Gouvernance - Partie 1
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Introduction to Community Development

Getting Organized

Governance – Part 1

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Legal Structure

Governance refers to "all processes of governing, whether undertaken by a government, market or network, whether over a family, tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through laws, norms, power or language."

There are many groups that do not have a formal structure. These tend to be focused more on networking, self-help or other activities that do not require a substantial degree of responsibility for funds, personnel or contracts, and engage in low risk activities. The members act as individuals from a legal point of view and are responsible for the consequences of their actions as individuals.
As groups take on more responsibility, they may want to consider becoming incorporated as a separate legal entity. The group becomes a corporation; a separate legal entity or "person" so to speak, so that the legal liability of the individual members is reduced. The corporation is able to issue and sign contracts, hold real estate, sue and be sued in a court of law, all in the name of the corporation.

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Other advantages of becoming incorporated as a not-for-profit organization include income tax exemption, the exclusive right to the name of the organization, and, for some funding sources, eligibility to receive grants. There are also obligations, however, such as filing an annual information return with the government.
Groups that have charitable purposes may apply to be registered as a charity by the federal government. There are several advantages to charitable registration. For one thing, it allows you to issue official receipts for donations for the purpose of income tax reduction by donors. The organization is exempt from paying income tax, and is eligible for grants from sources that only give to charities. In order to qualify for registration, the organization must be established and operated wholly for charitable purposes and it must devote its resources to charitable activities. Organizations must have one or more of the following goals:
• the relief of poverty
• the advancement of religion
• the advancement of education
• community benefit (applies to a fairly narrow range of activities, established by the courts)
• Charities must file reports on their financial and operational activities annually.

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Organizational Structure

Even informal groups or associations will find it helpful to write out their mission, purpose, goals and membership criteria, in the form of a constitution. And they may also want to write down their procedures and rules in the form of a by-law. For incorporated organizations it is required by law.
The constitution and by-law are the initial policy documents of an organization. They lay out the basic purpose of the group, its form and procedures, so that regardless of who the members are, there will be continuity and consistency in the work that is carried out in the name of the group.

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Constitution

The Constitution sets out the purpose and nature of the group. Depending on the scope of the group's activities, it may be prudent to have the constitution reviewed by a lawyer. Usually the constitution would not change throughout the life of the organization. The following information is generally found in a constitution:
• name of the organization
• purpose of the organization
• major policies (e.g., membership criteria, population to be served)
• statement of legal status (e.g., whether incorporated or not)
• impression of corporate seal, if organization is incorporated
• location of the head office or mailing address for the group
• statement that members of the Board of Directors will not receive remuneration
• "winding down" procedures, should the organization cease to exist.
Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Bylaw

The bylaw describes the operating procedures of the organization and may change from time to time. It needs to be reviewed regularly and revised as needed to ensure that it remains consistent with actual practice. The following items are usually contained in a bylaw:

• goals and objectives of the organization
• limitation to its activities; e.g., it may be that the members decide the organization should not participate in political activities
• eligibility for membership; description of classes of membership; whether fees will or may be charged
• number of Directors on the Board, the length of term and duties
• the indemnification of Board members; i.e., stating that they will not be held liable as individuals for the actions of the Board as a whole
• ·board members
• the Executive positions, usually consisting of President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, and their roles and duties
• designation of signing officers
• fiscal year
• committees
• requirement to have an Annual General Meeting
• rules of order to be followed during meetings, including how decisions are made
• procedures for amending the bylaw.
Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

The organization or group may also enact other policies as it sees fit; some of the more common policies relate to personnel, anti-discrimination and equity, media relations, and confidentiality.
The group may also maintain a list of standing rules, or statements of day-to-day operating procedures in which the Board is involved; e.g., “All expenditures exceeding $500 must be approved by a 2/3 majority vote of the Board of Directors.” These would be kept together in one location for easy reference and dated so that they could be cross-referenced with the minutes of the meeting at which the rule was made. These form the organizational structure of the group and, if effective, will:
• guide decisions about how things get done
• set policy about how people relate with each other
• provide a framework to deal with problems like conflict and tension
• authorize a spokesperson for public relations purposes
• set financial controls in place
• ensure that power is distributed fairly equitable within the group
• establish principles to guide action
• provide accountability
• protect members from individual liability.
Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

In any decision making process there are generally five steps:

Decision-Making Styles - Group Decision-Making

1. Definition

The members must share a clear perception of the problem or issue. It may be a complex matter to sort our intertwined issues and identify discrete questions that can be addressed as separate items.


2. Propose Solutions

All members should have an opportunity to propose solutions, without any negative comments being made about them at this point.


3. Exploration

As a group, calmly and openly explore the pros and cons of each alternative; make a genuine effort to understand alternative viewpoints from your own.


4. Decision

Choose an alternative based on a thorough understanding of the potential consequences of each possibility. Decisions can be made by vote (show of hands or secret ballot, recorded by individual or not) or by consensus

5. Evaluation

Following the implementation of the decision there should be an evaluation of its result.


Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Decision-Making Styles - Democratic Groups

Democratic groups operate by as set of principles, such as those listed by the Ontario Ministry of Food & Rural Affairs in its factsheet entitled Procedures for Meetings.
• Every member has rights equal to every other member, with justice and courtesy for all.
• The will of the majority must be carried out.
• The minority must be heard and its rights protected.
• Only one topic will be considered at a time.
Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

This style generally includes the following procedures:
• Chair calls the meeting to order. The minute taker records the time.
• Quorum is established. This is the number of people required for the decisions of the meeting to be binding on the group. It is up to the group to decide what that number is; most often it is a simple majority (i.e., 50% plus one). Sometimes other factors will be involved; for example, one of the criteria for quorum at an OHCC Board meeting is that members from at least three regions of the province are present.
• Reports may be "received", meaning there is no commitment made to any of its recommendation, or "adopted", in which case the group approves of its content and commits to taking appropriate action with respect to its recommendations.

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

• For items that require a decision, a member makes a "motion". This is a clear statement of the proposed action. It must be seconded by a second member to show that there is some support for it. If there is no seconder, no further time is spent on it. If it is seconded the chair asks for discussion. The chair may decide to limit the amount of discussion allowed, and call for a vote to be taken. Any member may also call for a vote, but a two thirds majority of the members have to agree before the vote is then taken. Only one motion can be considered at a time. When a motion is "on the table" no other business can be considered. Motions may be tabled, withdrawn or amended. (more information on that and other parliamentary procedures are in resources pdf)
• There is usually a section near the end of the meeting for "New Business", which is an opportunity for members to raise issues either for immediate discussion or decision, or to be placed on a future agenda.
• The Chair may terminate the meeting; a motion is not required. If there is unfinished business (s)he may adjourn the meeting to another time and place to finish it. Some groups view their work as continuing from one meeting to the next and prefer to adjourn rather than terminate the meeting. Some also choose to pass a motion for adjournment, with no seconder required.

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Decision-Making Styles - Consensus

Consensus decision-making is used by groups that put a high priority on the personal empowerment of members, the protection of minority rights and strong group cohesion. When the consensus model is applied properly, it is a powerful tool for personal and collective development. However, there are a number of factors that are needed for it to work effectively:
• members share common values, a common vision and a common purpose
• members have a high degree of comfort and trust within the group
• each member accepts responsibility for the well-being of the group
• each member accepts that it is his or her individual duty to speak up about any concerns they may have relating to the group's activities, meeting process or relationships with others
• each member is genuinely interested in listening to others' viewpoints and is open to learning more about themselves and each other
• members have the flexibility to change their position on the basis of information and reasoning
• members are trained in the consensus decision-making process and are committed to working within its procedures for the benefit of the group


Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Using consensus as a decision-making process requires all members to participate in reaching a decision with which the whole group is satisfied. Decisions express the will of the whole group, not just of a majority. It is based on the premise that everyone's viewpoint is important and should be heard, and that all concerns are valid. Sometimes a lone voice has perceived something that others have not.

It is sometimes said that working by consensus takes longer than using a majority rules process, but this is not necessarily so. First, the decisions that are made likely to be better due to the deeper understanding that is fostered and the creative forces that are unleashed as members search for the best solution. Secondly, it is possible to delegate authority to individual members, committees or task groups. In some cases, it may make sense for a group to use consensus only for certain types of decisions that may have long term impacts, such as policies or planning. In this situation it is important that the group be clear on what items require consensus and which ones do not.

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

There are situations when consensus is not appropriate and would not work well, such as:
• feeling of urgency or time pressure
• overly ambitious agenda or difficulty sticking to agenda
• changing membership
• irregular attendance one member cannot speak for others who are not present
• absence of ground rules / enforcement
• barriers to participation
• subtle hostilities and the formation of cliques
• lack of team identity.
Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Characteristics of Consensus Building

There are situations when consensus is not appropriate and would not work well, such as:
• collective, open and fair process that allows everyone to speak and be heard
• decisions are made by the group as a whole
• facilitates people working together to find solutions and ways to create and maintain a healthy community
• voluntary and inclusive
• promotes cooperation and collaboration
• uses creative problem-solving , the diversity of knowledge, experiences, and opinions within the group
• leadership is shared
• requires patience and perseverance and trust
• asks us not to be rigid in our thinking and solutions
• allows participants to control the agenda and shape the process
• leads to an acceptable solution that everyone can live with; it does not necessarily lead to unanimity; it is a willingness to accept a decision sometimes with reservations or differences of opinion still existing

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Benefits of Consensus

Consensus can be a difficult process; demanding and, at times, very frustrating. When you persist, however, consensus building can be also be a rewarding experience. It not only helps the group discuss issues and seek solutions in an open environment; it helps foster a sense of shared ownership and solidarity among everyone involved. Some other benefits may include the following:
• reduces barriers between different groups
• fosters understanding and respect for other groups
• responsibilities and commitments to change are shared
• decisions are long-lasting because everyone participates in making them
• helps anticipate problems and avoid disputes or conflict
• encourages unity and understanding
• promotes commitment to decisions
• builds and strengthens partnerships
Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1

Procedure for Achieving Consensus

There are many versions of consensus decision-making processes. Here is one example::

Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1
1. Issue
Identification

Someone will raise an issue and provide some background information about it and explain why it is important for the group to consider.


2. Re-state
the Issue

The facilitator states the issue in clear and poses the question that is to be decided.


3. Discussion

Members discuss the issue, not just in terms of pros and cons of, for example, writing the letter, but will consider alternative actions and their potential implications. Members speak openly and honestly about their thoughts and feelings on the topic. The facilitator will decide if some structure would be beneficial; (s)he may decide to use the "go-around" method in which members take turns speaking to the issue, going around in a circle until everyone has spoken.
Rather than repeating what others have said, members may just indicate agreement with someone else, and if they have nothing to add they may pass. In a consensus process, no one is permitted to interrupt another, and members do not respond directly to each other or debate with each other; they wait their turn and then offer, if not a solution, at least a new insight or something that will move the group towards consensus.

4. Collective
answer

Often as a result of the discussion, a collective answer emerges which seems to have everyone's support. The facilitator then summarizes the proposed action, then canvasses the members for their response, asking each of them in turn if they agree with the proposed action. If all concur, consensus has been reached.

5. Option When
Consensus is
Not Reached

(a) Stepping Aside When one or two people are reluctant to agree with a proposed solution the facilitator should ask if they are willing to "step aside". This means is that while the reluctant people may not agree with the solution, they do not find it fundamentally wrong or inappropriate and so are willing to allow the group to go ahead with it. If several people opt to "step aside" there is more work that needs to be done to improve the degree of consensus.
(b) Postponing Agreement If agreement cannot be reached then perhaps the group should put the issue or problem aside for a while. Give people enough time to think the matter over and consider what others have said; no one should feel pressured to agree. However, be careful not to avoid the issue altogether. Shelf the issue for a short while, not forever! If the issue is contentious some breathing time or cooling-off time might be required.
(c) Blocking Consensus When a participant cannot accept a given decision he/she can stop the proposed action from going ahead by blocking consensus. If consensus is not reached, those that have spoken against the proposal may be asked to provide further information regarding their concerns. The "round robin" method may be used, with members are asked to try to find a solution that will be satisfactory to all. A few moments of reflection may be taken, to try to look deeper into the problem. Often individual differences in values and beliefs will be at the root of the disagreement. As these emerge, it may be that opposing members will discover that their feelings, while understandable, are not relevant to the issue at hand. Through thoughtful consideration of alternative viewpoints members may find that there are points of agreement that they can build upon. If consensus is not reached; i.e., if one or more members state that they do not support the proposed action, it cannot be taken. It is a big responsibility to have the power to stop the group from acting, and not to be taken lightly, but using it may be a true service to the group.
(d) Continuing to Talk If consensus is not reached then perhaps all of the different options have not been brought forward or have not been thoroughly discussed. Try expanding on some of the points made during the discussion; perhaps a bit more information or background is needed. Find out if any points need clarification.
(e) Go-Around A go-around is an exercise that lets everyone speak around the table for 5 to 10 minutes completely uninterrupted. Give everyone the same amount of time to speak. No one is allowed to offer criticisms or interject comments while someone else is speaking. No ideas are rejected and all objections and reservations are heard out.
(f) Small Group Discussion Sometimes when consensus cannot be reached in a large group then perhaps the group should break up into smaller groups to discuss the issues. Remember that many people feel more comfortable speaking in a small group rather than a large one. Consequently, smaller groups help ensure that everyone contributes to the discussion. Once the groups have talked the issues over have them present their ideas to the whole group.
(g) Voting Decide before you begin the consensus process whether you want to allow for the option of voting if no consensus can be reached. If so, be clear about the conditions under which you will use it. Decide on the number of votes you will allow to let a decision pass (i.e. 50% +1, 60%, 75%).

Introduction to Community Development

End of Unit:
Getting Organized – Governance – Part 1
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