Structure

Approved 9/6/17. Amended: 9/26/17, 11/5/17, 1/14/18, 6/10/18, 7/30/18

This document is not meant to limit what we do, but to reflect what we do.

Other important structure documents

NAC Mission & Principles
NAC Safer Space & Collective Norms
NAC Security Culture

Types of Decision Making

For making decisions, we use both the consensus and advice processes. The advice process is used for most day to day decisions; Consensus is used for major decisions.

Advice Process

Any person can make any decision after seeking advice from 1) everyone who will be meaningfully affected, and 2) people with expertise in the matter.

Advice received must be taken into consideration. With the advice and perspectives the decision maker receives, they choose what they believe to be the best course of action. The point is to access collective wisdom in pursuit of a sound decision, rather than create a compromise that accommodates the wishes of all.
More general info on the advice process

Consensus

Consensus is a cooperative process in which group members develop and agree to support a decision in the best interest of the whole. A decision may not be everyone’s personal preference, but is something that all can agree is worth trying. The wisdom of the group is synthesized through active listening, shared purpose, preparation, deliberation, and a focus on issues and solutions.
More general info on consensus

Consensus proposals are typically sent out twice before the final decision is reached. This is so the proposals are clear and that everyone is informed and has a chance to participate in the decision.

  • Questions, concerns, and disagreements are further discussed at an in-person meeting.
  • The proposal is amended to reflect the advice received and is then usually sent out again with some notes about the in-person discussion to ensure that everyone is a part of the final decision.
  • If someone later disagrees with a decision (whether they voted on it or not) they can submit a new proposal to make a new decision.
  • If an urgent decision is needed, reasonable adjustments to the process can be made for a faster decision, but never to purposefully exclude people.

Projects

Projects are the heart of what we do. Together, we work creatively to affect positive change in the community.

Project Priorities – We prioritize projects that:

1) Serve and educate the community
2) Give people a sense of their own power; and,
3) Shift power from government and corporations to people and communities.

NAC Projects – Projects that are publicly associated with NAC. They will often arise naturally from affinity group projects that align with the mission and principles and already have a lot of passion and energy from those in the collective. The coordination team will invite official NAC projects after seeking advice from the general gathering.

Affinity Groups – An affinity group is a small group who work together autonomously on direct action or other projects. Affinity groups challenge top-down decision-making and organizing, and empower those involved to take creative direct action. Affinity groups are by nature decentralized and non-hierarchical – two important principles of anarchist organizing and action. Affinity group projects that align with the NAC mission and principles could be invited to become a public NAC project by the coordination team after they seek advice from the general gathering.

Project Team
Each project will be coordinated by a Project Team. Project teams will function like the Core Teams (described below). Projects can also decide to set up sub-teams to divide up work among smaller groups.

Projects work in collaboration with individuals not in NAC and community groups as they see fit.

Core Teams

Teams are empowered to make decisions with advice they gather from the other teams, individuals, and the general collective. Some decisions may be complex enough that a team chooses to seek advice and/or consensus from the coordination team.

Each team has a convener who is responsible for scheduling the meetings, inviting people to attend, starting an agenda, and generally just making sure the team meets and does things. The convener role can rotate as the team sees fit.

Logistics (Detailed description coming soon)

  • Materials
  • Money
  • Event planning
  • Fundraising
  • Money request system

Facilitation

The facilitation team works to make NAC internal discussions easy and constructive.

The facilitation team is responsible for:

  • Organizing the monthly general gatherings – Creating the agenda outline and inviting people to add items, facilitating the gatherings, accepting and incorporating feedback on how the gatherings can be improved, etc.
  • Hive Site – Maintaining the NAC internal ‘Hive’ site. Making sure notes are added, agendas are updated, and events are current.
  • Supporting digital communications – Updating digital communications guidelines as needed, running the NAC_Slack_Helper to ensure clear online communications.
  • Training more facilitators – Running a regular facilitation training so everyone in NAC knows how to facilitate and be facilitated
  • Managing the internal email lists – Sending out information about what NAC is doing and how people can become more involved.
  • Looking for other areas we can improve internal communication

Communications

The communications team promotes NAC in the community

The communications team is responsible for:

  • Communicating with the media – Issuing press releases, coordinating interviews, etc.
  • Maintaining the public NAC website – Adding and updating content, publishing regular posts about what NAC is doing, etc
  • Social Media – Sharing updates and engaging with the community on Facebook and other social media.
  • Managing the public email list – Sending out updates to the public email list about public events and other general updates.
  • Creating art and other materials – Organizing art parties and otherwise creating physical materials to support NAC projects or spread the NAC message (via banners, posters, flyers, handouts, etc)
  • Overall works to better connect NAC to the outside world

Nurturing

The nurturing team supports the people in NAC to work together in a healthy way.

The nurturing team is responsible for:

  • Supporting healthy group dynamics – Creating a safer space in NAC so that people are able to be their whole selves, be vulnerable, build relationships, communicate effectively, and grow.
  • Welcoming new people – Introducing new people to NAC through a group orientation and/or 1-1 conversation that helps to empower new comrades to participate fully by bringing people into the collective with a deep understanding of the mission, structure, purpose, and activities of the collective.
  • Fun internal events – Organizing fun casual events so people in NAC get a chance to get to know each other outside of meetings.
  • Trainings – Running a training program to encourage and enable continued learning and skill sharing.
  • Conflict Resolution – The nurturing team supports those in the collective that are in conflict with each other to reach resolution and/or transformative justice. The team also works to preempt conflict by helping to facilitate healthy communication, feedback, and reflection throughout the collective.

Coordination

Ensures the overall healthy functioning of the collective.

The coordination team is responsible for:

  • Recognizing NAC projects – Inviting affinity groups to become official NAC projects when it’s in line with mission/principles and the collective is excited about it.
  • Editing the structure – Making edits to the mission, principles, security culture, and structure documents after getting advice from the full collective.
  • Group outreach – Reaching out to and connecting with other community organizations to collaborate on joint projects when appropriate.
  • Other things that aren’t covered by another team. They will be added to this list as they become clear.

Because of the nature of the coordination team, security is a concern, so it will not be open to the public like the other teams and projects. Members of the coordination team will invite people in the collective to join that are active, trustworthy, and connected with the community. Intentional effort will be made to invite people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Why a coordination team?

As having a group like a coordination team could be potentially problematic, transparency and accountability will be prioritized. After much discussion, we think the benefits outway the risks. Here are some of the reasons why we think it will be helpful:

  • Gatherings are primarily a space to get plugged into the collective and to cross-pollinate between the core teams, projects, and affinity groups. Decision making happens outside the gatherings within the affected groups/teams, and so the coordination team functions as the space where full group decisions can be made.
  • It’s important that decisions about public projects and structural changes be made by people who are active in the collective with a stake in its healthy functioning.
  • It’s helpful to have a group responsible for responding and adapting to complex situations and to ensure the overall healthy functioning of the collective.
  • To be able to discuss potentially sensitive topics with a smaller group of trusted, vetted individuals.
  • Good security culture means that only those who need to know should be involved in the conversation, not everyone needs to know everything. This is the culture in practice.
  • Leadership and potential power imbalances exist in all groups, even “leaderless groups”. By claiming “leaderlessness”,  there is no structural accountability of the decision/policy makers to the full group. By recognizing and acknowledging the need for a coordinating body, we can take steps to be transparent, accountable, reduce the power imbalances, and provide a clear path into the team for those interested in sharing in the work.

Coordination team transparency and accountability

  • Before making any decision, the coordination team will look to see if there is any other group that could make it so it does as little as possible.
  • Decisions are made by consensus after seeking advice from the general gatherings, the full collective, teams, and/or affected individuals so as many people are involved as is reasonable.
  • The coordination team will publish meeting notes to the full group so everyone knows what is happening.
  • The size of the team is not limited. Active people connected to the community will continually and intentionally be invited to ensure broad participation and diversity of perspectives.

Gatherings

The General and Project Gatherings are spaces for people in the collective to come together, learn what people are working on, gather advice, and work on projects.

Things that happen at Gatherings:

  • General announcements
  • Team announcements
  • Advice requests
  • Project meetings

We don’t make many decisions at General Gatherings. Instead, individuals, teams, projects, and affinity groups  gather advice so they can make informed decisions within the affected groups.

Conflict Resolution

We want to do conflict well, for tensions between members to be healthy and contribute to personal and collective growth. We build a culture of robust debate, honesty, and care.

Conflict Resolution Principles

  • We engage to the best of our ability to resolve conflict, and seek help when needed.
  • Resolve conflicts as close as possible to the people involved. Begin with the people directly involved, and expand from there as needed.
  • We have mutual responsibility and care for each other. We act in good faith and work to be constructive, empathetic, and honest. We resolve conflicts with both our individual needs and the needs of the collective in mind.
  • We view each other through the “Green Lens” (Some background on green lens):
    • This person is a hero, whole and complete
    • They have goals, dreams, and a desire to make a difference
    • They have their own answers
    • They are contributing to me right now
    • They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect
  • Disagreements can inspire discussion and learning. However, if a disagreement is blocking progress, is hurtful, or is harmful, then a resolution needs to be found.
  • Anyone affected by a conflict can move an issue to the next resolution step if it is not being resolved at the current level of engagement.
  • Resolution means the parties involved feel heard, the agreed outcome or change is clear, and normal decision-making and activity within the collective is possible. If a conflict continues to negatively impact an individual or the team, it is not resolved.

Regular practices to avoid conflict before it starts

  • At new member trainings we introduce our principles, communication systems, culture, and conflict resolution process.
  • Regular team process check-ins to reflect on our systems and raise any issues.
  • We continuously focus on smooth, effective, empathetic communication. We create a culture of giving direct constructive feedback, listening to one another, and asking for help when needed.

Resolution Steps

Generally, the process will start at step one and move from there as needed. However, someone could begin at a later step after seeking advice that it would be appropriate to the specific situation.

Ideally, the Conflict Resolution process is initiated with all conflict participants. But, if some parties are unwilling, the resolution process could be started with just one.

If you notice conflict between others that doesn’t seem to be on the path to resolution, empower yourself to draw their attention to it. If necessary, you can suggest they engage the Conflict Resolution Process.

Step 1 – Personal reflection & individual support – Think through what happened. If you feel confused, overwhelmed, or are experiencing strong emotions, take time and space to process and clarify your thinking. Talk to a trusted friend or comrade, to work through your own perspective and experience. Ask yourself what part you played in it, what you could have done differently, and what your needs are. If you feel you need to go beyond individual work to resolve the problem, move to the next step.

Step 2 – Direct communication – As long as you feel safe, and the power balance and tone is conducive to constructive discussion, approach the person in question and talk it out. Be mindful of picking a good time and place (privacy, lack of time pressure, mutually agreed location, etc). If you don’t feel like you can work it out one-on-one for any reason, move to the next step.

Step 3 – Supported communication – Bring in a mutually trusted third party to host a conversation with the people involved. If the third party  feels insufficiently resourced (time, energy, or skill), or you’ve tried and it didn’t resolve the conflict, move to the next step.

Step 4 – Nurturing Team – If the previous steps have not resolved the conflict, reach out to the Nurturing Team. They will try to find a mutually agreeable next step, such as hosting a mediation themselves, or inviting an external mediator or other expert in.

Step 5 – Coordination Team – Conflicts should rarely reach this point, but if nothing else has resolved the conflict then it has escalated beyond an interpersonal level and is a concern for the whole collective. Irresolvable conflicts may lead to someone leaving the organisation or a systemic/structural change to the collective.

Additional Resources on conflict resolution and communication to promote shared understanding can be found here.