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Policy work begins at the Media Co-op: invitation to participation

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
An example of what makes policy work appealing to so many enthusiasts the world over.
An example of what makes policy work appealing to so many enthusiasts the world over.

Here at the Media Co-op, we recently procured a small grant to work on setting up standards and frameworks that set limits and make suggestions for how we behave while working in the Co-op, how we make decisions together, who makes which decisions, and so on.

In other words, we're working on policy.

It's a difficult and far-from-glamourous task, but it is an essential one for any organization that wants to grow beyond a small group of people who have developed a working relationship based on mutual trust and understanding. When you don't have to build that kind of relationship with everyone you work with, you need some pre-existing structures and norms to keep interactions fair, easy to understand, and efficient.

(Note: this policy discussion is about the Media Co-op network, which affects, but is not the same as, the locals -- e.g. the Vancouver Media Co-op or the Halifax Media Co-op. Many locals have their own policies which govern their work.)

Here are some of the policy areas we will be discussing:

  • Basis of unity
  • Kinds of decisions (e.g. whether to do an ad trade; changes to the budget) and what body is empowered to make them
  • Conflict resolution
  • Hiring and equity
  • Harassment
  • Anti-oppression in the workplace
  • Central's obligations to locals and vice versa
  • Framework for how a local can leave the network, or be kicked out
  • Working groups' rights and responsibilities
  • Staff accountability
  • Board accountability
  • Inter-local accountability mechanisms
  • Fundraising: priorities and communication between locals, and local-central fund-sharing
  • Starting new locals: requirements
  • Starting new locals: phases
  • Editorial policies (featuring, deleting, hiding)
  • Participatory budget process

What do you think?

Is there anything you'd like to see added? What do you think are the most important areas to tackle?

Input is welcome from all Media Co-op members, readers, and any lurking policy experts.

As the process continues, we'll be focusing on particular areas, and asking more specific questions. But for now, let us know what you think about this list.


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dru (Dru Oja Jay)
Montreal
Member since January 2008

About:

Writer, organizer, Media Co-op co-founder. Co-author of Paved with Good Intentions and Offsetting Resistance.

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Comments

good list. a little re-ordering of priorities

In terms of prioritizing this list, I think after the first three you've got listed (which I'd leave in that order):

  • Basis of unity
  • Kinds of decisions (e.g. whether to do an ad trade; changes to the budget) and what body is empowered to make them
  • Conflict resolution

the areas of priority are the money items. Money is the weirdest thing in the world, the most cumbersome thing and the thing that has the most potential to create problems and misunderstandings because no-one really *likes* to discuss it openly. Best to have policy around money.

  • Hiring and equity
  • Fundraising priorities
  • Local-central fund-sharing
  • Staff accountability
  • Participatory budget process

Then stuff about strengthening relationships between elements of the network:

  • Starting new locals: requirements
  • Starting new locals: phases

Editorial/content issues have proven to be not so contentious (I think):

  • Editorial policies (featuring, deleting, hiding)

Harassment & anti-oppression I'd put lower on the list of priorities at this point. We're too much in love with each other to mind harassment too much.

  • Harassment
  • Anti-oppression in the workplace

more policy priority thoughts

I generally agree with Moira, although I'd put

  • Central's obligations to locals and vice versa

in third place (before conflict resolution).

I think that relationship needs to be clear to avoid conflict.

simplicity/transparency

I guess what comes up for me as an idea to add is clarity, or transparency. Many people in Toronto who are involved in the TMC don't fully understand how the TMC, MC and Dominion are inter connected.  Partly we need to do more internal education so it is understood, but in terms of process it seems like something that is simple and easy for members to understand and take part in is more important than a process that is complex but equitable to the few who understand it.

Not exactly sure how to add that to the list, but I see it as important. 

list seems good.

List that up seems like a good one, not much is jumping out to be added, at least at this point. I like Moira's idea  grouping like policy elements.

At this point

I agree the list covers everything that we need covered at this point. 

And I agree with Hillary that prioritizaiton of conflict resolution (a process and not a specific policy for a specific thing) is the overarching priority. No matter what we come up with for specific policy, things will change, a-typical situations will come up, and that will require we have a discoursive process set up that everyone understands.

At the VMC we have a problem with transparency of who gets to be involved in decision making. We have an editorial board, who's changed the goal posts a couple of times on how newer people get to enter into full voting member status. So who gets to say, how, on what issues is actually the biggest elephant in our room, and in most coops (IMO) most of the time.

So for me when I ask the who question, that takes me as far as asking about consumer or participatory consumer membership, worker or volunteer, community group membership, etc. 

Then that brings up say-proportionate-to-stake.... i.e., do certain categories of membership get more say if the issue being decided on will affect that group more? 

Next is transparency: who gets to know what about the operation, so as to know what's relevant to who in decision making?

Balanced Rotation of Roles (BRR) ensures that everyone sees the operation from enough angles to enable a widespread depth of understanding. Which of course enables intelligent participatory decision making, because now, with BRR, most everyone has a fairly complete view and knowledge of information. 

This BRR is mostly happening at the VMC now, and where it's not there is still transparency, or at least trust.

Basic structuring of processes, ensures more good decision making processes, imo.

Great feedback

Hey everyone,

This is a great, and very useful set of responses.

The need for transparency really seems to be key: who makes decisions, who gets to participate, and how you get to be one of those people who participates. As the co-op grows, that's going to become more and more important.

I'm going to try to get started with basis of unity and conflict resolution right away, and post a few blog entries documenting the existing processs and outlining what needs to be better defined.

Forgive me if any of my

Forgive me if any of my suggestions are already inherent in existing policy.

  • 'Standards' section included in the Editorial policy. Something that guides locals in decisions on production standards (particularly related to written submissions) and what constitutes a piece that has been approved by the editorial committee. Could we also explicitly add and develop a comprehensive practice around copy editing, in addition to the featuring/deleting/hiding practices?

The following might go under a basis of unity, but they could also be more fully explored as separate policy areas.

  • Readership and Growth goals. What audience are we striving to reach? Is it different from the current one? Would that affect choice of coverage?
  • Purpose/mission. I realize this exists in descriptions of the Media Coop; let's put it in a policy document if it isn't already in one.

Tim already touched on the following:

  • The relationship between The Dominion and the Media Coop. History, current reality and future goals.

Membership!

Hey Folks,

I think this list is great, and largely agree with Hillary and Moira's priorities. I would like to see the policies that relate to how individual members interact with the co-op and their media be compiled together.

I think this could be in addition to them being put together under the headings above, but having policy be accessible is an on-going concern of mine and I think that including a document defining the role of the membership in several of the above areas would be helpful.

Thanks for compiling this Dru.

Kaley

coups?

Hey, 

I was thinking yesterday about the coup that happened a couple years ago at one of the Community radio stations in Toronto, CKLN. A group took over the board and forced progressive voices off the air.  I don't think it is something that seems likely at this point with the media coop, but as it grows that might become a possibility, so I think that should be kept in mind as we work on policy. 

I don't really know what that means in terms of policy, but I know that at CKLN, the wording of by-laws and such were used to take control of the board. just thought I would add this too the discussion

-tim

coups?

Hey, 

I was thinking yesterday about the coup that happened a couple years ago at one of the Community radio stations in Toronto, CKLN. A group took over the board and forced progressive voices off the air.  I don't think it is something that seems likely at this point with the media coop, but as it grows that might become a possibility, so I think that should be kept in mind as we work on policy. 

I don't really know what that means in terms of policy, but I know that at CKLN, the wording of by-laws and such were used to take control of the board. just thought I would add this too the discussion

-tim

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