is a spokescouncil? where is it happening? how can I participate?]
to a spokescouncil is an AGENDA that frames the forum. The
spokescouncil framework at first glance can seem highly rigid and
inflexible, so a few notes about the importance of the agenda
are worth emphasizing.
Large actions need a forum to discuss
actions, enable co-operation and share information between lots of
different groups—this is typically done at what are called
‘spokescouncils’, sort of like big meetings that are run
according to particular procedures. knowing a bit about how these
things you will
there IS an agenda and
most people in the room will be taking it quite seriously
the agenda items and
order in which the items will be discussed are announced at the
start of a meeting. if you think there is something missing from
the night’s agenda, bring it up at when the facilitators
present the agenda and ask what people think of it.
pay attention to the
agenda because people are likely to get mad at other people who
bring up issues that are either (1) not on the agenda; or (2) at
the wrong time. Think about when/if your issue/question is
appropriate to bring up.
most of the items on
the agenda will be logistical type of items, like discussing an
action framework; an update from the legal and media teams about
key happenings from that day.
the focus of these meetings is on organizing ourselves, as opposed
to rallying around our causes, there are some topics you won’t
find on the agenda.
spokescouncil is not
the place to learn about how the WTO works or why so many people
are mobilizing around water privatization
people are unlikely to
devote precious organizing time to discussing how screwed up the
if your group still
needs housing, don’t try to get this on the agenda. do pay
attention and find out who is housing coordinator and check in with
if a ‘legal’
update is not on the agenda, do ask if legal can be added to the
agenda if you are interested but don’t ask the legal rep.
about your friend who got arrested during the meeting
know what to expect;
help your group figure out how to participate if
and when you want to;
better understand what’s going on.
spokescouncil does not take away an individual affinity group's
autonomy within an action; affinity groups make there own decisions
about what they want to do on the streets (as long as it fits in with
any action guidelines.) Direct democracy is an essential component to
the spokescouncil meetings. All decisions in spokescouncils are made
by consensus, so that all affinity groups have agreed and are
committed to the mass direct action.
Each affinity group (or cluster) empowers a representative,
called a "spoke", to go to a spokescouncil meeting to
participate in making important decisions on behalf of the group.
however, spokecouncils are not just for the spokes—the
participation of all protest attendees is crucial (and
therefore encouraged) to their effective functioning. at certain
times during the meeting, though, only the spokes will be allowed to
speak. this makes participatory meetings with tons of people
and police aren’t invited to spokescouncils but they are still
not considered secure. oftentimes, meeting facilitators will ask
media and law enforcement officers to identify themselves and then
ask them to leave before the meeting starts. but sometimes this
doesn’t happen [the announcement, people id’ing
themselves, and the leaving]. because we assume there are members
of both groups present, sometimes spokespeople will talk in vague
terms about plans.
typical spokescouncil involves suggesting and modifying an
agenda—which can include prioritizing and setting time limits,
introductions, followed by reportbacks), discussion of the agenda
items and will end with any final announcements. spokescouncils
usually last for several hours, sometimes going late into the
evening… so be prepared for this time commitment and pay
attention to your transportation plans (i.e., if you are planning to
take public transportation back to where you are staying, pay
attention to the bus/train schedules.
a variety of hand
signals are often used to make the process smoother. for
instance, snapping or “twinkling” of hands [sort of
like holding up your hands and waving your fingers a bit] is used
to indicate agreement with a speaker or an idea or proposal. using
two hands when indicating to speak can be used to make a 'direct
response' to a speaker.
purpose of the spokescouncil is not to 'make decisions' that
everyone is expected to implement, but rather to create a framework
into which autonomous actions can fit.
[often 2 or even 3 during a big spokescouncil] has given the
responsibility of steering the meeting, keeping to an agenda, and
keeping discussion relevant and keeping everyone focused on task.
S/he must try to bring discussions to resolution, whether through
reaching a consensus or a clarification of the issue at hand.
this can be challenging and tiring so it is best if spokescouncil
facilitators have some experience facilitating. a facilitator’s
role is not to make the decisions but to help provide some
structure to a discussion that will conclude with decisions that
everyone will feel good about. for this reason, good facilitators
will not add their own opinions or ideas to the discussion unless
they indicate that they are ‘stepping out of their
facilitator role’ and facilitators try to minimize their own
comments in order to give others the chance to shape the
A facilitator may also
be assisted by someone (a “stack” taker) whose
role is to keep track of whose turn it is to speak next. When a
‘stack’ is taken, a facilitator will give a small set
of people numbers (1,2,3,…) to indicate who gets to speak
next. when you want to ‘get on the stack’ you (or the
spokes for your group) will arise her/his hand and wait to be
called on. sometimes the facilitator keep time her/himself; or,
there may be a separate timekeeper. some facilitators hate setting
and keeping time, and you may even end up hearing several minutes
of debate a the start of a meeting about the merits of keeping
where did these
facilitators come from? who put them in charge? so,
spokescouncil facilitators are usually folks who have training and
experience with facilitation. good experiences with facilitation
should convince you that the people who may appear to be ‘running
the meeting’ are actually not ‘in charge’ in the
usual hierarchical sense. instead, they do the stuff mentioned
above. often spokescouncils are facilitated by local folks or
others who have been organizing on the ground before the action,
most protesters get to town. often, announcements will be made
during spokescouncils about needing facilitators to volunteer.
when do I get to
speak?! sometimes when people at spokescouncil get engaged in
discussing something, they veer off topic. in order to have
participatory meetings, facilitators will gently or not so gently
cut off people who forget what the agenda item is being discussed.
to participate effectively in the spokescouncil, it is best to
figure out what you/your group wants to say at the beginning of the
meeting (this also encourages people to be on time). then, see if
it fits into an agenda item and plan to raise it at the appropriate
time. if it does not fit into the agenda, request to add it to the
agenda while the agenda is being finalized. if it doesn’t
fit into the agenda, see if it can get put on the agenda for the
next spokescouncil or ask the group when it might be discussed
[e.g., is it an announcement? is it part of your group’s
introduction? is it something new/different?]. so, a good way to
speak is to raise your hand at the right part of the meeting, get
called on, and pay attention to what the discussion is about. don’t
try to give a report back during ‘intro’ time; you will
probably be cut off. don’t try to state a new proposal if
the group is working to clarify another one.
what this is, why we use it, and how it works. Consensus
decision-making is very important to many activists but making
decisions through a consensus process can be confusing when you
don’t understand what people are doing—especially since
we’re not accustomed to using it in many areas of our lives.
there are many resources about consensus process and how to use it
(e.g., see www.consensus.net.
this is just a quick overview with basic info so
less-experienced-folks can participate.
What is it?
Consensus is a decision making process based not on "majority
rule," but the greater agreement of the community. Instead of
a majority making a decision for the group, all people in the
decision making body have equal voice and power. Consensus is
reached when all members of a group, committee, or organization
agree that a proposal is best for the group; individuals may not
agree with everything in the proposal, but a commitment to
community building and needs makes consensus work.
Why do it? There
are many reasons. It allows people to collectively explore
solutions until the best one for the group emerges. Consensus
assures that everyone has a voice in the decision making process,
synthesizing all ideas into one plan that all participants agree to
implement. Since all participants agree to the decision, people are
more invested in carrying out what has been decided. The process
promotes commitment to carry out decisions. Consensus is important
in allowing minority opinions and concerns to be heard and
considered, and encourages cooperation among people with divergent
views. It attempts to minimize domination and empowers the
community in the process of making a decision.
How do we do it?
Roughly… (1) a group must define the issue: what needs
to be decided. (2) discuss the issue. After the group has had
enough time to discuss the item, (3) someone makes a proposal (some
proposals may be brought to a meeting beforehand) for a specific
plan of action. The facilitator can ask for a proposal if she/he
feel that people are repeating the same points. (4) After a
proposal is made, people can offer clarifying questions. This is
not the time to speak for or against the proposal. (5) list out
all concerns people may have with the proposal. Attempt to resolve
each individual concern through further discussion or amendments to
the proposal. If there are no concerns, there is consensus. (6)
The facilitator will ask for any “stand asides.” People
who stand aside have concerns that have not been resolved, but will
not block from moving forward. (7) The facilitator will then ask
if there are any blocks. People who block have serious concerns
that have not been resolved and cannot allow the decision to be
made by the group; blocks are serious decisions, and they must be
based on a belief that the proposal being put forward goes against
the principles of the group or organization. If a block happens,
the group will need to re-evaluate how to proceed. If there are no
blocks, there is consensus.
something is missing.
let us know!!!!
table of contents
Table of Contents
an affinity group & living the world you want to see
- get ready!
you need to know to
make your participation effective
putting on a teach-in
is something that everyone does!
while the mass action is happening
when you get to protest-town
back home, after the action
something is missing.
let us know!!!!