Tuesday 14 June 2016

Organisation 001

How is our organisation going to work? Should it be incorporated as a company limited by guarantee? I guess it wouldn't be eligible for charitable status. Some kind of trust?


Is the name Labour Roots OK?

 I think John Walsh on LF suggested a tongue-in-cheek variation on CLPD - I admit was slightly averse to anything that might needlessly get anyone's neck up, but also didn't think we are really aiming to be a 'campaigning' organisation so much as an operational unit. I meant to explain my thinking and discuss this on LF but didn't get round to it in time & took an executive decision.

But anyway, I prefer Labour Roots (obviously - I chose it) as reasonably catchy and memorable, descriptive of the essential nature of the project while open-ended as to its functions etc. But at this stage we can easily change it - comments are requested on any alternative suggestions.


What key functions are we going to need as part of our virtual 'head office'?

Legal? HR? Fundraising? Graphic design?

 Subject to agreeing on a name, do we need a logo?

We will surely want to make the design of our sites as professional-looking as possible. Like personal dress and 'grooming', presentation can serve a kind of 'peacock' function - maintaining the right appearance takes effort and a modicum of 'competence' so when people have little else to go on, it is used as a proxy for other competences. (This is one of the purposes of much brand advertising too: being able to spend a lot on adverts indicates a company that is good enough at something-or-other to have cash to spare.)


 One important issue relates to what we may call constitutional as well as more strighforwardly organisational matters:

Tim Wilkinson:
I'm happy to act as a facilitator/summariser and subject to an unexpected explosion in volume of comments can commit to getting things up to date at least every two days or so - not trying to turn this into a personal feifdom, but I'm willing to do it & can easily be challenged if anyone thinks I'm doing anything wrong. Having one person with responsibility for 'curating' the discussions seems a sensible way - for the moment - to avoid total chaos. One model that occurs to me is that we iterate versions of topic threads (as distinct from this thread which is a free-for-all). I (or whoever) can periodically try to incorporate all the comments - including consensus, controversy and open questions - into a new numbered version of the thread - rather as minutes and agenda from one meeting feed into the next. Or indeed, for those who like that kind of thing, like the Hegelian thesis-antithesis - systhesis model writ small. Sopmething like this seems the best way, at this stage, of making progress and gradually refining a shared position. (Of course we need to move beyond online 'meetings' pretty quickly). Any thoughts on this in particular would be helpful. Anyway, I happily grant that some Blogger site certainly isn't the kind of thing we would want to base any of our operational systems on, once we (again: rapidly, I hope) move beyond discussion and onto action! But I am very conscious that we have to find a balance between quick and dirty solutions in the interest of getting things moving, and more considered and future-proof design for key operational systems.
Chris MacMackin
Something which I've been thinking about, which will be an issue regardless of the platform(s) we use, is how to hold the administrators/moderators to account. This isn't an immediate issue but it could become one down the road, so I think it is good to try to address this from thee start. We want to ensure that admins aren't in some way giving preference to those they agree with and also that admins aren't in some way directing the discussions. There are various suggestions I can make to ensure that users' views are represented. This can include electing moderators and having the chief authority be a council selected by sortition. It would be good to have mechanisms in place in the software which allow for changes to these roles, including recall, to happen automatically.
I'm focused on trying to move things forward at the operational-systems level and certainly don't intend to lose momentum by disqualifying myself or any of us from taking a lead where we think something needs to be done.

However I think we need to get this stuff sorted out sooner rather than later. One thing I can do - assuming we are not imminently going to migrate our discussion to some other system - is to add co-authors to this blog, so I'm not the the only one writing the main posts. I'm trying to be as judicious as possible in including all points of view raised but obviously my own opinions are bound to get preference to some extent over those of others - they are after all what I think is correct.

On the more constitutional side of things, we need to somehow bootstrap ourselves into a position in which there is accountability, and eventually (once, for example, there is actually an electorate, and we have moved beyond the kickstarting phase into something resembling a functioning organisation) some kind of democratic mechanism.

At present, we just need to get on with things really and not get bogged down in unnecessary admin. I propose we address the constitutional aspect of things by appointing (or electing!) the four active & committed (founder) members - CM, DP, JW & TW as a steering committee, interim executive, or whatever. That would at least clarify things and prevent any one person (me, for example) gaining undue control (we could require unanimity or a majority of 3 for any decision that's challenged by at least one member).

The committee of four (Gang of Four? G4?) could consult on an ad hoc basis (much as we're doing now but with a formal status behind it). We wouldn't need to do much, that we're not already doing, but anyone who wants to draw up a constitution could do so and submit it to the committee. By then we might have enough members to hold a referendum; if not, the committee could vote. This assumes all four members would be happy to be on the committee. If so, I think it seems our best bet.

As people join (I think it's safe to say that @stevemanc1 hasn't 'joined') it will only get harder to agree on a constitution or indeed anything else, so this seems to me the best solution.

 An alternative might be to instal a Hobbesian Sovereign in the shape of trustees, but not sure there is enough for anyone to be (or want to be) a trustee of. It would also require setting up a trust and would really only be another potential clique, in this case an entrenched one.


(Chris & I have also raised the 'rogue admin' scenario but that is a separate, primarily technical, issue and can be addressed on the 'Security' thread.)


Other issues worth initial discussion here before dedicated threads are opened under the 'Systems' category:

 Workflows within the organisation.

A big topic, engaging some potentially uncongenial issues about reputation scores, pecking orders etc. To make a real difference, we need our efforts to be co-ordinated and that means some way of deciding what tasks need to be achieved and allocating those tasks to individuals. We might have some kind of 'tender' system that goes out to a pool of registered volunteers - we could even consider duplicating effort so as to introduce an element of not-too-cutthroat competition, and enable outcome sto be calibrated. We need to think too about how we will register, vet, assess and classify volunteers, so far as it seems necessary to do so (and I thnk it will to some extent). Are we reallty talking about something more akin to recruitment to fairly well-defined roles, perhaps with some 'job-share'-like redundancy?  

Internal communications

So far as communication relating to operational functions is concerned, this issue overlaps with 'Collaborative Working', 'Research Capabilities' and 'Policy Development' threads. But we may need or want to be involved in other kinds of internal communications too - for example a Momentum intranet has been mentioned. Momentum's communications certainly need to be improved but I don't think we're in a position to do it for them, though our efforts to recruit via the Momentum network, especially for specific requirements, might benefit.

Any comments on this?  


How, who, what for - overlaps with the workflow system.  

Management, control structures



John Walsh said...

... v quick comments - I like your name 'Labour Roots'. There's someone in Rushcliffe who does graphics design - Umaar Kazmi - he did posters for JC events last summer. Once we have a clearer definition, I could ask him to have a think?

I'm attracted to the idea of the four of us being some kind of 'steering committee' - something that becomes quickly obvious (having joined the Party) is that given the 'work' we do is voluntary, this creates all kinds of problems that don't exist in an employed, work context where we'd all have clear roles and just did the things we were good at (in a perfect world). My point is that the organisational issues seems important, more important than I'd like but that's how it is.
John Walsh

PS I’m interested to see how this blog ‘notifies’ or ‘signals’ that a comment has been submitted – it’s easy to not see them (Left Futures has the ‘last 8 post’ list on the right – a deceptively clever way to help make sure you see what is going on).

Tim Wilkinson said...

All sounds good. I've added a 'recent comments' section and will look into email notifications, feeds etc.

BTW, could you (& David P) send an email to strategy{at sign}labourroots.uk, so I have email contact (to be used sparingly!)

Unknown said...

I'm perfectly open to the steering committee. While I emphasized the importance of rules, accountability, etc. I don't want to put the cart before the horse. I think the first order of business will be to decide what our goals are and what structures we want to use to accomplish them.

You mentioned the issue of assigning work. I'm not 100% clear whether this means in terms of developing the IT or in getting articles written and documents published once that is finished. In the case of the former, there are fairly well established mechanisms for doing this with open source software. I mentioned on another thread that Github could be used for the IT development stuff and it has many of these sorts of features and can integrate with some other services providing more advanced tools. It is used by some pretty large open source projects, so presumably it scales well. We may want to consider using similar strategies for our workflow once the IT is finished.

Tim Wilkinson said...

re: assigning work. I was primarily thinking of operations once up and running & agree running development should be much more tractable. Also agree experience of dev project may usefully inform our approach to in organising ops.