The Policies and Procedures Committee was created during the 1999 Caucus business meeting and charged with submitting a proposal concerning the structure of our agenda-making and decision-making process. As a reminder, the Caucus meets once a year during CAA’s national conference and all decisions occur at that business meeting. This report includes suggested procedures in three areas:
Item #1: Our committee suggests that the Caucus co-chairs -- in collaboration with other Caucus officers and committee chairs -- publish a proposed agenda in the Fall/Winter issue of the newsletter, with a request for additions or other changes, such as a change in the order of items. After receiving suggestions, the co-chairs will then finalize the proposed agenda, and bring copies of the proposed agenda to the annual meeting, for distribution at the business meeting and in any appropriate previous context.
Item #2: At the business meeting, the agenda will be distributed. The first item on the agenda will be approval of the agenda. Participants at the meeting can propose additions or changes. These modifications will be accepted or rejected by taking the sense of the meeting using (VERY QUICKLY) the consensus procedure described below.
Item #3: Concerning decision-making procedures on any item of business, we suggest the following format.
1. An issue requiring a decision, so indicated on the agenda, is brought forth for discussion.
2. A proposed decision -- example: “Let’s rename the Caucus such-and-such” -- may be proposed by the co-facilitators or from the other meeting participants.
3. A facilitator will take the sense of the group by asking for it as follows:
Thumbs up: likes the decision.
Thumbs sideways: can live with it.
Thumbs down: can’t live with it.
4. People in the second two groups will then have an opportunity to propose adaptations that will help them move from “down” or “sideways” -- and that the original “up” people can still live with. Ideally, the group will come to consensus by agreeing to modifications that everyone can live with.
5. If the group cannot come to a full consensus, after trying to do so in good faith, it will be determined if we have enough of a consensus to record a decision. No less than 4/5 of the participants must be able to live with a decision in order for it to stand.
6. Once a decision seems to have been made, at either step 4 or 5 above, the facilitator will announce the decision as made, giving people a chance to confirm that the facilitators and other participants have a clear understanding of its wording. (In other words, we confirm that we all know what we agreed to.) The decision will then be recorded.
An explanatory note: We propose this model of decision making with several issues in mind. Since we meet once a year, we need to make sure that decisions are made at meetings. We also want a collective process that does not, however, allow one or two people to determine the direction of the organization by withholding consensus. Finally, although we realize that consensus has a reputation for taking longer than Robert’s Rules, we also know that such an impression is actually false. (Think about what goes into those motions to amend, and motions to amend amendments.) Consensus is at least as efficient in terms of time, and we like its ideals better. With all these criteria in mind, we offer a model of modified consensus, in which the caucus aims for a full consensus but will settle for the consensus of a big majority.
These are our proposals for the business meeting’s agenda and process. We also present for your consideration one further proposal. As several people have mentioned, it would be great to have other occasions at the conference at which people could productively express ideas, issues, and concerns that they would like to be heard. So we are suggesting that the Caucus have about five “designated listeners.” Designated listeners would be Caucus members who are not currently officers or committee chairs and who agree to be available at the reception and, perhaps, in other contexts, to listen to whatever people want to bring up. Designated listeners will then present a sense of what they heard at the business meeting, and also suggest agenda modifications if any seem appropriate.
One of our central goals here is to come up with a variety of ways for as many people as possible to participate in determining the direction and work of the caucus -- and then helping to make things happen!
Speaking of participation, please send your comments and suggestions on this proposal to Erica Rand (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sallie McCorkle (email@example.com [SM no longer at Penn State]). The Committee will present this proposal (as is or as modified in response to feedback) at the Caucus business meeting in New York (February 2000).
Committee Members: Joe Ansell, Noreen Dean Dresser, Sallie McCorkle, and Erica Rand