A New General Assembly Monday at Cloud Gardens

Last night, Monday March 26, 2012, a proposal was brought to the General Assembly. The proposal addressed some Occupier’s need for a safe space and desire to use a 90% consensus model.

While the proposal did not call for the general assembly to change its structure and decision making policy every night, the proposal invited everyone to attend a new Occupy Toronto General Assembly on Monday nights at Cloud Gardens. This GA will run with a safe space policy at its foundation. While the proposal goes into some depth regarding the structure of the General Assembly, like all general assemblies, this is an organic meeting that will change with the group. However, the key feature is that a safe space is non-negotiable. Although the proposal was blocked by some, Monday’s General Assembly will nonetheless run in an attempt to create a safe space to organize in. This is a chance to try to be more inclusive and to welcome Occupiers new and old into a different kind of space.

This General Assembly is not attempting to replace the current GA or trying to exclude those with different views, but rather to try a new forum and structure for discussion that may be more inclusive. The Monday GA at Cloud Gardens would differ from the current GA as it would run with a safe-space policy and a new model for decision making. This is a way to try to be more inclusive in considering the diversity of opinions and approaches within Occupy Toronto.

For more information please read the proposal posted below and the minutes posted online.

There are a lot of great things coming this spring for Occupy Toronto. I look forward to continuing to better this world with all of you.

We look forward to seeing you on Monday at Cloud Gardens located on Richmond Street just east of Bay Street.

The Proposal:

For further information, questions or concerns, please email occupytoreboot@gmail.com

Dear Friends and Allies,

We have had many struggles and we have come a long way but there is concern among us that because of our current process we have failed to reach our full potential. As we all know, now is a time of local, national and global crisis. We must move forward in a way that enables us to take action. There are many who feel that our process has prioritized the will of the individual over the will of the group. As a result, many have left Occupy or have not joined us because they feel unsafe and excluded in our spaces and community. Concerns over these issues have been discussed by individuals and groups since the first day of occupation. Because we are committed to establishing a safe and effective organizing environment, there will be a weekly GA held at 7pm in Cloud Gardens as of Monday, April 2nd. This GA will begin with a focus on organizing for the May 1st rally and actions including a reoccupation. In addition, we will begin to explore language around decolonization to supplement the Occupy meme in order to address serious concerns regarding its associations. Our aim is to make this GA a cooperative partnership with the current GA.

PROPOSAL:

We propose that this GA be included as one of the four decision-making GAs currently running. This would mean that all three other decision-making GAs throughout the week would remain unchanged. The new style would only apply to the Monday GAs.
For further information, questions or concerns, please email occupytoreboot@gmail.com

This General Assembly will meet once per week on Monday evenings at 7pm in Cloud Gardens and will run according to the following principles/characteristics:

1. Consensus building process and 90% Decision making structure*

2. All participants abide by a safe space agreement**

3. If participants’ behaviour breaks the safe space agreement they will not be allowed to participate***

4. The GA will be facilitated by trained volunteer facilitators ****

5. Proposals will be submitted at least 24 hours in advance*****

*Decision making structure
1. Proposal is presented
2. Facilitator calls for an initial check for agreement
3. Discussion: questions should be addressed first, then amendments should be proposed
4. Check for 90% consensus, if achieved check for blocks – blocks should be raised and amendments proposed to address them
5. Re-check for 90% consensus, if 90% consensus is achieved the proposal is passed, if not it is tabled to a working group. (If the proposal is passed the facilitator should take a few minutes to re-state and or clarify the next steps, bottom liners and responsibilities to move the proposal forward.)

**Safe Space Agreement
Occupy Toronto’s Safe space policy is based in our commitment to a safe, healthy, positive and productive environment in which to organize. In order to make changes in the world at large we acknowledge that our working environment must both actively seek to be in accordance with the world we want to create as well as commit to not further perpetuating the problems we have identified. Through this agreement, we aim to build our capacities to ally with each other and our communities in struggle.
As Occupy Toronto participants we are committed to creating spaces in which all participants have:
- The responsibility to work toward an equal space free from verbal, physical, mental and emotional violence
- The freedom to work in an equal space free from verbal, physical, mental and emotional violence
- The recognition and acknowledgment of systemic inequality and injustice
- The freedom to associate and work with others in a productive and mutually respectful way
- The freedom to organize events and campaigns
- The freedom from language and behaviours which compromise safety and/or well-being of the individual and/or group
- *Please note: A more detailed and extensive safe-space/anti-oppression/inclusivity/pro-equity policy is currently in the works. Anyone who wants to be involved in the creation of this policy please email occupytoreboot@gmail.com

For further information, questions or concerns, please email occupytoreboot@gmail.com

***Process if safe space is violated
In order to ensure this space is maintained the following process will be implemented should a participant’s behaviour violate the agreement:
1. The mobile facilitator / stack taker will address you to help you follow the process in a way that meets the process’ goals
2. If the disruption continues a marshal will step in to allow the meeting to continue
3. Person will be asked to leave by the Marshals with the support of the group. (It is the responsibility of the group to protect itself and its members not the sole responsibility of the marshals)
If the behaviour is severe or becomes a pattern of behaviour a participant may be asked to leave the night’s GA, GA’s in the future, or the GA as a forum. The process of addressing participants who break the safe space agreement will be escalated to the next stage only if the participant cannot or is unwilling to change their behaviour.

****Facilitators and Facilitation
The facilitators of the GA will be volunteers who have done facilitation training. They will be responsible for; collecting proposals; putting proposals onto the agenda; setting the agenda of the GA; facilitating the process of the GA itself; ensuring minutes are kept and made accessible; ensuring good communication with (at least) the next GA’s scheduled facilitators to pass on any relevant information.
If the facilitation committee feels that a submitted proposal is not ready to be presented in its current form they will contact the person who submitted the proposal and work with them to get the proposal ready to be presented.
The facilitation committee will make a strong effort to ensure that there is diverse representation within the volunteers (facilitators, note-takers, minute-takers) at each GA.
Progressive stack will be used at the GA. This means that marginalized, under-represented and unheard voices will be pushed forward on the speakers list.

*Please note* Some form of free facilitation training will be arranged as soon as possible in order to make facilitation open to anyone.
For further information, questions or concerns, please email occupytoreboot@gmail.com

*****Proposals
Proposals should be submitted at least 24 hours in advance either by e-mail to occupytoproposals@gmail.com OR on paper in the locked box at the GSU OR on paper to a Facilitation Committee meeting. Proposals will be collected by the scheduled facilitators so that they can build the GA agenda. Proposal submissions should include the following information:
- Who will be presenting the proposal?
- Who are the bottom-liners? (i.e. the person who is taking responsibility for carrying out whatever is being proposed). Proposals that don’t have at least 1 bottom-liner will not be presented. The bottom-liner can change at any time.
- Contact information for bottom-liner
- If the proposal is coming out of a working group or committee, which one?
- Date proposal is submitted
- Date proposal should be presented
- Date when what you are proposing will be implemented (i.e. start or take place)
- A clear description of what you are proposing
- What are the anticipated results of what you are proposing? (e.g. action being proposed: a rally; anticipated results: raise awareness and show solidarity)
- Any money needed that you will be asking the GA for
- A preliminary list of tasks that need to be done and roles that need to be filled (e.g. event put on the calendar and/or facebook event created, Marshalls, Facilitators, Police liaison, Livestream, other media, wheat pasting etc.). This can change at any time. (*please note* The facilitation team will not be responsible for delegating these tasks or filling these roles. The purpose of giving them this information is so that when you present your proposal at the GA they will briefly mention what is needed and help you connect with people who may be able to assist)
Structure of the General Assembly (G.A.):
- Introduction of volunteer facilitators (minimum of two at each G.A.)
- Acknowledge that we are on occupied land.
- Introduction of G.A Guidelines and Safety Guidelines
- Introduction of hand signals
- Introduction of volunteer Stack-Taker, Minutes Taker and Time Keeper.
- Committee Updates
- Announcements
- Tabled Proposals: Proposals that were tabled (i.e. put on hold) at the previous G.A.
- New Proposals
- Open speakers list (time permitting)
Please note: Part of the GA circle will be a livestream-free section for individuals who do not want their faces shown or their voices recorded.
For further information, questions or concerns, please email occupytoreboot@gmail.com

Hand Signals:
1. Agree/Support – Twinkle Fingers upward– this shows you that you support what is being said
2. Disagree/Don’t Support – Twinkle down or Arms over your head (going inside your little house) – this indicates you don’t agree.
3. Speaker’s List – Raising a hand or approaching the stack taker – this shows that you want to be added to the list of speakers to say something about the current topic.
4. Direct Response – Both hands doing point of information going back and forth between the speaker and yourself – This means you want to respond directly to what is being said and you are requesting the facilitator to allow a short back and forth with the aim of resolving the matter at hand so that the conversation can move on to the next topic.
5. Question of Clarification – Raising a “C” – This is used to ask the current speaker a short and direct question because you don’t understand what they are saying or feel a piece of necessary information is missing. Clarifications should be 15 seconds or less and are not used to present new ideas.
6. Point of Information – Raising an “I” with two fingers – This is used to answer a question or correct inaccurate information.
7. Stand Aside – Arms in circle over head – This is used only when deciding on proposals and means that you do not support the proposal but are standing aside to allow others to move forward with the action.
8. Block – Arms in an “X” – This is used when you fundamentally disagree with what is being proposed. It means that the disagreement is so strong the blocker will leave the group if the proposal moves forward. The block should be used in extremely sparingly. Facilitators will call for any blocks after 90% consensus has been reached on a proposal and it is about to pass. This is the only time when a block may be used. The blocker will then be given an opportunity to make their case as to why the proposal should not pass. The facilitator will then check for consensus again and the GA will have a chance to make their final vote taking into account the blockers argument.
Signals to help collective facilitation: There are two hand signals that we use to allow us to make facilitation more collective
1. Point of Process – Letter P – This means that you think we are not observing our process and you want to get us back on track
2. Time Limit – Arm Rolling – This reminds a speaker that they have used the standard two minute allotment and they should wrap up in the interest of respecting everyone’s time and allowing more voices to be heard.

**PLEASE NOTE** While we have a starting structure, just like at the current GA, this GA will be formed by the organic process. Any desired changes to the structure of this GA including decision making rules, facilitation and safe-spaces can be submitted as proposals to facilitation and they will be presented and discussed at the Monday GAs.

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