OpenOakland is unable to hold an election for brigade leadership, per our bylaws, due to a lack of leadership nominees. The Steering Committee has been working on a contingency plan to address short-term operational needs and long-term structural improvements. We will be putting these to a member-wide vote in the coming weeks.
Although we were planning to hold our annual leadership election this month, the elections team received only two nominations for leadership roles and neither nominee wanted to commit to running as a co-lead. As a result, we’re unable to hold an election for brigade leadership, per our bylaws. The Steering Committee is now working on a contingency plan to address short-term operational needs and long-term structural improvements.
March’s focus has been on updating the Steering Committee on the status of leadership elections and the implications for brigade operations:
- Our bylaws require co-leads to be elected by general membership.
- Temporary vacancies may be appointed by a Steering Committee vote but this doesn’t solve the failure to hold a general membership election.
The fundamental need is a process for reevaluating the brigade’s core purpose and activities, addressing the engagement issue, and revising the brigade structure and governance represented in the bylaws to hopefully mitigate the risk of this situation happening again. Since that will be a significant effort, we need a short-term plan to address what happens during that process.
Approaches for resolving the lack of leadership
- Pause mode: Negotiate with Code for America to hold our funds (about $10k) and IP for a limited time, temporarily suspend operations (no meetups, no project work), and develop a process to reevaluate the brigade’s core purpose and activities, address the engagement issue, and revise the brigade structure and governance represented in the bylaws.
- Lean Ops mode: Divide the core operational tasks required for minimum functionality amongst Steering Committee members (and any other volunteers interested in helping).
- Shutting down the brigade.
Everyone agreed we didn’t want to shut down the brigade if a viable alternative could be found. But lean mode essentially means abdicating the membership election required by the bylaws, so we took a quick temperature check to determine how comfortable people were with this. The vote was split, with 4 of 7 committee members indicating they objected to the idea.
Concerns about Pause mode
- Some members wanted to ensure that projects could continue even if we had to pause operations in the absence of leadership.
- Some members were concerned that pausing operations completely would make it harder to restart once a new structure and leadership was in place.
Concerns about Lean Ops mode
- Finding people willing to serve temporarily is likely to be as much of a challenge as finding election nominees.
- There is a desire to appoint someone to at least sign the Code for America MOU (required to be a brigade), in order to hold onto the existing funds in our accounts (approx. $10k). This would need to be negotiated with Code for America.
- One member was concerned about the lack of accountability if projects continued while brigade operations and oversight were paused.
After a short period of breakout discussions, it was clear we needed more time to determine if Lean Ops mode was even a viable option (would we be able to find enough support even for those tasks?). We scheduled a follow-up emergency Steering Committee meeting for the following week.
Covering Lean Ops tasks
The March 29 follow-up meeting was focused on sorting and assigning operational tasks:
- Outgoing co-leads shared a list of baseline operational tasks.
- Steering Committee reviewed them together and aligned on which were functional requirements, which were “lean,” and which were “nice to have.”
- Members volunteered to cover the tasks they were willing to take on.
Ultimately, we determined that Steering Committee would be able to temporarily manage a Leans Ops mode, particularly if we moved to a reduced meeting schedule. The biggest negatives we identified were:
- Less frequent meetups.
- Decreased support for member onboarding and project recruiting.
- Less external communications, which reduces visibility and, potentially, accountability.
Tracking tasks and to-dos
- Everyone is encouraged to contribute by following the ReadMe instructions (which need to be fleshed out, along with workflows and other documentation).
Jess has updated the Brigade Ops Handbook, adding more details around managing meetings, Code of Conduct, and communications channels, financials, and other how-tos. The plan is to move the Handbook into a more accessible format, such as an online guide using markdown.
- Anyone can suggest changes or additions to the Handbook by commenting directly on the doc.
Putting Lean Ops mode to a membership vote
As a result of all this planning, instead of leadership elections we will hold a general membership vote in the coming weeks to determine whether or not we’ll try to proceed with a Lean Ops mode. Stay tuned!
Other operational updates
Jess has two speakers interested in sharing at an upcoming meetup:
- Program Coordinator for Design for America: Interested in sharing their approach to project scoping, which aligns with a lot of the discussion we’ve been having around project life cycle management.
- Organizer with Community Ready Corps Allies and Accomplices: This white-run committee of the CRC, a Black-led liberation organization that actively builds & supports self determination, is interested in discussing the role of the local tech field in dismantling anti-Black racism.
Because these speakers are not regular members, we would offer them our standard speaker honorarium for their time. A general member in attendance suggested that perhaps the honorarium should not be offered to potential partners. Jess pointed out that the policy currently extends to any non-regular member, and that changes can be introduced through a new proposal to the Steering Committee.
Committee members were enthusiastic about inviting both members, but operational issues will need to be sorted out first.
Comments wanted on new Community Commitments
Felicia updated the team on the Embedding Equity group’s recent work on a revised set of Community Commitments. Dismantling racism and inequity, and even basic collaboration, often requires difficult conversations that ask us to be vulnerable with each other. These community commitments outline the shared values and expectations we hold for ourselves and each other, so we can foster healthy, loving conversations that lead to better work and meaningful change.
The Community Commitments were developed collaboratively during the Embedding Equity group’s working sessions, and we would like to get wider input on them before proposing they be adopted and integrated into the Code of Conduct. Anyone (including members of the public) may provide feedback by adding comments directly to the doc, or by emailing Steering Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update on Code of Conduct consultation proposal
OpenOakland was invited to participate in a pair of discovery meetings with a potential third-party consultant focusing on Code of Conduct review. Following these meetings, OpenOakland received a proposal for a scope of work that exceeds our total reserves. Co-leads recommended that Steering Committee members review the proposal and bring a proposal to Steering Committee if it wishes to pursue the engagement.