Most non-profits have a corporate structure, which is different from its community (or membership) structure. A democratic non-profit (there is no official definition) is one where the mass membership has leverage over the corporate structure. Here's how that will work.
The membership structure drives the agenda of the organization, within the mission of the corporation.
The operational structure consists of the roles and responsibilities in the community. This is "how things operate".
Notes on roles, rights & reponsibilities of membership
We're all members, and we all have rights. But what are these rights? What are the responsibilities? Here are some principles. I'll post more as they come up in discussion.
It should be possible for anyone in the group to make a proposal. If the proposal gets enough support, it goes into a list for everyone to prioritize. Is it a critical issue, compared to all others? The group needs to evaluate the whole picture, by ranking proposals & existing projects.
March 13, 2006 4:10 PM greg
Independent projects, aware of the whole|
People need to do more than propose. They need to start projects, to see if people are attracted to them, and to see if people want to help & shape the project. [That's the purpose of this web-tool, by the way. Go to your home page, and create a project.] Conflicts emerge when a new project is undoing the work of an existing project. But if everyone is paying attention to the whole, at all times, that should be noticed very early. It's important, when starting a new project, to see how it fits in harmony with others, and to try to make connections to them, in a positive way.
March 13, 2006 4:13 PM greg
Communties and leaders|
Basically, we don't want any one person running the Tango Center. We want the community to run it. That doesn't mean that someone won't spearhead a project (for example, Jennifer initiating the auction), or run it (Yifang runing the front desk, Pamela running the auction, an ad hoc crew that runs every event). But the decisions rest with the community. No one should run the Tango Center. I don't want to run it, but I don't want anyone else to either. We want community decision-making, individual initiative, and some process that allows for freedom, insists upon cooperation, and makes everyone very happy about the excitement & quality of the results.
April 15, 2006 10:33 AM greg
Preserve what's good. Fix what's not.|
The general principle, in making a high-quality place, is to preserve things that work, and fix things that don't work.
At the Tango Center, a lot of things work really well. The Friday & Saturday milongas work particularly well, for example. And it's worth examining why, so that the good stuff is supported.
Some things don't work so well. Publicity, for example, is minimal, when it is done at all. We have a truly unique environment here, and yet very few know about it. Among those who do, they rarely know when some big event is coming.
Another problem is the physical infrastructure, which still needs work (ceiling, venting/heating, lighting, electrical).
From a monetary perspective, the Friday & Saturday milongas work best, so they must be preserved. Most of the rest of the week is underused ... these are the days where the most community attention is needed.
April 17, 2006 9:58 AM greg
Believe people will do necessary things|
It's important to believe that, when something is needed, people will step up and do what's needed. They'll fix something, or make something -- often without 'orders', but just because many people are asking for a solution. This way, life in a cooperative orgazniation can be a continual pleasant surprise for everyone.
April 17, 2006 5:36 PM greg
The new organization will be a non-profit, public benefit with membership corporation, called The Tango Center.|
The law requires three officers and Board Members, but these will officially have no power, and serve in an advisory and oversight capacity. They will be elected by the membership, and responsible for reporting their findings to the membership. The membership can create new positions, but they cannot disempower themselves: they cannot give power to a board or president.
The membership will be as broad-based as possible, and as inexpensive as possible, open to anyone who comes to the Tango Center.
The Tango Center activity will be visible on this website.
The actual activity of the Tango Center will be run by project teams. This reflects the existing structure of the Tango Center operation. We are trying to model The Tango Center as much as possible on the existing work, but responsible to the membership.
Projects are initiated by members, and are assumed to be free to contribute to the Tango Center, as long as their work is positive, and doesn't harm the work of any other project.
Project teams that are not acting responsibly are subject to dissolution by membership initiative. We assume that the threat of an initiative will resolve problems, but if carried through, it may be administered on this website, if the effort is made to ensure full participation over some weekend milongas.
Initiatives can be brought forth on any topic. A minimum of 10% of membership needs to second the initiative. 50% passes.
It's somewhat radical, but with an effort to reach out to the whole community, at the Tango Center itself, it seems that the entire organization can be constructed and run on this website. Of course, much more will happen on the ground than will ever be visible here. But the organizational abstractions can be constructed here, and will be corrected by experience in real life.
If you find this notion problematic, please say so.
April 17, 2006 6:55 PM greg
This is in answer to Denis' question about the transition.
The Tango Center is a working system. If we want to preserve what works at the Tango Center, and create a transition that's as positive & harmonious as possible, we don't hand the operation suddenly to a new group of people. We invite people to begin to take roles that are unfilled, gradually divest jobs from Greg, and maintain & explain the roles of the people who have invested a great deal in bringing coherence to their Tango Center projects.
To do that, I suggest that a membership group be formed ... kind of like a citizenry. It would consist of those who've put the most time in, for a start, and then would pull in the larger group. This group would then get to know what is actually happening, because the active group would let them know. Then they could begin to make decisions on positions.
I guess that means that we need to expand the "Operational Structure" section here to include the existing operation. I'll get to it.
April 18, 2006 10:42 AM greg
If the TC expands its scope to include other dance communities (and I'm in favor of doing so), I am concerned that the primary focus of the group could be changed from tango to, say, salsa by a group of people who could amass a larger number of members than the tango folks. I propose some kind of Statement of Purpose in the charter and/or bylaws of the new organization that specifies that the primary focus will remain tango.
This doesn't mean that we couldn't have salsa on Friday evenings and milongas on Saturday evenings (not a bad idea, in my not-so-humble opinion) but that tango would always have first choice.
I don't know if the tango community can continue to support the number of tango venues now available. I think we've seen a drop in attendance in part due to people getting their dance fix elsewhere. By eliminating one weekly milonga and replacing it with a different dance group (salsa, for example), it might result in overall higher attendance on weekends.
Please don't be shy about disagreening with anything I say.
April 18, 2006 10:59 AM PeterGysegem
Tango Centric II|
Peter is right, we need our Tango-orientation to be clear. I've added a "Mission" subproject.
April 18, 2006 1:09 PM greg
I'd like to move the Tango Center community operation into a new organization, in which it will fit, and in which it will flourish. I would like this to be a community-run organization, not a board-run organization. By community-run, I mean the broad-based community, or membership, not a small group of decision-makers.
I also believe that instead of a director and staff, the current system of projects and their teams works well, and makes sense for a vibrant community organization of creative people.
April 18, 2006 2:47 PM greg
Loren is absolutely right, I need to write down what I do, so people know where to volunteer, and where the gaps are. I'll keep track of my movements this week, to see what I'm doing, what I should be doing, and what others do.
I'll record the subtle things that are going on now, under the "Operational Structure" project.
April 18, 2006 2:58 PM greg
Actually, you want a board-run organization|
Iím just bumbling into the tango scene, but I have a lot of experience with dance and music organizations. The impulse to establish a membership-run organization, as opposed to a board-run organization, will keep coming up. It seems like the obvious and right way to run an organization serving an identifiable community, but itís generally a mistake. The overhead of maintaining a formal membership list and running elections just wastes too much energy that could go into actual productive work. What you want is an effective, representative, responsive, self-perpetuating board. They should try to represent the interests of the community and to be open about what theyíre doing. Theyíll be accountable for how the organization works and evolves. If they donít do the job, the community will either demand changes or start a new organization.
The organizational structure proposed at http://etc.xwiki.com looks about right. Itís a standard structure for a tax-exempt corporation with a self-electing board. One odd detail is Article IV in the Articles of Incorporation, which refers to members of the corporation, qualified according to requirements set forth in the bylaws, although those requirements arenít yet shown in the bylaws. If the idea here is to establish a formal community membership list, that would really be an unnecessary waste of effort, and thereís no legal requirement to have members. Make people welcome in the community, encourage people to contribute to the community and then acknowledge their contributions, but donít worry about explicitly defining whoís a member. People will figure it out, according to their own notion of the community.
April 18, 2006 8:42 PM Drew
Communities & boards|
Community organizations can run perfectly well as direct democracies. But the structure needs to be right. Project teams make the important day-to-day decisions. The board acts as a kind of rotating advisory group, elected by the membership or by sortition, meeting very rarely. With a tool like this one, and regular interface with it at a venue like the Tango Center, the community can have an effective initiative process as well, and look at what's going on online at any time.
From the conversations I've had with people, the alternative to what we have now, is not a bureaucratic repersentative democracy, but rather a loose-running, fun organization that is fast and effective at direct democracy. Many co-ops do this effectively, and lightly, and Eugene has a long history with the process. This tool should mitigate the meeting burden.
April 18, 2006 10:45 PM greg
Evolving ETC bylaws|
The ETC corporate structure and bylaws is still evolving, and is by no means fixed at this point. We hope to finalize the details on Saturday. I will raise your point at the meeting. The logic of having members is to help to increase the feeling of community, not to create exclusion. There will no doubt be considerable debat on this point at the meeting. You are welcome to come, of course.
April 19, 2006 12:45 PM andrewm
I don't know what ETC is, but different kinds of organizations require different structures.
Take the TC. If you want to have the variety needed to make high-quality events, it's important that you have as broad-based a membership as possible, and that this membership is officially in charge. In reality, it's the projects that do things, and it needs to be recognized that no organization is vital unless there is freedom to organize projects. Tyrannical arts organizations, and there are many, will require that the name, for example, not be used without group or management approval. But that's a tyranny, and you can't have fun in a tyrannically run physical space. So, less authoritarianism is required, the larger the crowd, and the greater the desired participation, and the desired pleasure of enfranchisement.
If the organization isn't running a physical space, and the actual number of people involved is quite small, then the official structure barely matters.
April 19, 2006 3:07 PM greg
I don't want to sound critical but the structure/process Greg has proposed appears to be trying to make the organization fit this web site software structure.|
This is a cool web site but it is not terribly intuitive and it is sometimes confusing to navigate and to find what you want. It his hightly tree structured with no cross-linking between Projects that I can see.
I'm inserting a link here to see if it is possible:
Click here to see a link in action.
Well I guess it works but you have to know HTML to do it.
April 19, 2006 4:05 PM PeterGysegem
The problem with a rigidly heirarchly structure such as this website is that it tends to make people think in a heirarchical mode and makes it more difficult for people to connect with each other. A simple fix would be a simple way to link projects together, a central "Project Library", of all the projects underway and links, a simple way of adding your project to it, a simple FAQ that has answers in it, a "how to" of actually implementing a project. The nuts and bolts: getting a key to the building if the event/project is at a time no one is there, what to turn on/off, clean-up requirements, etc. A way to let other people know that you have started a project.
In regards to the current summary of the TC structure: How do I apply for membership? How is a question brought before the membership? How is voting done? So far on this website there is only "ranking" which may let someone know how you feel about an issue, but does not require action to be taken. A vote must have results to have meaning. Merely ranking endless lists is futile. Voting also implies deadlines: a vote is a time-delimited action, with results that are expected to occur in a timely manner. How is this instantiated on this website? How does my vote count?
April 19, 2006 4:37 PM andrewm
I second the motion put forth earlier by Kathryn that there needs to be a central area where everyone can see what is going on and discuss it in linked threads. A central, common area. A forum to hear and be heard, and where proposals of general interest can be put forward. Compartmentalizing the discussions and making everyone navigate through endless web pages seems a colossal waste of time.
April 19, 2006 4:43 PM andrewm
Awareness of the Whole|
Would it be possible to have a site map? Some way of viewing all the members and associated projects at once? Clickable? Searchable? Arranged by topic or something? How can I post something on the tangocenter.org page? If I would like to post something there, and can't do it myself, who do I send the info to?
April 19, 2006 4:55 PM andrewm
Awareness of the New|
I have also noticed that there is no easy way to tell if something new has been published on the website or a new post to a project without going to each project in turn. Which takes considerable time. Would it be possible to set up an RSS feed for each project, or automatically post new info to a single place? Many web sites have that as a useful feature. Thanks!
April 19, 2006 4:58 PM andrewm
Awareness of the Split Infinitive|
To paraphrase Churchill, "This is the sort of nonesense up with which I will not put."
April 19, 2006 5:04 PM andrewm
What about something that is user-friendly?|
I'm having a hard time here -- I can't be the only one. I'm constantly confused. First it took me a while to figure out how and where I can post (I hope this is right). Now, I'm wondering if "Description" means the actual body of the post or is it just the subtitle? I don't see anywhere else to put the body so I'll just assume this is the way to go.
My point? I'm a designer (web and graphic) and I'm constantly trying to think of ways to help the user navigate their way through. I find the Tango Center website and forum VERY hard when it comes to finding information. I really don't know where to look. If things were easier for Joe Blow off the street, then they might be more likely to find out, "Hey there's a great tango workshop coming up on XX."
If what you want is an interactive forum, then wouldn't it be better to make it easy and clear for people to post and find information? Here are some examples of forums that I visit that are highly organized and, for the most part, user friendly.
Okay, I know they're all swing related. The point is that they all have their own look and have good organization. They all use premade bulletin board software and have calenders that users can post events to and keep up to date.
Here are the two software programs that the boards use:
Maybe the Tango Center could consider using one of them to keep this site interactive, easy, and informative. My two cents.
May 18, 2006 10:11 AM Karly