Introduction to the General Assembly

From Getting to the Roots Issue Two

What is a General Assembly?

The General Assembly (GA) model has been adopted by most of the occupations as a way to discuss and make decisions. The GA is a horizontal, leader-less, open meeting. The GA is where decisions are made that affect the whole group and general discussions are held. There are no leaders nor a governing body of the GA – everyone’s voice is equal.

Working groups help things run more smoothly by figuring out specifics and taking care of day-to-day tasks. Examples of working groups are: food, media, events, direct action, etc. They have open membership, and all who have concerns or ideas related to a working group are encouraged to join it. Working groups would give a report-back at every GA so everyone knows what they’re up to and how to get involved.

Only decisions that affect the entire group need to be brought to the GA. Many projects can happen independent of the GA model. For example, if people wanted to issue a public media statement on behalf of the group, it would require GA approval. If someone wanted to write a pamphlet to distribute that was not on behalf of the group, it would not require GA approval.

The Agenda

An agenda is a list of topics to cover at a meeting. It is either compiled by a facilitator before a meeting or at the beginning of the GA. Here is an example of an agenda:

  1. Welcome, agenda overview, and explanation of GA process
  2. Working group report-backs
  3. Proposals (see below)
  4. Announcements

Roles

Facilitator (or MC)  moves the conversation along to stay on topic. They don’t get more space to express opinions. They remind people to respect each other. They assert the decided process into the discussions. In large assemblies, there may be several facilitators.

Stack keeper keeps a list of people who would like to speak, to make sure everyone has a chance to talk and people aren’t interrupting each other.

Note taker takes notes of announcements and decisions made during assembly.

Decision Making Process

Here are steps in a decision making process at a GA. They can be modified by the group at any time and continuously changed as need be.

  1. A proposal is presented by one person or a group. Sometimes a GA will require multiple people to present a proposal, to ensure that it’s already been discussed.
  2. Clarifying questions are raised by anyone to the presenters.
  3. “Straw poll.” The facilitator takes a show of people who approve  and disapprove of the proposal to determine whether further discussion is necessary. This is not an official vote. If the proposal has a lot of support, the group would skip steps 4 and 5.
  4. Concerns and Amendments. Here, if there are a lot people at the general assembly, the group could break up into smaller groups for 10-15 minutes to consolidate their concerns and questions and everyone has a chance to discuss the proposal. Someone from each small group would express the concerns and amendments to the GA.
  5. The proposal is presented again, with any changes discussed.
  6. Every participant votes to approve, disapprove, or stand-aside. 90% approval passes the proposal. If there is less than 90% approval, it doesn’t pass and can be brought up again at a later GA.
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