Friday, January 30, 2015

Carrboro, Citizens, Policing - Conflation and Progress

I link to my latest update on the evolving process ultimately to allow the citizens of Carrboro, NC to design the policing approach in our community, a process I believe is essential to improving the relationship between all citizens and our police (in Carrboro and around the US), and a process which can more easily be explored in a community like Carrboro, which has a reputation for innovative approaches to governance.

This comment, the discussion thread in which it is embedded, and the links contained, offer an excellent reference point for learning about, becoming involved in and influencing the drive for citizen design of policing in Carrboro, along with my own blog –

Now, nothing is going to happen unless citizens of Carrboro make the time to attend the community forums being staged by the Carrboro police and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. Those forums are the focal point for evolving citizen design of policing. All the wishful thinking, chit-chat here on FB and elsewhere, marches and the like, will count for nothing unless we attend those forums, and evolve them into a sustainable ongoing process of citizen policy making for Carrboro police.

So. It is now up to us to make this happen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Digital Communication and Employee Inclusion

Oh dear. Speaks for itself:

"Hey Ruffin,

I hope you had a pleasant vacation.

I'm pretty sure there is good reason for the appearance of a 28" (??) color LED screen in my kitchen in the Southern Village Weave. I'm pretty sure it is for something that can not be accomplished on the five computer screens we have in the general office upstairs. I only wonder aloud because I'm pretty sure this is another one of those decisions that was made without involving ordinary workers in the decision-making.

This is not some Geoff-is-itchy-cos-he-can'
t-go-on-Spring-Break wheeze. We all sweat to make the money in this co-op. We all have a right to determine how that money is spent. Not because I say so. But because co-op policy says so.

It is not something small and inconsequential. I am pretty sure I am not the only employee a little disappointed that, having had a year when the growth in sales in my immediate department averaged good double figures, my pay raise was in the single figures.

And then I find a computer screen, to which I do not have access, sitting proudly next to my walk-in. And I'm wondering why my pay raise could not have been bigger? Why I am not involved in the process to determine how much of the profits I help to earn are devoted to pay raises? Why I was not involved in the decsion to spend who knows how much on digital co-op management? When all of this is my right under co-op policy.

I would be grateful if you could let me know how much the whole project (screens, software, electrician time, IM time) to digitalize co-op management communication has cost and will cost, in total. Then, I would be grateful if you would let me know when employees might expect some inclusion in the process you and I discussed to allow them to help design ways in which we can be more included in decision-making, as is our right under WSM co-op policy.

All the best,

[By the way, who can work out the connection between the pics attached to my previous posts on Employee Inclusion in Decision-Making within The Weave and the pic attached to this post?]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

More Testaments for 'Maggie's Hammer'

Well. Publication day for The Book advances rapidly. I've been having on-off discussions about reviews, forewords and the like.

I can confirm that, as of today, whatever else happens, the book will have attendant forewords and internal reviews from the former Counter-Terrorism Adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, and an immediate past Minister of State in the Home Office of the current UK Coalition Government.

Huh. Wouldn't have expected that twenty-six years ago. Excuse me while I do my little whoop-di-doo, whirly-twirly, thank-you-universe dance, in my pink tutu and Taylor Swift 'I'm the Princess' tiara. Good thing my neighbors are now numb to me ...

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Weave Christmas Party, MLK, and Kat ... Karaoke

So. What happened to the ever-popular Karaoke at the Weaver Street Market Co-operative Annual Employee Christmas Party, which is being held this evening at the Carrboro Century Center?

Until last year, Karaoke had been the highlight at a succession of reasonably well-attended Christmas Parties. And then, last year. Boom. No Karaoke. Only a DJ. So, why?

Well. I wrote about this last year ... here. And my view is still the same. And bearing in mind that today is MLK Day, I would add that this is precisely the sort of thing that our co-op should be thinking about. It's called 'inclusivity' and 'diversity.'

See you this evening ... !!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Creative Engagement

I just added a response to a post on OrangePolitics, talking about getting feedback from people within their comfort zone, not ours. I believe this to be crucial with respect to creating a process that fully engages communities with the notion of citizen design of policing. But it has wider implications, too. The post and comments are worth reading in their entirety. My response:

"I would be a millionaire if I had a penny for every time I have told the 'powers-that-be' that sensible community engagement requires engaging with people in their comfort zone, not in the comfort zone of those wanting answers.

Whether it was advocating for youth facilities at the age of sixteen in my home town in England, meeting with constituents as a municipal councilor at the age of 23, attempting to increase democracy within Weaver Street Market Co-operative, or inviting views on the issue concerning me at the moment (citizen design of policing), time and again I have tried to convince folks that it is incumbent on them to go to the people, not the other way around.

It really is not beyond the ken of creative elected and unelected public officials to find ways to engage with people who are not comfortable in crowds, in public, at times that are inconvenient to them, on camera, and the like. You raise the perfectly good example of asking folks to engage with their social circles, and then report back. It's not good enough for those same officials to say, well it's not convenient for me; ooh, I wouldn't want to go there; I'd rather stay behind my table, thank you.

Couple of caveats. If officials do find creative ways to engage, visiting bars, holding mini-meets in apartment complex offices, whatever, then folks, we have to find the time to respond and engage right back. You can't find the NFL more interesting, and then complain a month later you weren't asked.

Taking Weaver Street Market as an example, I stood for the Board of Directors four times as a Worker-Owner Candidate. I very quickly learned that fellow worker-owners had become very disillusioned over the years, and simply did not feel it was worth voting anymore. I undertook a long-term effort to try to re-engage fellow worker-owners.

I regularly visited units when workers were off-the-clock. I started a blog. I made my campaign to become a Worker-Owner Director a rolling, multi-year affair, more concerned with engagement than getting elected. I assiduously communicated with every new employee, to invite them to be Friended on Facebook. As a consequence of which I have about 60% of the workforce of WSM Friended on Facebook. A workforce of about 250 which, several years ago, had 100 worker-owners, and now has 192.

Even so, it pretty much remained the case that my fellow workers didn't want to take the time (their time, by the way; always off-the-clock, by-the-way, WSM management please take note!) to engage in 'official' exercises of feedback or to attend meetings. So, I would attend. And mention that fellow workers had passed their views onto me (which they had, and which they still do, regularly). Views which I tried faithfully to represent, even though I didn't always agree with them.

And there was the rub. Time and again, I would be told, sometimes quite rudely, that no-one believed I represented the views of anyone else. I was speaking only for me. I didn't care for myself. But it was a rather silly reaction, based solely on the fact that the people concerned didn't like me, or didn't want to hear the views being expressed. That said, none of this is about me. I merely use me as an example.

The point is this. If we are going to be more creative about engagement, then we have to be more creative about our response to sometimes rather weird engagement. But, this is not rocket science. We know the folks who appear at meetings, and who claim to represent the universe, when they represent only themselves. A few respectful questions about the nature of the representation will sort out the chaff. I mean, however much folks may not like me, I'm pretty sure that the body of people beyond the WSM Board and corporate office are reasonably willing to believe that I do speak to other workers. It's not a difficult difference to identify."

Now, I'm going to go a bit weird. My life has been a political journey. My early years in the UK were with the British Conservative Party. A party which today is generally acknowledged to be nothing like the conservatives to be found in the US. Meanwhile, I have moved leftwards, and now regard myself as a progressive centrist. With a weak spot for aspects of my first love.

So it is that I keep track of what the British Tories are up to. And currently, they have some interesting ideas about engagement. Which (hopefully) explains the weirdness in my linking to this post here. Forget the source. Pay attention to the creativity involved with the ideas for engagement. Think about what we regard as at risk communities with respect to policing. Young people and African-Americans have smartphones. Is there not some way of designing feedback that utilizes social media and modern technology?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Carrboro, NC Police/Citizen Dialogue - A Starting Point

I have held several conversations with three Carrboro Alderpeople about citizen design of policing in Carrboro, NC. I have reported those conversations widely, to act as a starting point for a process of citizen design, both for Carrboro, and, perhaps, for other communities in the US.

Lookee Who Came A-Visiting ...

So, my sister Maggi in England was taking a break from mother-in-law care over the New Year, and was visiting some old family friends in Cornwall. Shapland by name.

Look who popped in last Thursday, to get his (British) General Election campaign going, by visiting the chocolate factory started by Alex Shapland (bloke on the right) a few years ago with government money.

Maggi, who took the pic and who is not by any stretch of the imagination a die-hard Tory, was loathe to say that the visitor (ok, British Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron) was really quite charming, and, according to Alex, asked all the right questions. Don't you hate it when you like the person you really don't want to like?

Meanwhile, I know that our Dave is looking forward to both his re-election in May, and the publication of The Book in June ...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Including Workers In Decision-Making

Even more progress. But here's the deal. It comes with a caveat. YOU have to get involved.

I've done what I can (so far) to help to create the space where all employees of Weaver Street Market Co-operative can be included in designing how it is we are more involved in the making of decisions that affect us.

In coming weeks, you should see an invitation in the WSM employee Market Messenger to offer input on how you would like to be able to participate in the making of the decisions which affect you, whether at department, store or co-op level.

At that point, I can do no more. The only way anything will happen, will change is if you read the Market Messenger and respond with your views.

If the powers-that-be see this whole drive for worker inclusion as merely my fad, then they will pass on by. It's in your hands to create a groundswell of numbers calling for more worker democracy in our co-op.

Right. Now, this all came about as the consequence of a meeting I had with Ruffin, the WSM General Manager, yesterday. Here's the e-mail I wrote to him after that meeting:

"Hey Ruffin,

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I think we managed to cut to the chase pretty effectively.

I'm not wildly happy that our pay raise for 2014 was not backdated to what had become the norm of the beginning of September. But what is done is done.

What was and remains of much more interest to me is finding a way forward that allows the regular implementation of at least the spirit of the WSM Board Policy requiring that WSM employees be included in decision-making which affects them.

We discussed in passing employee inclusion in the setting of each year's operational budget. Again, I was less interested in specific decisions, even huge ones like the budget, than I am in helping to create space on an ongoing basis for employees to be included in decision-making generally.

But, on the subject of the budget. I don't think your average employee wants to be involved in the nitty-gritty of determining how much we set aside to buy nuts and bolts. But I do think we should have a role in contributing to the big decisions that determine how much financial profit will be left at the end of the year: e.g. how much building work, how much expansion, how much for salary increase and how much for dividend.

Addressing the very specific point of worker remuneration, I would like to see the opportunity before the next round of pay raises, after the end of the Financial Year 2015 (June 2015), for employees to be asked for their views on how much of the monies that have been set aside for their compensation (salary increases, benefit increases and dividend), what ratio of those monies should be attributed to each.

Now, the overriding issue. How do we find a way to allow workers to feel that they are being included in decision-making that affects them, where they feel that their views on topics at all levels (department, store and co-op) are genuinely being sought, are being listened to, and then have some influence on the decisions made?

I have no interest in advancing my own views. They have been well canvassed elsewhere. What I would like is to help to create the space where all employees can have their opinions heard on what they would like to see by way of more inclusion in decision-making.

Deborah already wrote to me that you and she were going to review the Board Policy in this regard. I wasn't terribly happy with that response. I don't think that you and Deborah should be doing that on your own. I suggested that you might, through the 'Market Messenger,' invite the views of employees before undertaking your review, publishing the results, and seeking further input. We differed a bit on how one might word that invitation. But you seemed essentially to be in agreement.

I'm not sure it is sensible to attempt much more than that at this point. If there is an overwhelming and varied response to the invitation, it may well be that one wants to revisit the idea of a more formal consultation exercise or even a task force. But, why not let employees have their first shot at sharing what they want? Allowing them the opportunity to help to design how they might become more involved in decision-making.

I look forward to the more general invitation in the 'Market Messenger,' and hopefully to some inclusion in the making of the big decisions that affect employee remuneration in the setting of the next budget.

In the meantime, I will hold my Formal Complaint/Proposal in abeyance, pending the progress that we discussed. Many thanks.

All the best,

So. Over to all of you now. Make it count.