The London Renters Union is currently finalising a document called “How we work together” which sets out the rules about how the union works. It’s kind of like the rulebook that big trade unions and political parties have, only its much shorter and much less like the small print on a mobile phone contract. This decision making process is taken from the how we work together document.
We are controlled by every one of our members
Every single member has a say and we take decisions collectively and democratically. Every member is encouraged to bring new ideas and suggestions.
The principles set out below are intended to make sure we live these values. It should be used at member assemblies and forums, branch meetings, working group meetings and coordinating group meetings where the decision significantly impacts a working group or branch or the union as a whole (e.g. shall we spend £250?). It doesn’t need to be used where another agreed upon process is being used. It is important that members are empowered to take autonomous decisions and to self-organise, so this process need not be used for decisions that do not implicate other members of the union (e.g. shall we make a leaflet?).
Recording the decision
Once a decision has been reached, the facilitator should restate that decision clearly and concisely, so that everyone present understands and agrees what decision has been taken. All meetings should be minuted and circulated, and the minutes must clearly indicate what decisions have been taken and how they will be actioned. In addition, the decision should be recorded in the the list that we maintain of decisions that have been adopted.
Making decisions online
Common sense should be used about whether or not a decision can be made online. If it feels like an important decision, or if someone requests that the decision is deferred to a meeting, then the decision should be taken in a meeting rather than made online. Decisions taken online can be reviewed in a meeting.
If a decision needs to be taken online, it should follow the spirit of the process outlined above. Consensus has only been reached if enough people are showing active support. Silence or a lack of discussion can not be taken as the same as a decision having been made.
Asking for opinions online
It can be useful to ask for people’s opinions about something online (e.g. what do people think about this plan? Do people like this banner we made?). If the issue that is being discussed significantly impacts a working group or branch or the union as a whole, then it is still useful and important to take an active decision during a meeting.
Role of the facilitator
It is essential that every meeting has a facilitator, whose task is to take the meeting through an agenda, make every effort to involve all those present, help the meeting reach decisions and ensure clarity about what decisions have been made. The facilitator is also responsible for ensuring that the group is clear about which decision is being taken at any one time.
It is the responsibility of the facilitator to allow sufficient time for a discussion to take place and to decide when it is necessary to move to a vote. They should be aware of the need to remain relatively neutral in order to help the group reach a decision. They will need to regularly ‘take the temperature’ of the meeting, to establish how far the group is from consensus. The facilitator may suggest postponing a decision until the next meeting if more discussion is required. Where a decision clearly impacts the union as a whole, the facilitator may also suggest that a decision is taken to a member assembly or a meeting of the coordinating group if the decision feels like an especially important one.
Aiming for consensus
Where a meeting must make a decision, it will attempt initially to reach consensus. If consensus is not possible, a decision may be made by a two-thirds (66.6%) majority of those present. It is important that people present in a meeting are asked to give explicit visible support for a proposal rather than simply being asked whether or not they disagree with it. Staying silent or not participating in a discussion should not be taken as agreement.
How many people are needed to make a decision
A branch or working group can only make a decision on an issue that significantly impacts the direction of its work or the union as a whole if either 10 people are present or 2% of its membership are present, whichever is greater.
Suggested step by step process for making a decision
The following is a suggested step-by-step process for facilitators to guide a meeting through when a decision is being made. It is not part of our formal rules and is merely intended as a suggestion or a starting point for meeting facilitators.
1. Present proposal – the proposer outlines the proposal.
If it is a written proposal, a summary may be given. If the document is too long to read during the meeting, it may only be possible to take a decision in support of the summary as presented by the proposer.
2. Clarifying questions – time to ask any questions to the proposer.
3. Reactions – everyone in the room is given a chance to react to the proposal. If feasible, this should be done in the form of a go around so that everyone has a chance to feed in.
4. Amend and clarify – the proposer has the opportunity to clarify and amend the proposal in response to the reactions given.
5. Objections – the room is asked if there are any reasons why this propsoal, if implemented, would harm the union or make it harder for us to achieve our aims. Objections raised at this stage should be discussed – the room may or may not feel that the objection is valid.
6. Testing for consensus – the proposer is briefly asked to restate the briefly restate the proposal and has a final opportunity to amend the proposal. The room is asked if there is consensus for the decision. The facilitator should ask for a positive show of support (e.g. hand signals). If consensus is not possible, a decision may be made by a two-thirds (66.6%) majority of those present.