February’s Steering Committee meeting continued to focus on building trust among the group to encourage better communication, and explored upcoming leadership needs in the face of waning engagement.
Last year, pandemic life finally caught up to the long-term lack of brigade infrastructure and process. Leadership nominations are at an all-time low. Anecdotal evidence from incoming volunteers suggests that folks are looking for shorter-term, less-intensive engagement opportunities. But providing this requires a shared vision and a smoothly-operating infrastructure to plan projects; onboard, match and support volunteers; and foster healthy collaboration and communication. It’s clear that we need a new approach to the distribution of labor required to manage a thriving brigade and all its projects. Or we need to redefine what we’re trying to accomplish. February’s meeting focused on near-term problem-solving.
Building trust through practice
This was our first Steering Committee meeting following our training from SEEDS on building restorative spaces. Those of us who attended felt it would be helpful to practice what we learned by going through a trust-building circle exercise to reflect on our training experience. Those who didn’t attend the training were invited to reflect on what was shared in the circle.
The practice set a tone for the rest of the meeting of shared understanding and commitment, which seemed to keep the following conversations focused on shared solutions.
Collective governance planning
We started with some updates about upcoming Code for America programs:
- Direct Democracy Pilot: As of the Steering Commmittee meeting, we’re still waiting on details from CfA
- CfA Emergent Strategy workshop: Members are encouraged to attend (several are planning to go)
- CfA brigade strategy consultation: CfA is offering one-on-one consults with brigades to help plan. Jess to follow up with Felicia, Sean and Ronald to schedule.
Managing brigade operations with lean leadership
- Lowering barriers to entry
- Emphasis on distribution/sharing of labor so it doesn’t fall to a few “usual suspects.”
- Explored how reframing the four leadership roles with less focus on titles and competitive elections might help folks step into leadership who otherwise would avoid it.
- Identifying the work that needs to be done
- What’s required for the brigade to exist: CfA MOU signatory, financial sponsor (for covering reimbursable expenses, like domain registration), accounts manager
- What’s necessary for ongoing operations: meeting facilitation, volunteer onboarding, response to inquiries, project and operational planning
- What’s important but may need to be paused: social and website updates, resource development, recruiting
- Importance of making the labor/tasks visible so people know what to do and how to do it
- Changes we could make
- Fostering new types of roles (e.g. what would title-less leadership look like?).
- Greater automation of operational tasks.
- Breaking down work into smaller chunks and creating a self-assignment system.
- Co-leads to work on documenting job tasks (not already documented in the OO Operations Handbook), so we can prioritize tasks and plan some automation.
- A Twitter complaint has been filed against rogue account.
- Concerns from city that new handle may appear to represent City Council when it’s not a city-sanctioned account.
- Project lead expressed concern about changing the name, having just done so.
- Recommendation from Comms Lead that all OO project social accounts use the name of the project; several members expressed their desire for same.
- Short-term solution to add clear OO branding and updated bio indicating “A project of OpenOakland; not an official city account.”
- Some confusion expressed over email access and clarification provided that the current project lead doesn’t have inbox access to firstname.lastname@example.org.