Chapter Priorities

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The priorities process has been designed to help our chapter's members democratically and intentionally reflect on our work as socialists.

Please iterate on the design below and add observations and suggestions!

Note to editors of this wiki page: this wiki page is marked as public in the interest of sharing processes with other chapters. Content you put on here is not behind a login.

Priorities

Note about priorities vote winners:

  • If a priority wins, then BDSA collectively agrees to lend more chapter resources towards that priority for the following year. For example, the Steering Committee will prioritize the priories in General Meetings and membership mobilization.
  • If the priority process was successful, then members will be easily rallied to volunteer and organize toward the priorities they helped set.
  • Setting priorities does not exclude other work or campaigns. Losing priorities and existing campaigns can still be worked on by members and given chapter resources.
  • After winning the vote, the priority belongs to the whole chapter. Based on experimentation and practice, the execution of the priority might not follow the original written proposal. The execution of the priority is in the hands of those who volunteered to work on it.

Selected Priorities

Year External Priority/Campaign Internal Organizing Priority
2019
  • #TakeBackTheGrid
  • Medicare for All
  • Membership Organizing System
  • Inter-generational Organizing and Childwatch

Priorities Process

The priorities process falls under the responsibility of the Steering Committee. The goal of the SC is to execute the will of the members, and the priorities process should be seen as a way to figure out what that will is. As the SC is responsible for overseeing the admin and coordination of the chapter as well, they are well suited for the job. The SC can recruit other volunteers to join or make a priorities process committee as needed.

Timeline Overview

These milestones will require planning and organization in advance; this is just to show when each step should take place to stay on track. Advice for organizing or running events can be found below!

Deadlines/Time Range Things To Do
September General Meeting
  • Introduce and motivate the idea of having Chapter Priorities.
  • Have breakout groups brainstorm priority ideas and use "dotocracy" to show preliminary interest.
Weeks between September GM-October GM
  • Working groups and committees should include time in their meeting for discussion of possible priorities.
  • Schedule neighborhood group meetings to discuss possible priorities.
October General Meeting
  • Deadline to propose a first draft of a priority.
Weeks between October GM-one week after November GM
  • Share feedback on proposals.
November General Meeting
  • Priorities Science Fair
Two weeks after November General Meeting
  • Deadline to submit final draft of priority.
December General Meeting
  • Ranked choice vote on priorities.

September GM: Introduction

Activities at this GM:

  • Presentation and motivation of chapter priorities and outlining the process
  • Breakout group brainstorm and dotocracy

Breakout group and dotocracy

Preparation:

  • Find breakout group facilitators
  • Provide the facilitators questions to ask the group
    • Agitate: What isn't working in the Boston DSA? What isn't working under capitalism? What are people (your friends/family) most mad about right now, and the DSA has a socialist solution for? What are first steps towards that solution?
  • Provide large papers and pens for each group, and 8 highlighter dot stickers for each member.

At General Meeting:

  • Explain the purpose of this activity: to brainstorm, not to have a binding vote.
  • Break into small group facilitated discussion
  • Have each group record concrete ideas they had for chapter priorities on large paper
  • Tape papers to the wall
  • Have members walk around room and look at suggestions. They can put a dot by next to their favorite suggestions.

Results of Dotocracy

  • SC members or volunteers will compile notes from dotocracy and find themes.
  • With the results of dotocracy:
    • SC members or volunteers will email summary of dotocracy to general membership
    • SC members will try to encourage interested members (or SC members themselves) to develop popular priories from dotocracy. Other ideas are still welcome.
      • Tracking this information in a spreadsheet will help SC members to follow up on and help with priorities proposals. Assign a SC member to each priority.

September-October GMs: Group discussions/brainstorms/outreach

Seek smaller scale brainstorming opportunities! Priorities submissions should not mimic individualistic applications to jobs or colleges. They are collaborative and creative group efforts. Brainstorming works better in groups, and people are socially motivated and frequently need support or encouragement to submit an idea.

Small group discussions:

  • Each working group and committee meeting should have the priorities process on agenda for discussion.
    • Each working group and committee has a liaison on the Steering Committee. The liaisons should contact working groups with enough time for the working groups to add the topic to their meetings between the September and October GM.
  • Schedule informal neighborhood group meetups for the discussion of priorities.
  • Steering committee members should reach out to people to encourage them to write a priority.

October GM: Priority Draft Submission

Deadline for the first draft of priority. SC members should follow up with working groups, committees and interested individuals to remind them to submit :)

After the deadline, immediately draft a response to all submitters about the next steps for the priorities process, including the socialist science fair.

Suggested Questions for Internal Priority Proposal

  • What is your internal priority proposal? What are the intermediate goals and the long-term vision for this external priority? How do you plan to achieve the intermediate goals?
  • How does this internal priority make Boston DSA a more effective socialist organization?
  • What resources would this internal priority require? For example, volunteers, supplies, funding, meeting space, time (5 hours per month for 100 people? 20 hrs/month for 10 people?), etc.
  • How will this internal priority mobilize or engage a large number of DSA members? How will this help our members to develop as socialist organizers?
  • What’s your 30 second “elevator speech” summary of the priority and why this internal priority should be one of Boston DSA’s two internal priorities? 100 words or less!

Suggested Questions for External Priority Submission

  • What is your external priority proposal? What are the intermediate goals and the long-term vision for this external priority? How do you plan to achieve the intermediate goals?
  • How does this external priority build working class power and chart the pathway toward democratic socialism?
  • What resources would this external priority require? For example, volunteers, supplies, funding, meeting space, time (5 hours per month for 100 people? 20 hrs/month for 10 people?), etc.
  • How will this external priority mobilize and engage members of Boston DSA? How will this build our relationships with communities oppressed by capitalism and other forces?
  • What’s your 30 second “elevator speech” summary of this priority and why this external priority should be one of Boston DSA’s two external priorities? 100 words or less!

October GM-Week before December GM: Feedback

  • Encourage and help members get feedback on their priority.
  • The priorities science fair in particular is a good time to get feedback from members.

November GM: Priorities Science Fair

Image of the priorities science fair: Trifolds at tables with descriptions and images representing the priority! Representatives of each priority standing around the table to answer questions and ask questions to members.

Supplies and set up advice:

  • Trifolds: SC members should volunteer to bring trifolds and supplies for priority submitters who do not have enough time to put one together. Keep track of which priorities need a trifold. These priority submitters should attend the GM an hour early to help set up.
  • Make sure there is an easy way to record feedback. Encourage submitters to use this time to get feedback and suggestions. This could be feedback submission boxes with index cards, or post-it notes and panel of the trifold saved for post-it note feedback.
  • Submitters should record email addresses of interested members. They should have a plan to keep them engaged. For instance, they might email them requesting suggestions or feedback, or start an email list for people interested in doing that kind of priority work regardless of whether the priority wins.
  • Attending members could be given a packet or booklet to take notes on the priorities.
    • Perhaps a priorities "passport", and stickers for each priority?

Room set up:

  • Use rectangular tables, not round tables. Make sure it is easy to walk around.
  • Have an "internal priority" and "external priority" section

Meeting recordings:

  • This is not a standard meeting to record. Find someone to bottom line this section. The bottom liner could go from table to table and catch a brief pitch of each members for the viewers-at-home or proposers could visit a booth to give their pitch to the webcam.

After the meeting:

  • In the GM summary email, provide a link for "Feedback on Priorities!" which members can fill out. SC members will give the answers to submitters.

Two weeks after November GM: Final Draft Due

Add a section for "Feedback on process" to the final draft submission so we can continue to refine this process while people's thoughts on it are fresh.

December GM Vote

Ranked choice vote on priorities. Make sure members understand how the vote will work, such as whether they need to rank all choices.