Direct Democracy Model
The Direct Democracy model is one model of democracy that is being considered for our community. It uses processes that enable the tribe to fairly and efficiently partake in the information gathering process, deliberation and vote on the issues that arise in the community. The Community Earth Foundation (Land Trust) has already adopted The Voting Sphere method found below.
To work well several methods are used in the Direct Democracy model and each depend on the dynamic of the vote, from the amount of participants and where they are and the scope of the issues that arise. In all cases, a record of each meeting is essential and will also take on various forms. It is highly encouraged that members participate in these meetings but so far we believe it best that voting is not a mandatory affair.
Emergency Meetings(recorded via microphone)
Emergency meetings will be called by anyone who deems there is an emergency to discuss or take action on within the day concerning the land and the inhabitants on the land. A community bell can be rung and we will gather, as many of us that can, together in a short amount of time. 3 to 5 minutes after the bell, the meeting will commence.
The process used will be a facilitator who will explain the problem and an aid facilitator who will keep track of speakers in queue through the hand number method. This is a method especially good for emergencies and has been tried and tested in various settings, from university assemblies to large organized protests.We ask that people refrain from blurting out comments or reacting in ways that will deny those around you from hearing the issues and others who are participating in the discussion.
As the community develops we will also create plans for foreseeable emergencies with protocols in place so that we do not need to hold the meeting and deal with the emergency quickly and efficiently.
Project/Coop Meetings(recorded via microphone)
Project/Coop meetings are held as needed by the participants of said projects/cooperatives. These group meetings are held when the decisions to be made are not emergencies for the community and or do not merit the use of the Voting Sphere due to the limited scale of the issue at hand. These meetings are used especially for internal changes or decisions for actions concerning projects or cooperatives.
Each project or cooperative can choose the methods it wishes to make decisions such as consensus, manager approval or majority and use processes of deliberation it wishes such as talking stick method, numbers, open discussion, etc... as long as the processes are made clear before hand and written up as proof in case problems arise.
The day to day running of projects or cooperatives can vary also in form. There could be a manager or managers or some kind of cooperative council.
If there are changes that seem to be needed that are beyond the finances of the project or cooperative, beyond the scope of the project or cooperative, something that will affect other groups in the community, a new proposal etc..., then the meeting will clearly state this need and who will be responsible to bring it to the communal level in the minutes. That person or persons must disseminate the issue through various forms which must include : Posting the Issue on a billboard Starting an Issue in the Voting Sphere
The Voting Sphere(Recorded via the Voting Sphere program)
The Voting Sphere is a novel decision making process where each participant can make a decision on each Issues of interest to them. The Issues may concern everything from community affairs and life, projects and cooperatives, and the process is spread out over time to ensure that clear headed, well informed decisions get made. A brief description of the Voting Sphere process is outlined below. The Voting Sphere manual will be given to members upon joining the community.
Outline of the Process:
- Acquiring Quorum Stage - Different topics such as initiating a project, discussing finances, creating or removing a by-law, a change to the Voting Sphere, a change to the IPC Membership Contract, and others all are Issues that can be brought into the Voting Sphere for us as a community to come to a decision about. Each type of Issue has its own minimum quorum needed, that is the minimum amount of people who bring up the topic for all to deliberate on. In a small community the quorum may be one or two people. In a larger one the quorum may be up to 10 people for example. This ensures less time wasted in decisions which most feel is not adequate enough to bring up to the community as a whole.
- Forum Stage - Here the Issue is made public and all the participants can discuss and share information, feelings and ideas about the Issue. The Forum Stage varies in length depending again on the type of Issue brought up. In general, for the community, most forums will remain open for 2 weeks.
- Comopt Stage - This is where all the information gathered in the Forum is organized into a proposal of the different options of actions or inactions, in the form of a mini referendum document, usually entailing not more than a few pages. The Comopt (compiled options) is written by a Participant who has the writing skills for such an endeavor and all such Participants will be chosen from a list, at random, per Issue. The time given to write the Comopt will vary depending on the Issue type but in general it is no more than 2 days. The time will count toward Shawolo hours for the participant undertaking this work.
- Voting Stage - Here the Participants can read over the Comopt and vote on one of the options proposed. Participants can vote anonymously or with their names. The period will be open for the same amount of time as the Forum was for the same Issue.
- Results Stage - Once the period ends on each Issue, the results will automatically be sent out to each participant via e-mail and will also be posted on the community billboard. On the website, anyone will be able to see the amount of people voted, what the sliding majority was and the participants can verify their votes to make sure it matches that which they had actually voted. This is an easy transparent way to ensure that manipulation of votes does not occur. If there is a problem people will be able to see it and an Emergency meeting may be called. In the case that a sliding majority is not reached the Issue may be passed again through the Voting Sphere until we are able find a solution that works for the majority of the Participants.
There are different ways to input information from participants into the Voting Sphere with the fastest and more common being through the Voting Sphere Program interface (ex. On a computer/device). Other physical ways will also be respected such as the opinion box or voice recorder. These takes the place of writing a message on the computer. The output is primarily electronic. The Voting Sphere Program interface itself can be printed out and/or e-mailed out to people.
There will always be at least one public computer that people can catch up from if they themselves do not have some electronic means of doing so. Other possible avenues of information output in the future could possibly include radio announcements, letters to each household, minstrels (no throwing of tomatoes at the minstrels please), etc...
People are encouraged to discuss with their friends, families, other village participants on the issues at hand but they should be aware that once they have an opinion they will have to record it in the Voting Sphere for it to be included (in case it has not been) in the options that will be listed in the vote (the comopt).
The Voting Sphere is thus a flexible, transparent and relatively efficient democratic process so that all participants can equally partake at their own interest and pace.
Monthly (In Person) Community Meetings(recorded via microphone)
This community meeting is a 2 hour, facilitated monthly meeting. It is to bring up small and large subjects, act as a communal check in and a place for general announcements and the coming and goings of participants. If someone want to share an experience this could also be the venue. Things pertaining too existing Issues or perhaps the beginnings of Issues to be deliberated in the Voting Sphere may come up.
The facilitator will monitor time and make sure such Issues remain the realm of the Voting Sphere.
The process will include a chalk board that people can add discussion topics on as they come in. If there is little to talk about, we will turn the meeting into a dance hall.
The Trust Meetings & AGM (Annual General Meeting)(Recorded via the voting sphere program & the AGM recorded via microphone and then written up as minutes for the foundation)
Trust meetings and the AGM, share and discusses events and issues that pertain to the foundation as a whole and its role in the world. We can assess our failures and successes here.
Meetings of the Trust are brought up on an as needed basis and are carried out using the Voting Sphere with the exception of the AGM which will be a live annual meeting held in the first week of each February.
An agenda for the AGM will be set using the voting sphere a month prior to the meeting.
Other Decision Making Processes
There are mediators in the community that people can go to in order to deal with issues between people, emotional, value systems, things that have happened, fears etc... example: 'The dogs are running loose and making a mess of things' could be handled easily in this manner if it is between 2 persons or a small group of people as opposed to using the Voting Sphere or waiting for the monthly community meeting. (See Conflict Mediation in the Section: Other Social Contracts)
Participation of Members who are not Present
They can continue to use their voting privileges through the on line Voting Sphere however forgo their decisions on the smaller topics that may grow out of the monthly emergency and coop/project meetings. They however can check in with the recorded materials of meetings online such as the recordings or written minutes.
Majorities are based on the amount of participants present (in person and online) and the sliding scale percentage of majority (between 51% to 99% - refer to the Voting Sphere manual for details).