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proposal to redefine portland indymedia

portland indymedia has been in existence for a little over a year (wahoo !!), during which time it has grown pretty darn fast. recent discussion have revealed that the current organizational structure and policies have become unclear, complex, and perhaps contradictory. here, for public comment, is a proposal to redefine, streamline, and accelerate portland indymedia. please feel free to comment, even if you have never been involved before. (this is a draft and additions and changes will be in red)
"no one is indymedia, anyone can be indymedia"

themes:
* freedom + responsibility
* communication + commitment
* process + production

this organizational model borrows the structure of the global Indymedia network -- autonomous IMCs required to uphold certain principles -- and applies it locally, to portland indymedia.

to review, global requires of IMCs:
* consensus-based decision-making process
* open publishing newswire
* use of open source code
* non-profit (not necessarily 501c3)
requested: participation in global processes and decision-making process listserves and IRC; contribution to network from fundraising.

this proposal concerns three concepts: contributors, workgroups, and decision-making.

***contributors***
portland indymedia is brought to life by its contributors. a contributor is anyone who wants to self-identify as such. there are no requirements.

examples of contributions:
visiting the site, posting, commenting, reporting, financial tracking, feature-writing, tech, design, newswire-monitoring, tabling, organizing, attending an event.

contributors are responsible only for their own work/actions, and cannot be held responsible or liable for the work/actions of another contributor.

***workgroups***
contributors may organize themselves into task/project-based workgroups. they may call themselves committees, affinity groups, cells, etc. - whatever they choose. workgroups act autonomously, with their own self-defined workflow processes (if any).

requirements for workgroups:
* global requirements for IMC filter down to workgroups
* self-description of purpose or goals made publicly available and workgroup self description must function within current Portland IMC mission statement and any future mission statement changes
* act only within self-description
* be open for anyone to participate
* consensus-based decision-making process
* inform other groups of decisions and activities regularly
* send representative to representative meetings
* make public a method of contact (can be email, listserve or phone number/list, regularly monitored chalkboard)
* make public the times/locations of meetings, so anyone can attend
* at least one person on imc-portland and imc-announce lists
* 20% of fundraising to sibling IMC fund

finance is the exception, and will be considered a set of functions, not a workgroup. finance may autonomously take care of financial functions (paying bills, methods of tracking) but must take instruction from representative meetings.

***decision-making***
representative meetings will be held on a regular basis (i.e., monthly).

  1. the agenda will be worked out well ahead of time and distributed widely.
  2. each workgroup will discuss the agenda and come to consensus on each item.
  3. each workgroup will choose one person to represent them at the meeting. this representative must be revolving; the same person cannot go twice in a row.
  4. everyone is free to attend the meeting, but only the representatives are involved in consensing decisions. people from a workgroup may call a time-out and pull their representative to offer advice, make a group decision, or change representatives.
  5. decisions are by pure consensus. majority vote is not an option.

    little need come to representative meetings:
    * legal issues
    * financial issues
    * conflict resolution
    * issues beyond the scope of a single group
    * issues not covered by any group (i.e., sibling IMC)

    representative meetings cannot touch:
    * workgroup self-descriptions
    * workgroup processes
    * a workgroup's existence

wow... 10.Nov.2001 23:54

matchboy matchboy@tearitalldown.com

seeing as how i am still fairly new to the portland imc and portland area... i was shocked to hear that there was so much organization and processes that were overseen by a group. maybe it was my own ignorance, but i originally thought that the IMC was based on anybody, anyone adding a story, comment, post at anytime and it was a given that it was an independent person or organization that posted it.

of course people 'run' the overall functionality of this tool, but that there are moderators who oversee anything and everything that is posted, kind of bothered me. i really like the proposal that has been presented by Allen and others, and since i plan to get more involved (if this kind of general agreement and process was accepted i would feel more inclined to participate with the IMC), largely due to the fact that i could do things on my own or with others and not need to ask permission from any general collective to do it under the IMC front. I have always thought over the past year or so (when i first came across IMC) that this was more of a front type organization.
ANYONE can be part of the indymedia. the indymedia is about you, me, the visitors reading this post as being treated as though they were all a valuable and equal part of the system that is built upon a community structure.
I don't think I have more authority or say then the person who visits the site once and posts a comment on the site or tells a friend to visit.

indymedia is your tool.

any attempts to make it MY tool shouldnt affect the way it operates as your tool as well. what i do with the IMC doesn't necessarily reflect upon you. trust the people who use it, and respect their decisions. feel free to question it, but don't try to abolish it. there needs to be a common theme that we all can conceptually agree upon... and that is moving forward and making changes to the way things are currently done. we can't keep going back on old systems... but learn from them and continue to grow and prosper as a community who cares for and about each other and respect each others decisions.

indmedia is about changing, growing, and bringing up the ideas that the world doesnt think they want to know. we all come here in search of something... it's like a fetish. we want to know more then what they feed us in the mainstream. lets not conform to the mainstream processes as well.

i love you all... even though i don't know you.. but thanks for contributing and being a valuable resource on the indymedia community.

a great man once said, "its just a fucking website."
yes... just a website...
but its a documented database of all of our ideas and dreams.... dont try to control it, because you might limit the next persons ability to dream of something better and more promising for the IMC... or even bigger like a solution to all of lifes great mysteries and problems...

-matchboy


my blocking concerns in brief 11.Nov.2001 07:23

starfire

First, and foremost-- the underlying theme here seems to create a situation where the collective could conceivably have no idea what any of the committees are doing. The "representatives" that would be sent to a collective meeting from a committee are there for what purpose? It seems they are not there to report, but instead to vote. It seems there is no accountability for any actions, nor any need for notification of actions by committees.

It also seems that committees under this proposal are simply self-defined, and that no need for collective approval of this self-definition exists under this proposal. I can't abide by this. Yes, eveyone is indymedia and theoretically what working groups do don't affect or represent other working groups. But we are in a collective, and if this is a representative system where no committee is answerable to the collective, or responsible to uphold the process we have all spent a year agreeing to, then it is not acting as a collective.

Also extremely important,is this sudden switch to use of consensus absolutely. This after the statement that only representatives are involved in consensing decisions...WHAT IS THIS ABOUT? IF anyone can go to a meeting, then anyone can and should put in a vote at a meeting. Our existing process of a fallback to a 3/4 vote if no consensus can be reached, has after all, only happened once, and that was when the decision-making process itelf was being decided. But it could easily happen again. WHY IS THIS BACKUP FOR WHEN CONSENSUS CAN'T BE REACHED SUDDENLY SUCH A BAD PROCESS?

More detailed problems with this proposal I will get into later after coffee.

Laurie

my proposed solution 11.Nov.2001 07:40

starfire

So, there are many things contained within this proposal that I question and block. Mainly, the insistence of consensus, loss of vote by anyone other than designated revolving "representatives" and the failure to ensure that collective has any say in "self-definition" of working groups, as well as lack of accountability to the collective for working groups.

I propose as a solution to this "problem" that has sparked this need to change our working process the following: I propose that we create a "consensus listserve". I think this would solve the comittees' frustration about too much limitation and the collective's concern about not enough accountability. It's not like the collective generally disapproves of the activities of committees/working groups, we just want to be kept informed and might actually want to get involved with projects if we knew what they were.

This listserve could be for working groups to let the collective know, and for blocking concerns to be aired, but no discussion. Discussion of issues could occur on a discussion listserve, or on the listserve of the working group, whichever is decided, or on the newsire, as has been chosen here...

This does not address the process changes but while we are working out those details, it may fill the interim need to function as a group that works together or that at least knows what the working groups are doing and would help us all work together better I believe.

Laurie

non techies 11.Nov.2001 09:18

matchboy matchboy@tearitalldown.com

i personally think that if we rely too much on mailing lists (via email) that we might leave out people who don't have the access to it.
on the other hand, i think that the idea presented would ask each self-claimed group to make some type of contact info publically available and keep some type of webpage or email list postings on a semi-regular basis to let the rest of the indymedia groups to know what they are up to. that way others could get involved. also, the idea behind not needing to get a general consensus about what any one group is doing is to avoid any outside people or groups from trying to prevent a group from doing something.

if a person wanted to 'change' or help a group they would have to actually join that group to do so. an outside person really shouldn't have any say of what that group is doing, because they are not directly involved with what the groups ideas and plans are. if you dont like it so much, get involved with that group and work it out inside.

take for instance. a few people and i form a small 'collective' where we want to have a benefit concert with some other organizations that would promote some fundraising for the imc, we shouldn't need to get all the other groups consensus because we are doing something on our own on behalf of the whole organization. if someone from a different group didn't like the way we were planning it, what are the chances that a proposal went across the listserv to stop us from doing it? there would be discussion from various people, but here i am with my fellow group contributors doing our own thing, now have to give up the project we worked on because a 3/4 of the general collective said we couldn't?
if they wanted to directly effect or change the way this small group performed its actions then they would need to join us and do so within in the group and not as the whole collective.
independent....

inĚdeĚpenĚdent (nd-pndnt)
adj.

Not governed by a foreign power; self-governing.

Free from the influence, guidance, or control of another or others; self-reliant: an independent mind.

Not determined or influenced by someone or something else; not contingent: a decision independent of the outcome of the study.

often Independent Affiliated with or loyal to no one political party or organization.

Not dependent on or affiliated with a larger or controlling entity: an independent food store; an independent film.


re: starfire 11.Nov.2001 10:22

deva drdartist@riseup.net

Quote "First, and foremost-- the underlying theme here seems to create a situation where the collective could conceivably have no idea what any of the committees are doing."

Please re-read the working group requirements.

One of them is - * inform other groups of decisions and activities

This requires a working group to inform all the other groups what they are doing. Therefore what you suggest would not be the case under this proposal.

QUOTE "It also seems that committees under this proposal are simply self-defined, and that no need for collective approval of this self-definition exists under this proposal. I can't abide by this."

This is exactly the point of the proposal. There are some essential guidelines which any working group would be required to follow. This is the same as local Indymedias compared to the global collective. There are certain guidelines to follow, but beyond that, each local IMC is free to organize and carry out its mission as it sees fit without need for global collective approval. This proposal brings Portland IMC more in line with global IMC structure.

This concept also insures that it is the people actually undertaking the tasks of that workgroup who are mostly making the day to day decisions. Any person is welcome to join that workgroup if they want to be part of it. This encourages more equal participation in the decisions, and in the work of carrying them out.

Deva

What ain't busted... 12.Nov.2001 19:29

Metal Pancreas petethepontiff@hotmail.com

no offense matchboy and starfire, but i got bored super-quick with your answers to the problem. i have been reading portland indymedia for only a few months now, but it seems to me the best source in town for fresh, unprocessed news and community communication on the web. i don't really see what needs to be changed. the features are important stories, some of which come from the newswire, and the newswire itself is a beautiful forum of individuality. meetings, as long as they cannot damage the rock-hard tenets of indymedia, can only increase interest and activity in our struggle. even if one group fucks up and drops the ball, another group will form and pick it up. oh my! it's a dream come true.
i realise this is a rather juvenile look at a very important topic, but i think something so simple shouldn't be disrepected with undue complications. i think our common sense (which is what spawned indymedia in the first place) will prevail and keep pdx indymedia strong and healthy. now if we can just get those pesky Feds juked!
on a completely different note, check out  http://foia.fbi.gov/ for hours of conspiracy forming laughter, fraught with tears of acidic hatred.

This discussion belongs on the listserves 13.Nov.2001 06:48

starfire

Let's take this discussion to the lists where it belongs. I agree this is getting boring for folks who really aren't interested in this internal debate.

To respond to Matchboy, I think it is likely that even those not on email could participate, using the computers they use to put up stories with, or printouts at a friend's or library, or red and black.

I think that the likelihood of ANY project being nixed by the collective is very tiny, miniscule compared to the implications of what is lost by throwing out group process or collective consciousness.

Deva, the rewrite to clarify certain parts of the above proposal is nice, but the underlying theme remains one to create so much autonomy that this is no longer a collective. You can't "redefine the definition of collective" as you say we need to do in the interests of ... of what again are we trying to further here? Expediency? Or Autonomy? Autonomous of what? What is so bad about being in a collective? And a consensus-based collective at that? Isn't that what we would like to see the world use instead of corporate domination? What's the difference between corporations doing their will without consulting people their decisions affect and us doing that same thing?

starfire

Not an internal debate 15.Nov.2001 02:31

loving anarchist

indymedia doesn't belong to anyone, even the people who think they own and control it. it is not a static organization, it is a tactic. the discussion belongs out here in public, because indymedia *is* public.

time for everybody to take a deep breath and let go. or at least loosen their grip.

To put it in a different perspective 15.Nov.2001 03:33

starfire

I'm beginning to see the logic in much of the debate here, although the means do not always justify the ends...Here's a quote I see as being relevant here:


Message from Hopi Elders 2001:

There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift, that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore, they will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.

Know that the river has its destination.

The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off in to the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water.
And I say see who is there with you and clebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The way of the lone wolf is over.

Gather yourselves.
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner, and in celebration.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.