min )
Kate’s presentation researching occupy , G8 etc
a short presentation (15 mins of research) which will be followed by discussion (15 -30 mins) to focus our attention on the now but also on the wider issues of social transformation.
It is about using tensions within and between movements in a positive way by creating space for reflection on the dilemmas of organising that we face – internal divisions, repression, horinzontality, connectivity and the project of bringing about wider social change. It’s about what makes a successful movement and could useful for putting things in perspective whilst keeping a long term view of what we are all doing, what we are all about….
16 :151h Concluding discussion & feedback,next step, shout-outs
What is the purpose of holding a GA?
Meeting with RMT Representative.
Working Group Feedbacks.
Presentation: Dilemmas and Contentions.
Dilemmas and Contentions. Questions and Answers.
Feedback for future meetings.
Minutes/Notes from last 30 minutes of Occupy Strategy Meeting 17/11/13
Discussion as to whether to have the next strategy meeting on December 14th / 15th Most people would like an after-party, making Saturday more convenient. Others prefer Sunday Beth, Tim, Jonni and Steve to arrange next strategy meeting, advised by Vica and Julie, with planning meeting on November 24th at the Royal Festival Hall, 5th Floor, Green side, if anyone else is interested in joining.
Peace and Justice for Syria working group planning a peace pilgrimage through the embassies of London related to the Syrian crisis. For details, email email@example.com and check blog http://earthianblog.wordpress.com/author/earthianblog/
Benefit for Balcombe 23rd November at Grovenor Pub 6-8
to raise funds for those arrested during Balcombe occuption, email Tim firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help out.
November 26th Fuel Poverty Action at 11.30am in Central London. Meeting point secret for now.
Concluding Feedback on this Stategy Meeting
(Apologises for not knowing/remembering who said all points)
1) Good healthy discussion regarding GA contention.
2) Good, but key points could be captured better
Clive) Nice flexibility at beginning. However, inducing more people into occupy needs to become a bigger priority.
4) Enjoyed Kate’s presentation. Would like a core role to do in occupy, but doesn’t know what is needed (wants suggestions)
Dave) Whether this was a good meeting will depend on what actions get followed up.
Tim) Would prefer a bit less feedback and more strategy in future.
7) Happy that we decided on an iterative trial/error process to gradually resolve internal problems (about the purpose of GA/public/strategy meetings)
8) Enjoyed the meeting
Jamie) We achieved a nice balance of flexibility, while also pushing through important points on the agenda. Perhaps though people were often talking/facing towards the facilitator too much when they raised points, instead of addressing everyone.
Steve) Happy with the meeting, and pleased with its energizing effect – its important that. Enjoyed Kate’s presentation.
Inca) Meeting was good.
Kate) Interesting day, liked the open agenda time, and believes we need the same in future meetings
RMT union rep) Happy to be here and listening, hopes to be part of the movement as a whole in the future.
Vica) Really appreciated that members of the group was listening to each other despite contentious topic (GA modus operandi). Felt that perhaps presentations like Kate’s are more valuable for public meetings, reaching outwards. Thought we could be more creative about the way we share information. We need more people to get involved in organizing GA s so its not just the same people.
15) Enjoyed Kate’s presentation and learning about the roots of occupy and the links between the movements.
Mike) we need to take better minutes (not just right at the end), and have proper records of our meetings. Minutes ought to be circulated shortly in advance of each strategy meeting so that there is continuity. We ought to start on time, perhaps we should say we start at 10:30, and actually start 11:00
Julie) We need more imaginative means of taking notes of our meetings, and need more people doing it in future.
Jonni) We ought to have a dedicated space to capture details of future events and meetings, with clear contact details, to prevent confusion when trying to follow up on things happening after each meeting. This should be sent out with the minutes.
There is Benefit for Balcombe being organised to support those who were arrested and are facing court appearances. The aim is to support them with travel and food costs on the day of their court appearance. The funds raised will be dispersed by the arrestee support group from Frack Off.
The benefit is being held in the Grosvenor pub in Stockwell SW9 OTP 6pm til late on Sat November 23rd. It is going to have a mixture of performaces, films and a cafe. As it is a fund raising event it will also have the additional element of a small indoor funfair where people can play games with anti-fracking themes and win small prizes. Entry by donation.
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/209627435886424/?fref=ts
Frack Off – Benefit for Balcombe
OL Strategy Meeting. Purpose of the G.A. – Sunday 17th November 2013
Transcript courtesy of Caroline CH.
16 in attendance – Julie, Michael, Andrea, Peter, Mark, Andy, Janusz, Steve, Les, Jamie, Vica, Inka, Dave, Clive, Tim, Obi.
JULIE – i do feel that we had a long process in terms of setting the agenda via pirate pad open meeting so i would like to stick to what we agreed if thats ok and i would suggest we get more on the planning process next time.
VICA – Having been in the planning process, i do think that sometimes we listen too much to the emails. Maybe there are other people who are not contributing via email. Is the GA something the people in the room really want to be talking about? If not, maybe we could divide into groups and talk about what people here want to talk about, rather than is what in the emails?
Julie starts to read from the bullet points on the wall, re: G.A. Purpose, but everyone has read them so decided a waste of time as running late already… (might be an idea to add the bullet points here at some point)
JULIE – So, what do people want to say about this or does anyone want to add anything?
CLIVE – Where we seemed to get to last time was the focus on the economic situation and what we discussed last time was trying to link the economic structures to the specific problems, and any campaigns we conduct, be actually framed in that context so we try and actually join the dots of the Neo-Liberal agenda with every manifestation of it, in such a way that say NHS through FREE-TRADE agreements, through to the web of power that actually controls the process. That was the theme we got to last week but i get the feeling that while some people may be on that page, i’m not sure that we discussed it adequately to tease out objections, concerns, points of information whatever…
JULIE – yeah… anybody else on the floor? (pause)… I just felt that there was a lot of really rich discussion about the economics… we had loads of presentations about that…
JANUSZ – It’s fair to point out that since the last meeting, one of the strategy objectives, based around the idea of basic income, it is important to realise that we have at least one person i met, who is at the cutting edge of the lack of basic guarantee of right income in our society, and we should listen to people who are experienced in the demeaning nature of the way that basic needs are being provided if we don’t fit in with the system. That’s a fundamental economic issue.
VICA – That’s the Basic Income isn’t it?
LES – That’s the thing with being on benefits… you are only one payment away from the gutter really, if you don’t jump through the hoops of being a jobseeker.
PETER – I think these issues are very important, in terms of what our message is and so on, but I think the major thing with this time is how we organise, doing the hard work of organising and organising regularly and in that way, building our numbers. For me, that’s the urgent priority and that’s why getting the G.A.s sorted out is a priority for today.
CLIVE – I wouldn’t disagree with that, but i think part of the process to build numbers is to relate the structure that we’re living under, to the manifestation so, the NHS is a good “hot-button”, and that’s one of our campaigns, but we need to relate it back to the structure. Environmental destruction is the same thing. It’s just to make sure that we actually provide some over-arching continuity to what we’re doing, rather than just saying we’re going to go off and do Citizens Income, or we’re going to do whatever campaign it might be, without actually joining them all together.
VICA – I think the conversations we are having are incredibly valuable, and we should be documenting them and not just with livestream, so i wonder if someone is taking minutes, or at least can we collectively take some notes or something. I don’t know if there are any volunteers to take minutes or notes and then we share them?
JULIE – Are we live streaming this at the moment?
INKA – Looks like it…
VICA – well, i’m going to take my own personal notes, may those that are going to be taking personal notes, we can think of ways to share them…
JULIE – Maybe we could do a pirate pad and then add them in?
VICA – Mine are very graphic notes…
MICHAEL – Why not let’s look at livestream afterwards…
MARK – So someone has to make the minutes by looking at livestream all over again… I’m not going to do it…
JULIE – So we’ve got livestream and some people taking notes. Are you prepared to put them up, even if their not definitive?
VICA – The thing is, if i take notes for myself, they are going to be very based on how i reflect on things, and they’re going to be very graphical, so they need translating, let’s say… So, i think it’s good if someone has another technique of taking notes.
JULIE – Is anyone willing to do that?
CLIVE – I’ll do what i can…
JULIE – Thanks Clive…
MICHAEL – Something i have said before, and i think this is quite important… We have got to say what we actually mean by the GA… Certainly, if you go to the public, a GA has no meaning. So, there are public meetings of which i’m certain are going to happen, and there are GAs… And i think the one thing we should get clear, and clear very quickly, is that we need to have a GA to sort out the questions of consensus, the question of finance… But, that is not here, today… What I’ve suggested before is that we should involve Em and Liz… they have the option of coming to a GA, give them a choice of dates and at that point, we can deal with consensus and finance.
JULIE – There might be two reason for having a GA… Outreach and also to resolve some of our internal issues.
MICHAEL – If we call the Outreach a Public Meeting, then at least everybody knows the differentiation between the two.
JULIE – Ok… It looks like we are moving into actually discussing GAs… Do people want to talk a bit more about how we recap and resolve these issues, or are we happy moving into the GA? So, those who want to spend more time on recapping could you raise your hand… Ok… Speaker, do you want to make a point?
STEVE – Yes, it’s just a brief point actually… I think that what Clive said is really important because, the first impression was, we will have todays meeting, which is dissociated from the last meeting we had here, or at least, that’s what it felt like, and i think we always have to remind ourselves, constantly remind ourselves, that the continuity and linking things together, the old shpiel about a continued narrative, i think, is really important, and i think we have to be careful not to get into the bad habit of not making things a part of a continuity.
JULIE – Ok. We’ve picked up on Vica’s point here. I think there might be some people who want to look at GAs and some people who might want to look at other things? Vica suggested that we could do breakout groups. We could do that so that if other people want to look at, i don’t know, the (something) of organising or strategy and campaigns or… could it be worth breaking out?…
INKA – I think there’s a problem with micro decision making. You guys were a part of the decision making of what this group, the thing was going to be today, and i think that the least we can do is respect the work that you did last time, and, we knew that you were going to have a meeting, we could have written you direct emails about what we wanted in there, and if anybody didn’t, then that’s just bad luck now, so we can learn from today and we can do it next time.
JULIE – Ok. We have quite a lot of time at the end as well, so, at the end, we can spend more time planning towards the next meeting, so…
TIM – Yeah, just to pick up on that point… I guess the reason i didn’t write in was because i seriously thought it would be more of a continuation, and i’m not really in the position to communicate like that at the moment… trying to get my benefit going. I really support Clive’s point. I think the point of the strategy conversation is that we do find a way to think in an organised way about what it means to construct a strategy and to have some criteria for what makes a successful campaign and how we are going to construct a counter now. These are long things to think about, and they’re difficult, but i think unless we go through that, we won’t have any power. If we just go for an issue or a campaign, at this juncture, i think it’s premature. We need to think of something where we have got to campaign across a set of issues, we’re not a single issue group. We should be about trying to create a wider understanding of how the elite maintains it position… that’s the essential point., and i think we have a brilliant soundbite, and the only thing that has really penetrated the Neo – Liberal construct is the soundbite, of the “99% against the 1%” , although i don’t agree about it in terms of the politics of it and whether it works, whether we are a 99%, but the idea that there IS a 1% screwing the 99% is a very powerful idea and people were attracted to that, and we need to really, really support that with strong analytical arguments… The how it’s maintained and how to end it. We need to create a strategy that focuses on actually undermining their ability to do it, and it needs to be potent.
JULIE – Ok, so, we’ve really got to decide how we going to spend the time now. I have a couple of different proposals. One is that either we all stay on GAs or, alternatively, those who are passionate about GAs stay here, and those who want to talk about wider issues, go over there. So, who wants to stay as one group? [raise of hands] Ok… Who would like to split up and go talk if you’re not particularly passionate about strategy, over there?
Ok, seems like most people want to stay here so let’s stick with the talking about GA. There will be time later on in the afternoon. We will make sure we leave time for that after (someones) presentation, to look at the wide issues.
[THE GROUP SPLITS BUT REFORMS IN A LITTLE WHILE?]
VICA – Being together and talking about GAs are two different things, so i DO think it is very valuable to be together now… I think we need more time with a big group. I wonder if the conversations about GAs could not be seen as part of a bigger topic… that we don’t just focus on the GA.. i sort of liked the direction we were going in… sort of, we need GAs for this, and other types of meetings for that, for other things and that maybe, from the things that have been coming out, we might have a conversation about what we want to be discussing in these Sunday meetings… So, what makes this Sunday meeting different from a GA? I don’t want to make it too broad but, leave the flexibility to look at the different functions that we need to be covering…
ANDY – In terms of planning and then arriving, obviously, you guys have planned, which is great… it means that we don’t all turn up going what are we going to do now so, that’s great but i also think that some flexibility has to built in for balance, and we’re kind of doing that aren’t we, but, i’d like to say this… Talking about recapping from the last session… it’s something to do with the question of organisation of conversation and leadership within conversation, and i think that what tends to happen in meetings is that they get to the point where the group is thinking together about something and, if you like, kind of like Jung (Carl Gustav)… Jung says this wonderful idea, that in a room, consciousness tends to rise, and there are moments in conversation where consciousness is rising, and then suddenly it just drifts and moves on and somehow, we need to stop the drift because, the room is getting to the point, it’s (something) that point, all that energy is come from somewhere and it’s got to that point and then it is lost. I’m don’t know the solution to this but what i’m suggesting is that there will be one or two people in the room who will notice what’s going on, and they will see this process happening, and if you are one of these people maybe you could say, “hang on, we’re losing the point”. Maybe we could have more courage amongst ourselves, that one person could say, “hang on, we’re losing the point. Can we get back on point?” So then maybe we can help to manage our own collective experience by one or two people being brave enough to say, “Let’s stick to the point please.” That’s my suggestion.
MICHAEL – Can i suggest… GAs came onto the agenda at this point because Peter and Jamie both sent emails on the original thing, so that i set out for this meeting, both of them seeing GAs in a different way. Jamie is not here, but as Peter is here, could we have Peter kick it off by saying what was in his mind when he said to me “I want GAs on the agenda”?
JULIE – Mark, we’re in this together, so, yeah… That sounds really good and also, if you could particularly reflect on the purpose, because this would help us and make us think as well what it means… The broader picture as well… What topic are we trying to do right now…
PETER – Absolutely, i mean, I got involved with Occupy like most of you, probably because i saw from the beginning that this was a grassroots movement for systemic change. Sparked off by the bankers and so on, but straight away was going to looking at the money system, it was looking at the environmental crisis, and the total lack of democracy, so it is looking at those kind of deep systemic issues, and so, i think the GAs and everything else we do should be in service of that goal, of making an increasing number of people aware of those issues and take action on those issues. I raised the issue of GAs because i thought that as a movement, if i can still call it a movement with the numbers we’ve got, we were getting very dispersed. There were people doing various things in working groups here and there, but we weren’t all aware of what those different groups were doing, and i just think we need to, any movement needs to, come together from time to time, preferably regularly and hear about what’s going on and how they can support and motivate each other. So, myself and Jamie were trying to organise a GA for the end of this month, but it seemed like there wasn’t really enough energy so in the end we kind of gave up on that, but it’s an idea we can bring back… I’d say we need to get back to organising some kind of collective, public meeting, open to everybody, as widely publicised as we can, at least once a month. I’d say they need to include, a bit like today, some time for spontaneous proposals on what the people that turn up want to speak about as well as having proposals that have been put in in advance. I think that is very important. Then there’s the issue of decision-making, erm, whether we go with consensus, stick with consensus or we modify that slightly… but that’s something perhaps we could come back and talk about a bit later… So, i think these moments are really important… it is obviously not enough though. Part of the point of having GAs is also to discuss how we are going to reignite a wider movement, and more people to get involved with the process. And that’s where we need to bring these arguments about. Actually, i think we’re the only movement left that’s a grassroots movement arguing for systemic change. I don’t think The People’s Assembly are really doing that, maybe there are some other views, but i think we are the only one doing that at the moment. so, i think we’ve got strong arguments, but i think we’ve got to get back to organising and supporting each other… hearing back from working groups on a regular basis, meeting once a month (doesn’t seem like it’s too much to ask), publicise these as widely as possible, Facebook events, everything, you know, and then i think we’re getting back on the right track if we do that.
[hard to make out what’s being said]
[JULIE – clarifies for Peter re: The People’s Assembly and The People’s Charter]
MARK – I just wanted to pose a question… If it’s a useless question then we can move straight on, but it seems to me that there are two conversations, where some people want very much to develop those kind of proposals and arguments as to what Occupy is saying Economically, what you guys [indicates the Economics Working Group? or EEE Working Group?] are bringing to the table, and how to strategize in a forward-thinking way about that, and there’s the GAs, which, the concept that you [indicates to Peter] describe, sounds to me a bit like the concept of GAs as a sort of forum where people can come together, address their grievances, develop ideas and all that kind of stuff, you know, outreach and connecting with people… that’s not doing it justice… but, they seem to me to be two slightly different things at that point. My question i’m asking is; Is that intentional to bring those two things together where the GAs can be used in a different way to put forward arguments and have a more forward, i mean, i’m really asking you guys [same E/EEE Working Group], is that in your mind at all? Is there a way we can combine those two conversations? How do we develop the arguments of strategy and how do we incorporate regular GAs into that? Or is that an invalid question?
CLIVE – I think we probably DO need to incorporate the two, and picking up on Peter’s point about us being the only group, i would contest that because, the conversations that I’ve been having, erm, i circulated something yesterday or the day before, from Frank Taylor, Foxtrot Tango, who does the Runnymede Gazette. He’s trying to build a coalition, if you like, of like-minded people who are looking for systemic change. The Coalition for Economic Justice that we’ve been talking to similarly, they’re not quite as radical some of them, but within the coalition, there are people who are looking for radical systemic change, and i think the two conversations DO belong together in some degrees, although the issue of consensus is a very knotty one, and i think, is a separate issue. But, in terms of our strategy, i think we need to consider, what can we usefully do, in collaboration with other groups, and i know that Occupy is somewhat circumspect about getting collaboration with other groups, and quite rightly so, but actually, if we are going to create critical mass for change, we do need to try and work together. Frank’s put forward quite an interesting framework to try and, erm, he’s talking more about building a cellular structure of activism, under some over-arching sort of banner, which may be as simple as the concentration of power, but if everybody can frame their campaigns within an over-arching framework, then we can all work together in that way. Then, irrespective of the disagreements we have, we can actually build critical mass because here are other groups beyond Occupy that we can draw on so, i don’t know if i’ve answered your question Mark but in a manner of speaking, i think we belong together.
[UNTIMELY DRILLING NOISE]
KATE – Yeah, i guess i agree with Mark, where you are talking about a two-tier system, where you have one group of people kind of deciding what Occupy needs to be and then use the Assembly as a wider forum for information-spreading, you’re already getting a movement which is kind of like, starting to verticalize. Obviously, that will try to happen, but the main thing is, i think, it is important to bring it back together, so that the process is one thing, the Assembly process, and it’s not just a case of doing information sharing, but making it a place of collective learning, so that people can come and share and learn. I think we are in a movement trough at the moment. We’ve just done the G8 so it’s kind of like we are like, post-summit trough, we are post-occupy trough… So then, we need to think about other ways of increasing our potential for actually bringing about radical transformation so, i’ll be talking about it a bit more, later, but on a medium-term framework of movement dilemmas, improving internal structures and horizontality and increasing connectivity, reaching out to more and more groups, to bring in a diversity of people which, in turn, stimulates some kind of radical imagination, which we need, i think, erm, so that people can imagine that change can happen to motivate people to make change happen, and to envision the possible alternative, and i think diversity is important for that. So, whilst we are in this trough, we need to be looking at what we can do when things can take off again, when chaos means that, butterfly-effect or whatever, that we are more connected, more horizontal, more robust as a movement, and i think, to an extent, we CAN be catalysts to make this happen, by getting as many different people as possible together, to talk about their different community things and how we can all help and how can we do solidarity. That can actually make a difference so we can get the up-turn that we kind of need.
DAVE – Obviously, we don’t want a big split between process and action. We each, when we come to a situation, have different perceptions of what needs urgently doing, like the first or second day of Occupy, my immediate perception was that the dog-ends needed picking up and carrying away so, that’s what i did. Likewise, all of us can see sort of holes in the opening structure that we just sort of move in and either do stuff or present stuff. I know that i’ve got to do a lot more clear thinking about presenting economic stuff, in a way which is sufficiently digestible, non-trivial and intellectually bomb-proof for people, and we can easily get groups of people who have nice feelings about altruism and being vaguely lefty together, i suspect, but having the sort of coercive, if you like, intellectual arguments with people who aren’t on the same sort of diagram, or whatever, as ourselves, reaching out that matters, and I think it is great to sort of plan, as i said, so long as you don’t let those plans stop you seizing opportunities as they come up, like yesterdays action. I mean, i understand management speak and horizontal speak and it’s great in principle. There’s got to be something actually solid driving it. [couldn’t make out a very short bit] My answer to Mark’s question is yes.
[OBI ARRIVES – the question of whether we want to break is mentioned but declined for now as we listen to Jana, but unfortunately the sound was too muffled to make out what he was saying for about 25 seconds]
JANUSZ – speaker’s corner and now I don’t want that to be lost [sorry JANUSZ, maybe someone can fill those first 25 seconds?] because i believe it is a very important succession, to the camp outside St. Paul’s, not only that but It also has an historical kind of context of discussing social issues, even though it has been degenerated now because it’s mainly religious people there but, we, as part of Occupy, could reclaim part of that spot, that historic spot in London. In addition to that, there was a failed attempt to re-establish governings outside St. Paul’s… a few of us actually met the Dean and another High Priest, whatever… that was failed, and they themselves said, “Sorry, why don’t you go to Hyde Park and learn how to control the governing, because that is what they are afraid of… you, with all your best intentions, will lose control… this is what happens, and then we are in hot water again.
INKA – The High Priest said this? The other people said this?
JANUSZ – Two people representing St. Paul’s said this… But Hyde Park would be, i just want to register this as a vague notion, we have to, not to lose it…
JULIE – Thank you for bringing us back… I was wondering if it might be useful to write out the kind of things that a GA could do? Like, could it work in partnership to create alternatives? Could it be a network to bring us together? Could it be a place to resolve different problems? It seems like there are all these different ways that a GA can operate.
INKA – We know this Julie. We know what a GA can and can’t do because we’ve done a lot of them.
JULIE – Ok… I think what i’m trying to say is that there are all these different things that a GA wants us to do and, how do we capture what we’re doing now? We can just carry on talking if people would prefer… i was just suggesting ways in which we try and capture what we’re discussing. I don’t know if there is any paper that we could use… Maybe I’ll try write some stuff… Mark, could you just take a, would you mind just taking points… and how can this move on?
MARK – Just taking points, and let you guys discuss? I’ll try my best.
ANDY – Can I?… A technical point… Today, I’m trying to look at how the meeting is working, and what you’ve just done, is that you’ve taken control, and you said to, can we sum up? to consolidate the conversation, and i just want to highlight what you’ve just done because i think it’s fantastic. And we need to support this happening lots of times… when someone in the room says let’s take control. Can i say one more thing about organising meetings? It hasn’t happened yet, but it will happen, that someone will have a temptation that when they get the floor, and it’s their turn to talk, they will say, “I just want to speak about the point that Clive made, the point that Steve made and i just want to wrap up what Mark said. So, if your temptation, when you’ve got the chair, the voice, don’t go around the group, summing up all the points that you’ve heard over the last 10 minutes. I will say this now, because it will happen…
INKA – Why?
ANDY – Why am i saying that? Today, i’m sitting here thinking, how can i help the room think about how it organises meetings, because lots of times in meetings, things start to get…
INKA – But why would that be bad?
ANDY – Why would it be bad? erm…
MARK – We have a queue of people waiting… so we can’t get into that conversation, and err, i’d rather be authoritarian and not let that happen…
INKA – I’d just like to stop you and say thank you.
MARK – I think it was like, Obi and Vica, so let’s go that far and then…
OBI – Ok. Apologies for being late. Didn’t realise there were no trains today… Long time to get here… But, anyway, not sure about this… the one about the GA themes… we talked about that “They Owe Us – Shift the Debt” thing… and i really hated that because we were having an event at Deptford High Street, and the case was actually the 1% as the banksters [two women dressed up with a pig’s head and a bull’s head, respectively], actually walking around actually asking for money from the 99% [shoppers in Deptford High Street]… The women were actually quite upset that they managed to get £5 [in their prop-money-bucket] within about half an hour. People actually gave them money, thinking that…The whole point of this was this, you know, Banksters getting the money and the sign says “we want you to pay for our skiing holiday” and, they got money… which really actually upset us… But, i thought that, yes, places like the GA would be actually great for “They Owe Us” events “Shift the Debt”…
VICA – Ok, i’ll be really honest. To me the word GA has become a completely empty word. It was something when we were in the camp, and i think we’re very attached to this word… and, so, like i feel a bit constrained when i think, “what is a GA?”… I’m trying to think around the word GA because it can be so many things, and we could never to find it, so, i’m much more sort of like, i tend to be a practical person, and so for me it’s more like, ok, what are the aims that we want to reach? and what are the best ways to get to [them?]… and so, i’m more interested in having a conversation about… ok, so, we would like to get more people involved. So, how would you do that? Rather than saying the GAs the right, or rather assuming that the GA was the right way to get people involved. I think that even when we had good GAs, and this was even when we had the camp, there were people who wanted to get involved and we were never able to receive them, and that is still a crucial problem. We still have people turning up, even yesterday, saying “We would like to help. How can we get involved?”… We don’t have those places to direct them. We’ve even got people contacting us to say “We’d like to help with the media”… We don’t have a working structure that allows new people to come in. So, I do think the conversation about the GA is important, but i think we need to, erm, i mean, the only thing, that for me, is written in paper, about the GA… the only thing that we really approved, if my memory isn’t wrong, is that Finance decisions have to go through the GA… this is the only thing that i remember was decided at the GA. And that’s something that i think we need to, you know, decide if that’s still how we want to do it. I wouldn’t have a problem with saying like, for example, GAs is that place where we make decisions regarding specific things. But then, i feel much more comfortable with what Michael was saying… Ok, let’s call it something different when we want to outreach to people… let’s say that it’s a Public Meeting or Public Gathering or something, and emphasise that it’s not a decision-making space but that it’s focused on outreach.
MICHAEL- Agreeing with Vica. Yeah, I think the point is, also, is if you tell people you’re holding a GA on Transport for London’s 12.5% reduction in funding, they don’t know what a GA is anyway. GAs are for the business of Occupy, and we can have GAs for that… Now, i think we should, if you want to call it themed GAs, fine, but they’re public meetings we’re talking about, to get people involved. And i think we should call them Public Meetings, and that means that GAs cease to be all sorts of things for all sorts of people, They become the mechanism for running and organising Occupy finance, decision-making etc. I know Peter was pissed off about Liverpool Street when it really did piss down, but i actually thought that that was a very good public meeting event that you put on there because, what you did was, instead of having two or three speakers, just going on about the theme, what you did was you put a bit of entertainment in… and to break it up and to make it something that people passing by… erm, i have to disagree with Janus. The last place we really want to go is Speakers Corner, except to train people how to deal with hecklers, because what you can guarantee at Speaker’s Corner is you’re going to get heckled. Places like Liverpool Street are far far better because you actually have punters passing by that will get interested. You don’t get that at Speaker’s Corner… you get professional hecklers and the rest are tourists who think this corner is a part of a Sunday afternoon tour of London. So, i would like to see us evolve what Peter started off at Liverpool Street, and i know the turnout wasn’t good, but a lot of people are not going to stop when it’s pissing down with rain. I think you should feel that it was a success and that we aught to look to build on that. And bringing in people like Pete the Temp and others that can be brought in, call it street theatre, call it what you like, but putting these sort of things on, will bring people in. And, Vica’s point is, somebody has to be there… if somebody says “can i get involved?” we need to be able to have a mechanism for doing it. So, i would suggest, very much, if possible, can we stop calling GAs everything that covers a meeting anywhere? The GAs are at St. Paul’s and are about running the business of Occupy, and Public Meetings /street theatre/events, whatever, are for getting the public involved with Occupy, and if we can have a theme, such as the NHS or whatever, that’s great.
MARK – Ok… just before people put their hands up, there are two propositions. Not formed proposals but i just want to, I’m kind of curious as to the level of agreement or disagreement in the room. Vica made the point, and correct me if i don’t do it justice. You [Vica] were saying about deciding what the aims are first, rather than trying to define what a GA is, right?
VICA – Well, i mean it’s very similar to what you were saying.
MARK – At that point, I just want to see if you [everyone] agree with that. If you think that’s correct show me the [wavy hands] to express it. If you don’t agree with it, then don’t.
PETER – [asks for clarification, although i can’t hear exactly what he said]
MARK – Well, Vica’s point initially, but then i was going to move it on some other point as well… My point in summary, was that the GAs, what we call a General Assembly should primarily be about sorting out the business of running Occupy, the decisions that have to be made and the issues that arise, and that there should be a separate concept based on what we want to achieve… So, if we want to achieve outreach or build a campaign, you have a Public Meeting designed for that purpose, but it isn’t called a GA necessarily. I mean, are people in agreement with this?
[SOME HANDS RAISE]
MARK – So, it’s in the middle… So we need to unpack that a little bit more then… We can develop that, see if we can get something close. So, let me take the queue… Pete was first but then Julie, Obi, Steve and Janus?… Andy? and Dave, sorry… Can you remember your place? Can you remember who you were after?
[NUMBERS ARE ASSIGNED]
PETER – People didn’t come to Occupy in the first place to come to a meeting, or a GA or whatever. Many people got turned off Occupy just hanging around in the cold while discussing Finances and stuff like that, a lot of people wandered off and you can understand that. So, i think we do need to organise Outreach events. At the same time we need to run, in parallel to that, the GAs, at which we need to make the decisions, ourselves as a movement. I mean, one reason i proposed GAs was that the event that we organised wasn’t well attended by Occupy. And i think, even though we sent around emails and so on, i don’t think enough people got to know about it and there wasn’t enough support. I couldn’t go to an Occupy meeting and say, “Look, we’re holding this event. We think it’s really important you come and support it”… get it around… it’s one thing putting it on an email list, it’s another thing face to face… you know, you get much more support if you can make a case for it in a Public Meeting… So, i think these are two different things and we need both of them. I’m just hoping today, that we can agree, at least, to set up some regular GAs. That said, they’re not completely separate because, part of the appeal of Occupy, and the reason people DO come, is they want to be involved in, themselves, in organising something, and being part of something that looks a bit like a real Democracy rather than [we’ve] got in [this] country. So, they’re not two completely separate things, but it’s not everybody who is going to want to come along and discuss Finances or decision-making procedures. We need both. We need to attract numbers of people, but we also need the process of regular GAs, so we can take stock. We can get things back from Working Groups, we can make the important decisions that need to be made democratically between us, and that’s what that’s for. So… that’s how i see it…
JULIE – So, I’ve been trying to Mind-Map a bit [holds up paper] of what we’ve been discussing. I feel like we’ve got over here, the Public Meetings, which might be public debates, speakers corner, Liverpool Street, Outreach, those kind of things… Theatres, Street Theatre and involving people… and there is a kind of coalescing around that specific thing… And then we’ve got GAs, which are about sticky problems and ongoing decision-making… But there’s a bit on the left-hand side which i don’t think we’ve quite sorted out which is, so… What about the space for coming together, just to share? Which is what you brought up Peter. Times when we just come along and gather together and share information, a bit like we’re doing this afternoon… And then also, i think there is something else going on, that you mentioned [Clive], and i personally think is really important is that, how do we develop partnerships with people and generate alternatives and collaborate on that. I think that’s really, really important right now and i don’t think we should lose that.
OBI – I was going to mention the part about the Outreach. Everyone says good things. Yesterday, we, i think it was Vica, as well, first, spoke to a couple of people from Norwich who were very interested in Occupy. They didn’t realise there was an event in Norwich themselves. I ended up with six email addresses yesterday, of just the people i was speaking to… So, that’s it…
DAVE – Ok, so… yeah, basically both and, rather than either or… i mean, the more things we’ve got going, the more things that we’ve got bubbling, so long as it’s not just the same, you know, 5 people doing it, the better. I mean, on Speakers Corner or Outreach and so on. We don’t need a great planning thing for that, i mean Peter Dombi and i gave the EWG on Monday, three possible dates for our next one… I don’t know if there’s been any feedback on it yet, but, you know, it only takes two people and maybe it’s a waste of time and maybe it isn’t, but if two of us are ready to do it and more people pile in, great! And, same with anything else that you’ve got your Heart in, you’re ready to do it and bring people in… Diversity is good, even though, as Clive says, we want to periodically come back, and pointing at how it’s all part of one big structure, but, just don’t narrow it down too much.
STEVE – I think what Mike said about St. Paul’s was really important. It’s great to have GAs at St. Paul’s, but of course it’s too cold now. Put it this way… perhaps more of an open question… [small section i couldn’t hear] I think we have to be very careful not to over-prescribe what we’re doing. Let’s not decry too much what we have, what a GA is… let’s be loose… When it’s loose, we can breathe. It can become more creative. Pete the Temp. Great ideas. Anything that can make us smile and give us joy. At the end of a meeting, if you walk away thinking “I enjoyed that. It was important.” and then the question is, what have you enjoyed? you’ve enjoyed the atmosphere. And you’ve also enjoyed the people you’re with. You’ve enjoyed their company. And, so… I think that is really really important. I think Occupy has to be radical. Radical in the sense that it touches your emotional roots. It touches the heart of who you are as a person and has the capacity to transform you and give you extra colour and brighten your life and other peoples lives, and then it becomes a… it has a butterfly-effect in other people in a really positive way. And i think that’s probably my most, the critical point i’d like to make. There has to be something really profoundly meaningful at the heart of everything we do, that makes us all feel really good…
MARK – can we wrap it up please… [no objections]
STEVE – yeah, so we can be transformed… thank you…
JANUSZ – Pass. Andy…
ANDY – For me, the interesting thing and the arena which i would like to see develop is the arena where we come together and consolidate and we bond, and we develop as a group. So, that’s the objective. That we are there for each other, and i would like to hear all of us, giving papers to groups and developing our own skills and learning from each other much much more so the body of worth in this group, can be consolidated… So, it’s like strength-building, consolidating, informative… But also with some kind of direction and purpose associated with that. So, therefore, in what forum do we do that? We’re doing that here aren’t we… so, therefore, would the general meeting [GA] just happen as a business meeting as Mark’s suggesting or would the general meeting [GA] be charge with duplicating what we’re doing here? I don’t know the position, i just have a question.
MARK – Ok, i’m still calling myself facilitator, and i want to let people speak in a minute but, if you recall, Mike’s idea, to reiterate, was this idea that General Assemblies, that term, would be more for running the business of Occupy and that could be creative things… it doesn’t necessarily have to be just the bureaucratic stuff… But that there was a separation between that and events that we could call whatever we want for whatever purpose whether for Outreach or building Campaigns and that kind of thing… Now, there was some disagreement. What i’m not clear about is what those disagreements are. So, if people have disagreements, could they maybe offer them and maybe offer some way to make our proposal better? We might just spend a little time on that? So, that’s er, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5…
PETER – i think Andrea had her hand up before and didn’t get a chance to speak…
MARK – Yeah, it’s because i added in a question there before, umm, so, ok, do you want to say your point and we’ll go forward…
ANDREA – For me, in this moment, there are two questions here… One is, what we do today and another is, what we define to do or what is in the future… and I think it is really important to focus, to do something now and to continue to work with [couldn’t make out about two words here, sorry Andrea] But the reflections about the process of how that works and why are we involved here and why other peoples are not here, i think is also important. So, for me, i cannot define… and, for me it is really complicated trying to define the GA or not, or to define it here, in this moment, so i refuse that, myself… but, i think, it’s really important that we could continue it but continue it with the question, how can we continue it now and integrate with others and lin the GAs, i feel it’s an important issue with the question of we have more people here. A simple Facebook event i snot so complicated to create, and a bigger space like Saturday, it could be possible… in Euston/ Friends Meeting House for example, is also a possibility. At least we’d have more space for more people and those are the reflections that i wanted to bring here. We have the idea of the strategy, but we should open that question for more people in Assembly, for example… or in an open meeting… for me there is some confusion, because if Occupy is everything open, what is open really here? We have to reform what is open or is it not?
MARK – You want me to recap on what i was saying?
[no recap needed]
VICA – I think that the only issue i have with the way we’re framing the proposal is that erm… so, I agree that we need to start differentiating what kind of meetings we have, and not call a GA everything. What i don’t agree with about the proposal, is that we say that the GA is the place where we make all the decisions of Occupy. So, my personal attitude is more about, like, let’s start delegating these difficult, erm… like, defining more precisely, like ok, in Working Groups we can make those decisions. In some way, dismantling the GA, it’s a very horrible way of saying it, but we sort of tried to put everything into the GA rather than loosening it up. And maybe we then need a process of understanding, when is it [can’t hear a few words] And so, for example, for me, the strength of the GA is when we used it to send messages of solidarity to other groups. I’m not saying that every solidarity message SHOULD go through the GA, but like, when there have been big actions to support, and we’ve called a GA and we’ve said “This GA shows our solidarity to this other group.” i think there was some power in that, that you can’t get in any other kind of meeting… So, it’s understanding the specificity of what the GA can do, but not automatically say well, the GA is where we’re going to do the Occupy business, because there might be other spaces that are more appropriate for that, actually…
INKA – I think that the GA should still have the function of what it did, once upon a time, but the difference being, we do not use it as a method of attracting people. So, our method of attracting people is not the GA. Because the GA is one where newbies are disruptive… even good intending smart newbies are disruptive because decisions have…
[pause as more people enter the room]
LEON – My name’s Leon. I represent R.M.T. Union.
[welcomed by all in the room]
INKA – The GA where we make decisions is actually our signature! To start to dismantling this would be really opening ourselves to ammunition, in a big way, and also we would be varying from something i thought we were proud of, despite how difficult it is. One of the difficulties is that newbies come into it, even smart, well-intending newbies, and it’s not a good place to be introduced to Occupy. A good place to be introduced would be other meetings… i believe it’s been mentioned before… i’m a big, big supporter of this idea of a once a month meeting where we just chillax… you know, just make it a little bit easier going for people to open up and introduce Occupy to them. Ok, i think that’s all i need to say…
MARK – Ok… I’m just trying to hold everything that’s been said, in my brain… erm… Julie…
JULIE – Ok… I think that we’ve said this before… that GAs which might be decision-making, sticky problems, Finance, Solidarity Statements as well etc… but, they can be difficult places. and we’ve kind of identified some of those ideas… And then we’ve got the public meetings which are like speakers corner or Liverpool Street. I think these can be really interesting and good places for new people to get involved. Inspiring places… I remember one GA and there was a Banker walking past and it was great to get a contribution from him… because they are about political issues, i think they are easier to get people involved, but i do agree with you about internal things (more dramatic)… So, i think Public Meetings are good for involving people… But, i think that we’ve left out another place… another type of meeting, which is like the networking, consolidating, bonding that you were talking about which seems to be happening here. So, i would suggest that maybe we think about three types of spaces… at least three…
TIM – I like the idea of at least three… I really want to hold onto this idea that the Strategy meeting be differentiated from the business of Occupy… I just think it is really, really important [as Strategy is] really really hard to get your head around… Although I think it can be open to anyone… i don’t have a problem with that… i think, at the same time, it does require some commitment so that the ideas continue from one week to the other… and i think that any people that get involved in it, of course it comes back to bigger meetings, GAs and that sort of thing, and that group [strategy] would have to listen to that [bigger meeting]… It’s not a bubble… it should be something which is responding to the situations which are changing all over the country and within our own organisation or whatever. I just think it is very important to have his level of meeting as well as the other levels that are being talked about here…
KATE – I do like this space. I think it’s interesting and quite focused and i think it should stay. But, i think that also, there needs to be maybe wider GAs. I like the idea also of being able to advertise it more widely and that it’s not just us that knows about it all as a word of mouth thing, but that it is some kind of public event where people know it’s going on, so it’s on the website
INKA – So for clarification, THIS meeting, you are saying, should be opened? Or, WHICH meeting should be opened?
KATE – Well, yeah… that different people from different movements can come along and see what’s going on within Occupy. It’s also a good space for collective envisioning and thinking about radical change and social transformation. I think being open is partly about having ways of drawing people in and having things for people to do, who want to get involved. But i think openness is also a philosophy isn’t it… a way of thinking… a way of doing… i mean, if people have ideas and stuff to contribute, then, minds are open to it. Maybe that’s a kind of personal and collective reflection on how we listen to different people and each other, and how we try to keep our minds open and our dreams, potentially fluid to how ever change can happen. Loved the “Debt Assembly” at the bank… It was themed, and it had a number of different speakers from movements around Europe. Went into working groups, talking about specific topics… and came away with… did that lead to the process that went on to create “Shift the Debt”?…, and then i loved the “Shift the Debt” intervention as well. I question always talking to the one percent… i say, a movement for the ninety nine percent? lets talk to the ninety nine percent. So, as well as doing it at Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street, St. Paul’s, i think it’s also good to go to Brixton, Lewisham, Hackney, Tottenham, and go and engage with people in a creative, fun way, but also in a way like, so, maybe we are all there, so while this stuff is going on, instead of listening to it all, i’m going to walk around the edge and have conversations with people… get emails, find out what people are talking about and people want to feed into the process. That way we can reach out to the ninety nine percent… why are we talking to the one percent all the time… or, let’s just talk to the 100%
OBI – Message from Prismyd… I think Finance should be a separate thing from General Assemblies… It can be transparent if it is all written down. Make adjustments as to where money goes through experience. Finance should be away from the general menu. It is specific. Bit like we had in the workshop the other day, separating inner and outer for welfare… so we could have inner GAs and outer GAs.
MARK – There’s people who want to say things but I just want to throw my meta perspective in… It strikes me, at least that we are basically saying we need to have meetings with purposes. Some purposes are things like to Outreach and connect with people and to campaign, that’s one purpose (i.e., Peter’s meeting/interaction in Liverpool Street)… Then there’s meetings like this one which is not so much about making firm decisions but about developing ideas, sharing information and strategy etc… And there is a third one, the business of running Occupy, internal decision-making, as it was highlighted, can be a problem when you have new people arriving and making decisions they can’t fully comprehend… Am i making sense so far?
INKA – I’m confused why you’re calling that business… we don’t do any business…
MARK – The business of making decisions… like finance etc… the internal machinations that have to take place…. but you could distinguish between that and what Pete was doing at Liverpool Street, talking about climate change… that’s engaging people on political topics, and then there’s this sort of meeting, not doing the decision-making or outreach, but we’re developing ideas internally… strategising… am i being clear about this? Where i think some of the confusion is rising is that i think rather than talk about the purpose of some of these meetings, we are dwelling on what they are called… is this a GA? is that a GA? this can be slightly deceptive, as GA stands for General Assembly and at every one of these things people Generally Assemble. Mike’s proposal originally, if you recall, was that we should have General Assemblies and we can call them that if we want… we don’t have to… some sort of meeting that we might call a General Assembly where we deal with business that needs to be taken care of… i.e. Do we give money for this… do we need money to pay for this or do we need to develop a new website…. whatever it might be… and then there should be a separate meeting, called Public Meetings or something else, but not GAs, which is more like what Peter was doing, and now we have a third kind of meeting’s been introduced. There’s a lot of actual agreement here… I’m not seeing a lot of contradictions in what people are saying. There are refinements and issues to be looked at, but some of the disagreements are erm… my brains gone…
VICA – I think i can make it a bit succinct on three levels… i think it is exactly what Julie says… i was writing while people were talking and i also came out with Strategy Meetings, Public Meetings and Internal Issues. So maybe you can check…
JULIE – Can i just add to that?
VICA – Yeah, let me just finish… So, maybe the question is, so ok… Are we all on the same page about this? Are there three different types of meeting? I think what is crucial that we have come out of this half hour is that we implement this, and so that there are people who are prepared to take these forward as well, so that i something i would like to see…
MARK – Just trying to figure out the best way for this conversation to go… Let me try at least to suggest that people restrict their points to directly things about this thing…. not to generalise…
ANDY – Two points. One’s the Strategy Meeting… possibly like in this room here… i think that sometimes we can just decide that a Strategy Meeting needs to become a bigger meeting, a bigger audience, it need to be public facing and, therefore, it becomes a General Assembly. And, then, the other two meetings remain as they are… And also the other thing is, we need to be driven by what we need… i would agree with you Mark exactly… When something emerges, do we need a Finance Meeting? well, let’s organise it and let’s do it… So, we are driven by necessity rather than definition.
INKA – Strategy Meeting, as far as i can tell, is a working group. Is a Strategy Working Group. That’s how i see it… One is an internal business, internal GA, and the other is a public outreach, as in, getting members of the public in on any matter whatsoever…. within that number two, we can have what you are doing Peter, and all those things that you mention which i can’t relate to as because i wasn’t around in those days, and including functions… functions that we can tell people well, this month we’re going to be doing this to gather numbers… So, i see number two as a gathering numbers one… and the other one is an internal one and strategy meeting, i see as a working group, i mean there used to be a Strategy Working Group…
JULIE – I’d like to add to this one, or flesh this one out… Strategy Meeting, to me, is THIS kind of meeting here… [many wavy hands]…Not only is it strategy, but i think it is also a space for people to network and share things we’ve got on the agenda… and it’s also a place to reflect and consolidate and bond, and all those things… i think that’s really important… Erm… My personal preference is that i think to designate it as a Working Group kind of makes it a “sub” thing, whereas to me it’s at the heart of Occupy and i prefer to keep it open… On here [holds up piece of paper with her notes] in Public Meeting Events, we’ve got this other kind of kind of cross-meeting thing here… which is that sometimes these also might be partnership type things like “Shift the Debt”… some partnership with EEE’s Working Group, Outreaching etc… So, then we’ve got “Internal Issues of Occupy Meeting, i think we kind of sorted that one out.
I think there’s something else going on here, which is the role of partnerships which i think sits across here [showing her on-paper representation of that], i think I’ve mentioned “Shift the Debt”, but i think we’ve also got this thing on Forum for Developing Partnerships and Generating Alternatives… I feel it’s so important, at this stage in the movement, to keep really thinking about how we develop partnerships. I feel, as a political movement, we won’t grow unless we develop partnerships. All the historical movements suggest that. We’ve got RMT here today, as a kind of a partner which is great… I think we do really need to think about that role of partners. How do they fit into this?
Can i just make one last point. I really think that we just need to go back to Vica’s point and your [i think Julie is indicating Peter here] method point. These are all times that we might assemble. Can we think about the different purposes and the different types of meetings, the different decision-making kind of remit, so that we kind of say, “That meeting can decide That thing”, so we’re actually being explicit. We give power to different types of meetings.
MARK – Can i suggest that that’s an additional proposal that we might address in just a moment? Build the proposals on top of each other rather than squidge them all in? Who was next?
PETER – I still think that the GA’s important as a kind of [can’t hear word] decision-making body…
MARK – So, you’re saying a business [of running Occupy] meeting as the GA?
PETER – yeah… I mean i would just limit it, so it’s strictly… I mean, so, if a Strategy Meeting decides to go in a certain direction, then the movements going to concentrate on this campaign, or whatever… I’m just wondering whether the GA shouldn’t be the ultimate decision-making body.
ANDY – I think the Strategy Meeting becomes the GA… we just announce it, and we say “The Strategy Meeting on 15th May, constituted as the General Assembly, where these decisions will be at stake. Then they’ll know what’s involved,
PETER – As long as it’s fully open and assized in the same way…
MARK – Does everyone understand that? I don’t…
INKA – Yeah… Say, once every 6 months, when a Strategy Meeting becomes a GA is what he is saying…
MARK – So, is the proposal to not have necessarily regular business GAs? They’d crop up whenever the need arises for a decision/s to be made? I don’t understand… Can someone help me?
JULIE – I think it might be… Rather than having power constituting an essential GA, which i think is a problematic idea in terms of a horizontal distributive network perhaps movement, that instead, he is saying that power is delegated to different types of [zones?] so, this might be a kind of Strategy consolidation [sorry, couldn’t hear that]… This is the Public Meeting, so they would all be open to the public and really focused on engaging the public, so they’re kind of Outreachy type etc… What kind of power they would need, i don’t know but they would… And then you’ve got these other types of things which are like Finance, Internal Issues, Solidarity… and they are imbued with power… those kind of decisions…
KATE – Can i just ask a question of clarification? So, how does the decision-making group, who is in the decision-making group and who decides who is in the decision-making group? Is it open? Is it fluid? Or is it closed?
JULIE – I would suggest that you probably need a little bit of a facilitation planning group for each of these things. You’ll need people who are going to prepare the agenda, and i think the model that we’ve had is quite good… Those, in themselves, have to be open… Anybody can come along and invest time in being that facilitation group, so that, in effect, we have these little organising pods here…
KATE – But what i mean is, the decision-making group, is THAT an open group as well? Or it’s a closed group? And, if it’s closed, who decides if it is or it’s not?
MARK – Sorry if i’m jumping in but i’m facilitating and i’m doing my best… If we assume that all of these meetings are open, remember there’s the three… there’s the Strategy Meetings, the Outreach/Events and then the business of decision-making. They’re all open, but there might be greater emphasis placed on promotion of say, the Outreach one… i mean, that’s just my own opinion… So, if there’s an Outreach Event on an issue, obviously we want it as massive with as much promotion as you can get to do that… that’s the whole point of that event… the other ones are open and they can have publicity, but it’s not like we’ll have to produce 25 posters for a Strategy Meeting or whatever… if you disagree with that then please say… So, let me try get back to.…
TIM – I just want to say that I’m happy that the Strategy Group isn’t simply a working group that’s dependant on some kind of central demos and that we can make decisions… On the other hand, i do think we ought to always test end-decisions we make here, within the General Assembly and with the public… the broad things… by test, I mean that decisions that we make, we should try and implement within those… and then, hear what the response is and then come back and reflect, and then be prepared to change our decisions in the light of our experience. I still want the decision-making to come from there. What i’m saying is that decision-making should be very responsive to the other three groups… i mean perhaps less said of the business, but particularly Outreach… What happens in the Outreach things? We shouldn’t just be a bubble, in other words… so, we should be open to people, we should be able to make decisions, and that i mean we should try and test them in some sort of a way in the Public Assemblies…
MARK – So, i just want to keep clarifying… The sense that i’m getting is… ok, so all these meetings are open. They’re not closed… any of them. Decisions…. i mean as Vica points out, that we have this rule that Finance goes to a General Assembly. It’s purpose built for this kind of thing. But my sense, in listening to people, is that other types of decisions can be made in the other meetings, so, if we decide, in this Strategy Meeting, together, that we like this proposal, that’s kind of a decision that’s been made, which means it doesn’t have to go to a Business [of running Occupy] meeting, to just repeat the process. On the other hand, like the work Peter did at Liverpool Street, you get a bunch of people and then someone starts talking and says, “I think we should go and do a march against Tescos”, a decision can be made there. So, what i’m trying to get really clear is these Business Meetings, or whatever, is it Finance that has been set in stone? Can you clarify that?
VICA – Ok, so, i don’t want to go to we’ve done in the past, because different people have different perceptions of how it was in the past so, i want to try to look at what we could be doing in the future. So, for me, this, if it’s a GA, i don’t know what it is… this internal issues meeting, i think it’s those things that we feel it’s really important to let people know that we’re going to be making a decision in that meeting… You know, that you publicise it enough in advance and so on, while, THIS one is more like we’re opening up ideas… we’re recording… it has a lot of other functions, but it’s not like we know already what decisions we’re going to be making… But, at the same time, i think, i mean we’re constantly making decisions in any kind of meeting. So, i wouldn’t start saying this is [a decision-making one?], it’s just that the other one is where we have to clarify more that this decision is going to be made there and there and [something, something] Occupy [not clear, sorry]
MARK – So, these Business ones are for in essence Finance proposals? Those are a space where we feel that this is is a decision that can’t just be made spontaneously without much discussion… this has to be promoted and publicised for everyone because it does concern everyone… fundamentally be important for everybody so, that space is given to make say this decision to maybe spend £500 on whatever. That can’t just pop up spontaneously… decisions like that… Does that make sense? At other meetings you can make decisions… Like you might make all sorts about… but if it was a decision on one we felt is going to very important territory that everyone should know about, that would make it, you know… [can’t hear last one/two words] That clear?
[ummm and errms] If it’s not… just go back to what Vica said…
TIM – So, we’re actually saying that we are infact being a General Assembly at this minute, and we are deciding what the other groups are? Just as a clarification of what we’re doing…
INKA – You took the words right out of my mouth. What i’d like to say, is that Horizontal Democracy does not mean that we always have to go SEARCHING for everybody as well… that’s actually Horizontal Democracy on viagra if you like… it’s like, people need to involve themselves, you know, and if they don’t involve themselves then, they can’t be, erm… I don’t appreciate that people agreed that there’d be a meeting about this meeting and then on this meeting they’ll argue about what was in that meeting… That’s not professional! And, we should, as an activist group, start to be professional… And by that, it means that when we give people the authority or responsibility to make decisions about what we’re going to talk about today, then we… [leave them to it?]… and if if we don’t like them [decisions that are being made?], then we involve ourselves or we have the humility to accept it. And, based on that, is this kind of thing of… like… at the Strategy Meeting, it’s open, people who want to can get involved, people who know Occupy for a bit of time, will discover the Strategy Meeting… it’s not a secret, but, do we need to advertise it every week, on the website where there is lots of other advertising for campaigns? No… And as for the Finance thing you mentioned, the Business Meeting is where that would happen, and i don’t think we need to call out for [Finance] decisions… We’re giving ourselves problems if we’re going to say, well, this decision is one we can make today, but that decision is a bit too big so we’ll announce that we’re going to make that decision because that would get all newbies, plus people who are not responsible activists, in my opinion, they are just people who just want their opinion to be given without putting the work that goes into it, and then they’ll give their opinions and we will have to deal with these opinions that come from people that don’t do anything… So, i think that the Business Meeting should be where the Finance decisions are made, where the “Rock’n Roll” decisions are made about Occupy… the Strategy Meeting should be where we strategise, learn, make papers blah blah, and the open meetings should be Open Meetings where we can invite people. Tell them there’s strategy, but there needs to be a stepping stone…
MARK – Who had already told me that they wanted to speak?
KATE – A tiny Direct Point?… yeah, i think just to remember that Occupy here is the people who are in Working Groups, Occupy is the people who are doing the media stuff, but we were talking about self-identify in Occupy… And so if you think of everyone at Balcombe in the summer, who were also at Occupy, they also call themselves Occupiers. So, i think, don’t be too closed about the idea that you have to be in a Working Group, or you have to be doing the website to BE Occupy… I think Occupy is everyone who was at Occupy [the camps] and everyone who believes IN Occupy. That’s my feeling…
JULIE – I think that we’ve got a little bit of a sticky problem here which is a kind of existential problem of Occupy. There are some things which are easier like, deciding to have Outreach Events, deciding that this group have kind of Strategy and networking things i think are easier and deciding that the GA s look at finance and solidarity statements. I think the trickier problem is actually deciding do we want to kind of reframe that we go through these three types of meetings, delegating different powers. This is changing the organisation on structure in quite profound ways really, so, i think that you might need to think about: if we collectively feel that’s a good idea, do we then need to have a kind of GA (which is the existential problem)… because, if you were to look at this diagram, Organisational Structure might actually sit across both the Strategy, Networking and Reflection space AND the Internal Business Issues… it kind of fits across these two, and i think if we wanted to bring people with us as well (who were not here but are passionate – at least quite a lot on e-lists and many people would want to be here and be part of the decision-making, although there’s this issue about responsibility, i think we might need to kind of reiterate and reflect and put that out there really.
VICA – Building on what you were saying, i would suggest that we say [to the GA] that, from this meeting that these are the different proposals that are coming out. What the GA should be doing is understanding what’s it going to be… i wouldn’t mind having the GA saying “What are the internal issues that have to come to a GA?” What are the kinds of discussions we would like to have in GAs that are not covered by the other two?” But, i wouldn’t have a completely new discussion about “is this the right structure?” etc, but i think it would be interesting to have a discussion about, a GA about “What are the internal issues for a GA?”…
MARK – Does it make sense people?
TIM – It makes sense…
INKA – We can decide it here… We’re Occupy right now.
MARK – We have a problem where we are in the process of defining a GA and then saying we need to have a GA.
MICHAEL – Ok… what we have is a situation that when there were tents at St. Paul’s, a GA which happened twice a day, were essentially about running the camp at St. Paul’s and making Policy. It was very easy because people were at the camp and could go to it. The people who were not at the camp, knew what time it was and would make the decision to go then. The tents have been gone for the best part of two years, and we still have this idea of a GA, and we have to alter it, but we can’t just charge in and say that this meeting here can alter it. There will have to be a GA to deal with all of these things. And, i made the point at the planning meeting on friday, that we have to contact Liz and Em and probably Ben and a few other people to try and get a date that offers most of the people that have been online, making points, the opportunity to come to a GA where all of this can be discussed. I think it would be very wrong to charge ahead now as some sort of new polit-bureau that’s going to take over the running of Occupy. Other people have to be involved and there has to be that opportunity to do it.
TIM – In response to Mike… i think one way we resolve it is we put out what decision we make on the e-mail, which is to contact all people directly then, and we ask if anyone has any objections to this so we don’t have to repeat the whole discussion again. If anyone seriously objects, then we will convene another meeting. Unless we put it in those terms, we’re never going to make decisions. So, i say, give them a chance to object. If Ben, Em or Liz, you know, serious people, want to object, then we’ll have more discussion, otherwise, let’s try and think that we made a decision today and we can move on, because i think there were reasonably sensible decisions.
MARK – Ok, we’re going to break for lunch in a minute. I just want to elucidate those points where i think we have agreement? Mikes proposal again, was to have General Assemblies that are for the business of Occupy… we’ve established what this is… things like finance decisions… that kind of thing… and that there should be a separation between that and what he was calling Public Meetings, like what Peter did in Liverpool Street, and they’re purpose-driven by Outreach, connecting with people, where some decisions can be made as they arise and this was going to be a part of our regular organisational model. In the discussion that got made into three types of meetings and not two as Mike was suggesting. So, we had his original two, one was most focused on business that we all need to have a say in (things like finance). The second was the outreach point where we’re making a venue for people to really engage with Occupy on a political level about issues and learn and get involved on that level. Decisions can be made, but not necessarily finance decisions, but it could be decisions like “oh we want to start a Working Group now”… that kind of thing or something else… and there’s these Strategy Meetings where decisions can be made. Again, not necessarily finance ones but ones relevant to those meetings, and that is campaigning, reflecting on our processes, developing ideas and sharing information, that kind of thing. All these meetings should be open, none of them closed. They all get promoted and people know about it but they all have different emphases… So, a business one will try and attract the people who really feel they want to participate in that meeting that discusses finance [and those business issues?] There’s probably not going to be so many people from the outside but it may well… But it’s not contradictory, in the sense that we suddenly put posters up and exclaim “Hey, we’re going to have a finance GA. Please come. This should be your first meeting!!!”… you know?… [general laughter because we know how interesting the finance meetings are :p ] And so, that’s basically it. I think, from my perspective, i think we’re all in agreement on that much? Ok, and i just wanted to throw my own opinion in here, which is something i just observed and i don’t think it was being said… Some people are associating what they consider a GA to be with the kind of methodology that happens in a GA, like Breakout Groups, people speaking, consensus decision-making, and from my perspective, i think that every one of these meetings, the Business, the Outreach and the Strategy ones, can all use those methods, as they wish… So, if people are attached to the methods like Breakout Groups and people listening to each other etc., if that’s needed in an Outreach event, it can be done like that because it’s a methodology, and i think that’s where some of the confusion is arising because they think GA and they’re thinking the method of GA, you know, of how we make decisions and go into Breakout Groups. So, that loosens it up even more so we on’t have to be confused as to what a GA is…
What we have is 3 types of meetings that are all necessary, happen regularly and that have different emphases (Outreach, Business and Strategy) From my perspective, i think that we all agree on that?
JULIE – I think we’re 95% there… i think there’s another 5% that needs unpacking… But i think it’s best we break for lunch now and come back.
DAVE – Shout Out if you like reading at lunchtime… one sheet… Economic Logistics and How to get them Better… [sorry Dave, i hope i heard that right?]
JULIE – Agenda for the next part. We’re coming back at 1.30. I’m going to have three-quarters of an hour discussion on RMT, then i suggest we take it a little bit more time, maybe half an hour on this, and then we’re going [somewhere] for Kate’s presentation.
B R E A K F O R L U N C H