Roguish Democracy

20140112-104750.jpgAs much as one may like the thought of being a Dictator For Life, it has it’s detractions. If you think running a social group in this mode will work, think again. No-one will want to turn up, for starters. And one thing a Dictator loves is an audience.

When we set up Rogues the aim was to create a Chapter that all would enjoy. It seems to have worked. And it’s still evolving, which is even better. Of late there has been a ‘learn’, as they say: there can be a thing as too much democracy.

Democracy is good. Democracy, in my view, is vital. Consultation fosters engagement. When people feel they can influence a direction, they begin to feel ownership, to ‘come on the journey’ (business lingo bingo in action). Decisions are made and the direction of the journey starts to form organically to a majority pleasing format. People, generally, don’t like being told what to do.

There are some decisions that need to be made very early on, well before your first meeting. These are the ‘sticky’ ones, the biggies, the ‘what are the objectives and how do we keep them?’ decisions. Start with a small group of people whose views you respect and who can commit something to your group. It doesn’t have to be time; one of the Rogues was invited because his life experience was varied and respected. Everyone should feel able to kick around ideas. Eventually, these will form your core principles, your ‘constitution’. Agreements on your constitution should be a lot harder to change later on.

The flip side of this is that it helps to be in at the start. New members trying to influence change in an established organisation can feel like they are trying to turn the Queen Mary* from a sea-level dinghy, a couple of twigs and a serious dose of tennis elbow.

With democracy in the Chapter, trying to reach a consensus can be a bit time consuming. Not everyone has the time to (or wants to) engage in debate. Most people do not check emails obsessively (we have lives, and this is not work) or mails get lost amongst others that are more important; all sorts of things can happen.

In the meantime, the orchestrator (Dictator for Life) is waiting for an answer to progress and starts to wonder if everyone has entered the witness protection programme. Personally, I wouldn’t blame them.

I belong to another, much more informal, writing group that arose from a beginners writing class. We were the the hard core few that lasted until the end. A bunch of disparate strangers who would never have met if it were not for that course; we became friends. Two years on and we still meet regularly. Right from the start we agreed that decisions were to be made by those in the room at the time. Those unable to attend would be kept informed. By leaving it to a group decision we were in danger of never finding a mutually agreeable date to meet up.

Because of the way ay we set up Rogues, I felt nervous at suggesting moving in this direction, and began to feel a little frustrated at times. Then, in the January meet up, someone else suggested it to a resounding chorus of agreement. Marvellous!

* actually, I like to think that the Rogues Chapter is more fun and irreverent than the Queen Mary, more like this, because Roguies never say die, or possibly this, after a particularly hard day at work, we’ve all been there!


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