Last month, our Steering Committee focused on governance, approving changes to OpenOakland’s elections cycle and committing to efforts that we hope will make brigade participation more accessible and representative.
OpenOakland’s current governance structure was implemented in 2017 following the departure of its original co-captains. Designed to be more participatory and representative, a Steering Committee was created to guide brigade strategy and oversee day-to-day processes. Each project would have one representative vote on the Steering Committee, alongside four operational roles elected each year by general membership. Elections would be held Nov-Dec to determine the incoming leadership.
Challenges with the current governance process
This system has largely worked in terms of keeping the lights on and providing opportunity for new members to lead the brigade. But for several years, members have observed a number of significant challenges.
- A one-year term may help cycle new representation through leadership, but co-leads find that it’s tough to get up to speed quickly enough to be truly effective over the course of the year.
- The four elected roles often find themselves stretched thin and wearing many hats regardless of how the roles are defined.
- Project leads may have a hard time balancing their strategic role on Steering Committee with their project management commitments.
- It’s difficult to run a comprehensive elections cycle in the Nov-Dec timeframe. Multiple holidays and the end-of-year crush limits people’s capacity and availability. Our elections end up rushed, with significantly fewer members able to participate either as candidates or as voters.
None of this supports a healthy leadership structure! Following a good deal of discussion, Steering Committee voted last month to make some initial changes to begin addressing some of these issues.
Approved: The new leadership and elections cycle
Leadership terms will remain one year, but will run April 1 through March 31 of the following year. This allows elections to be held in the first quarter of the year, allowing more time during a period when more people may be likely to take part.
Current elected co-leads have agreed to serve an extended three-month term to carry us through this transition. For more details about how elections are held, you can review OpenOakland’s Bylaws.
Help shape the future of OpenOakland
Approved: Collective Governance Pilot
Alongside this important change, Steering Committee approved OpenOakland’s participation in an upcoming Code for America pilot program focusing on collective governance structures. The pilot details are still taking shape, but Code for America will be providing direct mentorship to selected brigades across the network for approximately six months beginning in January.
We’ll explore various collective governance approaches with a focus on direct democracy, meet regularly with CfA mentors and other brigades in the pilot cohort, and experiment with new processes and structures to support a more inclusive governance strategy.
Join the working group
We’ll likely form a working group of a few core members to lead the effort. The working group would regularly report out learnings, recommendations, and voting items as appropriate to Steering Committee for implementation. We expect the commitment run Jan-Jun and to include biweekly or monthly sessions with the pilot cohort, additional working sessions with the working group, and attendance at monthly Steering Committee meetings.
If interested in participating, email email@example.com.
No code of conduct violations were reported in the past month but Ronald once again has asked Steering Committee to decide on whether or not the Ombuds role is still considered necessary. He also requested explicit guidance from Steering Committee on whether or not the current Ombuds will be asked to continue their service if the current leadership term is extended through March 31, 2022. Co-leads agreed to follow up with a clear path forward.
There has been ongoing discussion about what to do for projects that are out of date and how to handle idle projects that aren’t maintained at all. OpenOakland has nearly 100 repos on GitHub; some are worth reviving, some need to be retired and archived, and most need to be cleaned up and updated. Jess and Felicia have been auditing these in a spreadsheet; if you’d like to help with this effort, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Councilmatic status review
August’s Project Team Scan results revealed that Councilmatic did not appear to meet OpenOakland’s project requirements.
In September, Steering Committee clarified these requirements to ensure Councilmatic would have a clear path toward meeting them. Following this meeting, co-leads reached out directly to Councilmatic’s project lead to communicate these requirements and request on behalf of Steering Committee that the team meet them by the following Steering Committee meeting.
Councilmatic did not send a project rep to the subsequent October Steering Committee meeting, and did not share any updates with Steering Committee through other channels. At its October meeting, therefore, Steering Committee discussed a number of paths of forward, and opted to make a decision asynchronously following the meeting due to time limits. On Nov. 3, Steering Committee made a formal request to Councilmatic outlining project requirements and once again requesting updates be made by the upcoming Steering Committee Meeting in order to remain an active project.
At November’s Steering Committee meeting, Councilmatic’s project lead joined for the first time since January. The team’s project lead shared their latest effort to update the project’s code and ReadMe and made an argument for remaining active, but refused to share Twitter account credentials (which has been an ongoing concern for co-leads following the team’s previous project lead tweeting inflammatory content from the Councilmatic account). The conversation was contentious: the project lead used politicized language and resisted direct answers to questions posed, and multiple members expressed concern at the project lead’s language, characterizations and resistance to answering questions. The discussion culminated in a vote on idling the project while the situation could be resolved. The vote did not pass, with one
nays (including Councilmatic’s lead) and three
Councilmatic was given an extension to meet the stated requirements by December’s Steering Committee meeting.