What is "democracy"?

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Quite Oh
NCI Officer
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What is "democracy"?

Post by Quite Oh » Wed Oct 07, 2009 6:07 am

I like to think deeply about simple things. I find that being very clear on the basics, and taking nothing for granted is an effective way to successfully do most things in life. I've been listening closely to what people have been saying that they wanted from NCI, and the top three things were


1) Communication. I think that we're ever increasing the flow of both listening and expressing ideas and values. We now have more ways for NCI to communicate that I can recall in the past.

2) Transparency. By this, my *presumption* is that people want a clear understanding of the important facts on how NCI operates. I think we've achieved this more than ever before as well, and we are continuing to do so.

3) Democracy.

What IS democracy (in relation to NCI)? More specifically: what is it that you think that "democracy" will do for you, or give you, or bring about in a tangible manner? It has been said that democracy is the tyranny of 51% over 49%. Some refer to it as "Lynch mob rules". I don't imagine this is what people mean when they use the word democracy. Democracy is not a "thing". It is a process designed to help people achieve certain results in order to fulfill specific values.

When YOU use the word "democracy", what are these things that you want to bring into existence? What may not yet exist, or that does, but could be better expressed or implemented?

This is an important discussion. Please let me know.

Trinity Coulter
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Trinity Coulter » Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:16 am

I think what people are really saying they want with those 3 things is a simple, yet hard to achieve, thing called Trust.

That takes time, and it takes effort.

The question really becomes, does the leadership we have right now, have the inclination as well as the time to devote to that?

And that is why you might want democracy, or turnover, or some other system, to make sure that not only do you have people in power who are inclined for the greater good, but also have the energy and time and everything else needed to put into it.

They say in Buddhism that it is better to anticipate the need and fulfill it before a person even has to ask. Are we doing that in NCI now? Are we looking at what people are doing and trying to fulfill the needs they have not only now, but their future needs? Are we looking for people who can help shoulder the burden?

Democracy is one method that can help ensure Trust. But it also has its own problems. How do verify the votes? Who votes, Land Officers, Helpers, Instructors, Donors? Do all voters get the same number of votes? Do we lock down the voter rolls at some point before voting to ensure no one 'stacks' the votes? How do we make sure people aren't voting as alts? etc etc etc

One thing I haven't heard anyone suggesting is that we just simplify NCI. When I walk around the various campuses of NCI, I don't usually see a lot of people, but I see we have 10,000 people in the Main Group and 150 people in the Land Holdings group, and lots of turnout for classes and some of the Events. So are we doing what we need to be, are we changing NCI as SL changes? Do we even need to do more, or are we doing enough just to simply be there for people?

I think when Loris mentioned Democracy, he was trying to give the Board of Directors a way to have legitimacy, which they do not have fully now. Carl had it because he was given the power by Brace, and he did not hand it off to the current Board; he just left. At this point, anyone COULD say they are in charge because no one was really given the authority. Democracy would be one way to ensure that again, even if it were only done once.

Tateru Nino
NCI Officer
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Tateru Nino » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:33 am

The board of directors already has legitimacy -- or at least as much as Carl or Brace had. Carl and I picked them, same way as we picked Carl back in the day.

Carl and I picked them and blessed them. They're our choice for going forward. Not because he and I *agree* with them, but because we *trust* them. I can certainly think of other people within NCI with whom I would *not* trust the organization, but they're not on the board, so it is a matter of small moment.

I think you and Loris have amply demonstrated why NCI could not and should not attempt a move to a more democratic model, quite aside from all of the other factors involved.

Trinity Coulter
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Trinity Coulter » Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:17 pm

When you have the leader of an organization go to a point where there is a split that cannot be resolved, and the group forces a showdown where people have to quit in order for there to be order, that isn't legitimacy, that is duress and power politics.

I can't speak for how you feel, Tateru, but my understanding of the way it worked beforehand, was that this "Executive" had absolute authority. That's good and bad. But it was the way NCI was governed at that point. Carl and you did pick them, but if you were in agreement with them, then why would there be any cause to leave/resign/etc?

Maybe we don't need democracy, maybe we don't need new Board Members, but simply suggesting it, and suggesting that the Board needs to move out from under a shadow shouldn't be cause to attack the persons of people who don't agree.

I don't know what you might think Loris and I have "amply demonstrated", but if you asked me, I would say that we both care deeply for things to go well and be done with an professional touch, rather than a situation developing again where power politics becomes the rule.

Things like cross training, and understanding that volunteers will have burnout over time, training new people in enough numbers to take over, and setting clear limits for people, including the Board and Executives, should go a long way toward improving things.

But you can't tell me things moved on from Carl on the right foot. Not when there's been not even a tiny show of appreciation for that longstanding effort and volunteerism. He gave a lot, and even now he wouldn't ask for people to recognize him personally, but as I suggested several times before, even a small event that shows ALL volunteers, donors, and everyone how much we appreciate their hard work would be a great way to say thank you to Carl, and you as well, Tateru, for the work and effort you put in.

Beverly Montgomery
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Beverly Montgomery » Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:48 pm

To be completely blunt about it, and only cause im sick of this beating around the bush! And well frankly there was no vote, of all the BOD there was no ya or na, it was do it my way, period! BS stuff!!!!! It should a been a vote, to bad it wasn't. Weather all agreed to it or not! It had never been the way of NCI, to feel the way this decision was going. Besides there was a bit more to it than anyone else was seeing! Open mindedness would have seen the BIG picture! I could, now if others would simply get the hell over it, and let it finally go! We could get to work, and stop hearing the same crapola over and over and over and over! Enough now ok! Carl and Tateru were very respected, and we all relash and appriciate the hard work and skills and time they put into NCI. None of us wanted him to quit, and her to retire. But we had no way to stop them. Now all this bickering over who is who and who does what or who po'd who. Can it be enough!


Trinity Coulter
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Trinity Coulter » Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:29 pm

When Quite started this thread, she was asking for our input on an issue that in her words is an "important discussion", and I agree.

Also, according to Quite, "Democracy" was one of three important things people want, and I hope we can stay focused on communication and on answering the question that Quite asked, and less on seeing a simple discussion as a problem.

I hope I've been able to express my thoughts on this in a productive way, and I would ask all of you to help us stay focused on a positive response overall, and try and look at this as an opportunity to improve things.

NCI Officer
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by PeaceSmythe » Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:10 am

Actually, none of this is democracy. Democracy is putting all the issues to be voted by the people. What we are talking about is a republic, where the leadership is elected by the people and makes decisions for them ... hopefully in the best interests of their constituancy.

Tateru Nino
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Tateru Nino » Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:58 am

You are correct, Peace. Although both a Republic and a Democracy (capital-'D') are generally broadly considered to be democratic (small-'d'), the former covers quite a spectrum.

Now, NCI hasn't actually ever been democratic. In its earliest days, it operated as part-commune and part-autocracy, and has been mostly autocratic since prior to Carl's day.

Yes, there was a board -- an advisory board, not a management board -- whom we chose without regard for popularity or seniority. Carl and I ran things as we saw fit. When we held a vote it was for advisory purposes, mostly to determine how many people came down on a particular side of an issue. Votes were advisory matters, and did not really set policy. As a simple matter of practicality, we didn't share information broadly, either outside of NCI or within it. Many decisions (certainly the majority of mine) were best kept private.

Staff at times made mistakes. Unfortunate errors, troublesome behaviour, organizational disruption, moments of passion, and what-have-you. I have disciplined, spanked, and occasionally regretfully applied temporary suspensions to the majority of NCI's Land Officers at one time or another. And on at least a few occasions I have made my own mistakes.

I also kept all of that quiet. Who *really* would have benefited from needing to know? I've only permanently expelled three of NCI's staff, and the rest of you, I believe, are probably quite pleased that such spankings or suspensions as you might have received did *not* become a part of any public process. There were mistakes, we dealt with them, we've moved on, and almost all of you are still proud to be a part of NCI. Democracy requires public transparency. Instead, we dealt with these issues as any business (profit or non-profit) might do.

Now, some several months ago, Carl appointed Gramma and Afon as executive management (and I concurred) with the intent of Carl getting to take an unspecified break from being the executive authority at NCI. I also opted to take a subordinate role to Gramma and Afon as a management team at that time. They were very definitely our successors in practice.

The board remained an advisory board, at that time, albeit made up largely of folks who actually headed up some important NCI function.

Then came the whole issue that led to Carl's and my resignation -- both of which were despite protests from the management (Gramma+Afon) and the advisory board. Despite protests, we let our resignations stand, handing the reigns completely to Gramma and Afon.

Now they could (and may or may not have -- I cannot speak for them in this) have chosen to make the board from an advisory board consisting primarily of managers into an actual management board, or they could choose to leave it as an advisory board. Gramma and Afon are in charge, until they choose someone else, just as Carl and I were in charge before we selected them.

NCI's never been any more democratic than the International Red Cross. If Gramma and Afon want to change that, that is their own choice, not mine and not anyone else's.

And -- as always -- you need to ask yourselves "How does any specific change or action bring new or additional benefits to new SL users?" -- does a proposed change benefit them, or just us? Because if it's just us, then maybe we need to rethink our participation in NCI entirely. NCI isn't here for *us*. We're here to put our time, our money and our effort in for *them*.

Janet Rossini
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Janet Rossini » Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:02 pm

Tateru Nino wrote:I think you and Loris have amply demonstrated why NCI could not and should not attempt a move to a more democratic model, quite aside from all of the other factors involved.
I must respectfully object to this comment as unnecessarily ad hominem. As well, it is unsupported by any reasoned argument.
I don't work here: I volunteer here. I don't have duties: I have small gifts which I offer.

Janet Rossini
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Re: What is "democracy"?

Post by Lethe » Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:03 pm

It's only an Ad Hom when you you use unrelated personal attacks to attempt to refute a point. In this case, Tateru was linking what she sees as a lack of judgment in this case with the argument that people (such as Land Officers, for example) should have more direct control over NCI, a position that (at least in my mind) requires a certain level of judgment on the part of the Land Officers in question.

There is likely a whole spectrum of opinions on the question of exactly what kind of judgment has been demonstrated lately. I know I have mine. I know you, generic reader, have yours. I don't think it's a terribly important question though, especially since it almost always ends up as one of those "agree to disagree" questions.

You can go around asking "Has Lethe been acting like a twit lately?" "Has Trinity been acting like a twit lately?" "Has Tateru been acting like a twit lately?" until the cows come home, but it doesn't really do much of anything to help the people NCI was created to serve. I much prefer Tateru's question: "How does X bring new or additional benefits to new SL users?"

That question serves as a measuring stick for everything NCI related I do, including how I would respond to any proposal to change some part of how NCI works.

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