When we joined IOPS, we didn't join an established organization like Greenpeace or the IWW; we joined a work group engaged in building an organization. And the organization that we said we would build -- from the ground up, beginning with chapters -- is unique because: (a) at all levels, it would "prefigure" the participatory society we seek to establish, and (b) the initial (or "interim") phase of construction would continue until we achieved the degree of diversity and participation required by IOPS values to legitimate decision-making at the international level. Until then, decisions that are binding at the international level would be made by the ICC and would be limited "to matters that are truly essential or highly desirable to resolve before a [founding] convention," and, consequently, "kept to a minimum." (Interim Committee) One way to think about this limitation on decision-making is that it protects the interests of members yet-to-be who are unrepresented by the current participating membership. However, none of this prevents local or regional self-management and initiative -- to the contrary, the provisions of the IOPS "Structure and program" encourages it. (Structure and program)
The IOPS "key" documents -- "Mission," "Vision" and "Structure and program" -- describe the "Interim Organization[*]." (About IOPS) And, the principle that the interim phase should continue until IOPS achieves the degree of diversity and participation that would legitimate decision-making at the international level is implicit in (if not integral to) the following statements of policy in the “Structure and program” document: (1) the organization "always * * * strives to implement the self management norm that 'each member has decision making say proportional to the degree they are affected'"; (2) the organization "always * * * respects diversity, so that national, regional, city, and local chapters can respond to their own circumstances and implement their own programs as they choose so long as their choices do not interfere with the shared goals and principles of the organization or with other groups addressing their own situations"; and (3) the organization "always * * * seeks to constantly grow its membership among the class, nationality, and gender constituencies it claims to aid." (Structure and program)
As Sarah Owens explained recently in a comment on the Poll on IOPS Future:
The only way to account for the views of members yet-to-be is by having sufficient diversity and participation levels before making organization-wide decisions. Not making organization-wide decisions until there is sufficient diversity and participation to account for members yet-to-be is the whole point of the interim.
Like all of the values upon which the IOPS "Structure and program" is based, self-management and diversity are not competing values -- they are complementary, and our work and the choices we are making now should give effect to both.
A year ago, the IOPS membership established "preconditions" (minimum standards) for ending the interim phase and holding a founding convention -- i.e., at least 3,500 members (30% of whom are female) and 20 "working" chapters (each with at least 5 members and 30% female membership), distributed among 5 nation states and 3 continents -- and we gave ourselves one year (until June 12, 2014) to achieve these preconditions. The preconditions were not just hoops to jump through to get to the convention. Instead, they reflected our commitment to build, during the interim phase, a prefigurative organization. We did not achieve the preconditions by the June 12th deadline.
If we are serious about the principles and goals we committed to when we joined IOPS, what we do now depends on the answers to two questions: (1) Does IOPS currently have the degree of diversity and participation that would legitimate decision-making at the international level? (2) If not, why not, and what's the plan for getting there? The answer to the first question is no, and no one has argued otherwise. The answer to the second question depends on how we assess the current situation, including what happened over the last two years, and the conclusions we draw from that examination. As the What now? blog reminded us a month ago:
The possibility that we might face the situation we face today was discussed in late 2012, well before the preconditions had been determined. At that time, there seemed to be general agreement that, if we were unable to reach our goals within the set time-frame, we should “strategically reassess the future of IOPS[,] including the possibility that our conception is fundamentally flawed" , and “reevaluate the future of IOPS based on this experience." . We did not, and have not since, identified precisely the mechanism for that reevaluation process. We need to do that now.
We have yet to undertake, much less complete, that reassessment (and data-gathering), and the current Poll on IOPS Future is not a substitute for it. Continuing to base decisions about what IOPS should do now on the unexamined assumptions that we failed to achieve the preconditions because they are too onerous, or because of IOPS' interim status, or because of the ICC, instead of considering and testing the hypothesis that the failure resulted from a lack of effort, mental preparation or organizational skills on the part of the membership and an unrealistic deadline, is like buying a new car, and then, two weeks later when it won't start, deciding to junk it without first checking to see whether the battery is dead, or there is gas in the fuel tank.
Although it is clear that IOPS lacks the requisite degree of diversity and participation, there has been no objective assessment of why that is the case, and there is no evidence that deciding now whether to end the IOPS interim phase is “truly essential or highly desirable.” "Proposal two" -- favored by the ICC by one vote -- would have us abandon the preconditions and the values that they reflect, thereby erasing what makes IOPS unique -- the commitment to build an organization that prefigures the participatory society we seek to achieve. In effect, “Proposal two,” reflects an attitude that is not unlike the one expressed in the following comment, which appeared on June 2d in the discussion on the Future of IOPS poll :
I think it's silly that an organization would slow itself down based on whether enough women join.
Under this view, “whether enough women join,” or whether enough men and women living in places other than North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand join, is like weather -- there’s nothing that we can/should do about it. Yet, it's clear from the provisions of the "key documents" that an IOPS member's commitment to diversity -- within individual chapters and the participatory society that IOPS seeks to build -- is essential, and, IOPS is not "slowed down" by expecting its members (including the ICC in its proposals) to honor that commitment any more than a parent is “slowed down” by the need to care for his children.
In a comment on the Poll on IOPS Future, Michael Albert says:
We are not voting on proposals for what to do. This is a poll to see how various people who would otherwise likely be completely silent, feel about a very few issues.
Although that may be the intent of the poll, as a practical matter, it is difficult to see this poll as anything other than a “vote” on the two ICC proposals. That’s certainly how the London IOPS chapter sees it. Preeti Kaur, commenting on the Poll on IOPS Future , reports:
IOPS London had a regular meeting yesterday at which this Poll was discussed. I have been asked to report back that members in attendance (14 in total) decided to * * * unanimously, and as a group, support Proposal Two[.]
And, while we don’t know how representative they are, many other members commenting on the blogs and polls addressing our current circumstances also appear to see this poll as a vote on whether to end the IOPS interim phase. Indeed, the poll’s first question, "Do you feel that we should remove or retain the conditions we earlier set for holding a founding convention?" amounts to a choice between the two proposals. More importantly, the poll -- particularly the first two questions -- is not likely to yield the information required for an objective reassessment of our current circumstances and for the kind of focused planning that would address those circumstances. Essentially, the poll invites participants to choose between staying where we are (whatever that means to the individual) and ignoring what the objective reasons are for our current circumstances and moving on in some new direction.
Notwithstanding this poll and our failure to achieve the preconditions for a founding convention, there’s no need to rush into anything, or to make important decisions about the future of IOPS on the basis of anecdote and speculation. The strategic reassessment and the data-gathering that is essential to it can and should proceed. And, while that goes on, we can work to build and reinvigorate our chapters, as London is doing, through collaboration and mutual support among active and not-yet-active chapters using available resources and ideas.
In so doing, we must continually remind ourselves that we cannot expect to build a society that incorporates the values expressed in the preconditions, or be perceived as an organization with the capacity and vision to create that society, if we abandon those preconditions because we're impatient with our current "interim" status.