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November 4th, 2005

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Jhb Organisation: Part Two

Hi again

This is the second part of the promised overview of the Jhb club organisation. In Part One, we discussed briefly the recent history of the club, and outlined the reasons for the current activities.

The draft Articles of Operation can be found here. There are three documents – the working draft of the entire document, and two separate versions of Article 6, each outlining a different mechanism for appointing persons to fill offices in the clubs. (Since then, we’ve discovered another, and that will be discussed). Only the main features of these documents will be discussed below, and I try to highlight those things that we think might be misunderstood. You’re still encouraged to read the documents and make comments based on that reading.

This draft, at the moment, is the work of myself, Tristen and Dave.
Steve Kroon (Stellenbosch) has also made input and that will be
discussed.

Part Two: Main Features of the draft Articles of Operation

Firstly, when we set about doing this, we agreed to try to organise the club in such a way that the best features of the current daily operation were retained. This required that we try to generally identify those features, which we duly did, and that identification underlies the rest of the document. So it helps to go through that quickly, and then bear it in mind when assessing our success.

The features we identified as good, in no particular order, were:

– minimal administrative functions
– easy, comprehensive and participatory decision-making
– swift enaction of made decisions

We also identified a trend in the club towards greater general member participation, and we spent some time trying to think about how to organise without accidentally putting an end to that. So that left us with fairly clear lines of attack.

a) In service of the benefits of minimum administrative hassle, we agreed to try identify and define the minimum necessary roles and functions that the club could get away with, and still continue to work,

b) and at the same time, in service of the trend towards member activity, we agreed to try further this, if possible, by defining a forum for members to decide themselves what things should happen, and how they should happen.

We identified three main roles, called (rather grandly) Asset Secretary, Information Secretary and Member. If you attend the club regularly you will recognise these by their other, more common names, respectively “person who collects the R5”, “person who inputs the game records”, and “hey, you – want a game?”.

These roles are expanded slightly, to cover other situations and you’re welcome to review Articles 4 and 5 for the details.

We have a definition of membership that’s quite open – basically the criteria are that you come to the club, and that you call yourself ‘member’. Fortunately this opens us to no real risk, since it confers on you no power other than the power to say ‘member’. Any member can table a proposition, and decisions are decided by vote, but members only get voting rights on any particular proposition if they have recorded at least 5 games in the 6-month period preceding that vote. (Hat-tip to Steve Kroon here, for pointing out that our definitions of voting rights were contradictory.) The point of this is to try give significant power of veto or support, at any given time, to the persons most likely to be affected by a proposition – namely, the active members of the club at that time. In general we’ve left the rest of the club matters right where we think it should be – in the hands of its members – that’s you.

Article 7 is an attempt to create channels for debate and discussion and I think it partly succeeds and partly fails. Overall I think it worked out OK, though it bears the scars of its infancy and adolescence in too many loose-ends. Hence the clumsy caveat at the head of that article addressing the (incorrectly) created impression that a member must vote on anything he or she does. That’s wrong. Club members should vote on things that affect them, either through disposition of club assets held in common (sets being loaned out, sold, given away), or through changing club management (getting new officers), or through changing club organisation (amendments to the articles of operation). I think Article 7 is sound in principle, and
probably needs to be tightened up in description.

It should be noted, by the way, that I regard the name of the club, for example, as an (intangible) asset held in common, and capable of being disposed of. I’m not sure whether that needs definition, but if it does, then we will insert a paragraph to that effect, defining what is meant by ‘asset’, in terms of this document. Volunteers to draft
that paragraph are welcome.

Article 8 describes voting. Steve Kroon has (I think rightly) pointed out that certain of the provisions verge on the punitive. It is, for example, very difficult to create a constitutional amendment and have it ratified. On the on hand I agree with him, and I want to see a document that is responsive to member needs. On the other hand, I do
want it to be more difficult to change the constitution than take a nap. We are a club formed for playing Go, as I said to him, not one formed to tinker with our operation. Nevertheless, I think he’s right, and I think that these provisions need to be looked at closely, since they’re effectively the engine of the whole thing.

Article 6, of which there are two separate versions, describes the mechanisms by which officers are identified and ratified for positions. The two main divisions are:

– selection by nomination and vote, (the ‘normal’ process) and
– selection by rotation (with each officer giving way to the next in a sequence)

(For completeness sake, I should add that there is a third possibility, namely selection by lottery, with the incumbent officer barred from the lottery. We haven’t included it, but I like it too, and you’re all welcome to debate its merits.)

The weaknesses of nomination are mainly the administration, and the tendency to devolve onto a small pool of office-holders who are repeatedly invoked for office. The weaknesses of rotation lie mainly in the difficulties of enforcing succession.

Steve Kroon inadvertently, I think, discovered a variation on the ‘selection by rotation’ idea, when he suggested rotation based on rank. This is potentially interesting. (Imagine, for example, a process whereby the two roles are filled by starting at either end of the rank spectrum and rotating inward to the centre.)

I encourage everyone to take a little time and read the documents. It’s 7 or 8 pages of large type with lots of white spaces, and you’ll only need to do it once to get the gist of the process. Whatever you choose, it’s what you’ll live with. Once that process is done – and we’re aiming at finishing all this in the next week or two – we’ve been constitutionalised, and the next thing that will happen is that we’ll fill the club’s offices. The sooner we do this, the sooner we get to exercising our rights as members by deciding what tournaments we want (I want 9×9 and lightning go tournaments, for what it’s worth), and what we’re going to do about Aketa-sensei and his desire to teach for an extended period in SA.

Posted by dael as Joburg, News at 11:08 AM, 1 Comment »

November 3rd, 2005

Jhb Organisation: Part One

Hi all

This is the first part of a two-part update about the re-organisation of the Joburg Club.

Briefly the club is reconstituting, finally, after a constitutional void of roughly two and a half years. There’s a draft document in circulation that describes the proposed Articles of Operation, and if it’s adopted, it will govern the club’s organisation and activities onward. If you haven’t seen it, (a) you didn’t come to the meeting on Tuesday and therefore missed the overview that was provided, and (b) I suggest you let me know and I’ll send it to you.

This (first) post will cover the background in brief, providing a canned overview of the events leading up to the drafting of the proposed Articles of Operation. The follow-up (second) post will describe the Articles of Operation themselves, touching on some of the less obvious points, and define the (hoped-for) process of discussion, voting and adoption of the Articles, as well as mention the events that will necessarily follow.

Part One: The History

About two and a half years ago, the Johannesburg Club ran into difficulty, partly the consequence of confusion between the Club and SAGA about roles (some members sharing roles on both bodies), partly due to the loss of equipment in a foreclosure that we were merely innocent bystanders to, partly due to our venues dropping like flies, and partly due to a general ennui and malaise affecting the entire world as it realised that we were really going to be stuck with George Bush, whether we liked it or not.

At that time, the club suffered the unexpected loss of its sitting officers and club administration disappeared like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Regarding the club as effectively de-constitutionalised, Tristen Taylor and myself stepped into the vacancies, collecting cash, keeping books, organising tournaments and trying to re-equip the club. We weren’t elected and while we organised the recovery, we formalised no roles. We just did it (R0.01 to Nike, for the use of the phrase.) The result of this was the continuity of the club to the present day.

In June last year I went in to retreat and some of you may remember that around that time, in an effort to be more representative, we gathered at Emmarentia dam and semi-formally agreed that Dave Gale, who’d been helping all along, would be recognised as the new general factotum, grand pahooney and organised loon. That worked too.

During this period, Dave and Tristen and I, and a variety of other people, whom we drafted on an ad-hoc basis, defined the current club. We learned quite a lot in the process. Now for reasons shortly to be outlined, we are ready to re-constitute the club – that is, to give it back an organised structure and a regular rota of faces in official positions. What we hope to do at the same time, is incorporate the lessons learned over the past few years into the club, in the hope of keeping the current ‘can-do’ approach. Hence the Articles of Operation.

Why do this now?

Firstly, on principle alone, the Club should have some explicit rules of operation, and these should be rules that the Club members agree with, and are happy to be bound by. Otherwise, working or not, it’s a crock.

Secondly, one of the problems we’ve identified in the past is that practical knowledge about club activities and organisation tends to accrue to a small group of members only, and that puts the club at risk in the event that they stop coming, die, emigrate or evaporate. Formal rules for the rotation of roles through the ranks of club members is one way to try to have knowledge and experience distributed.

Thirdly, Tristen and Dave are tired and want to run away. I’m leery about stepping in again informally. I’d rather we did this right.

Lastly, the Club needs to be properly constituted in order to be recognised by SAGA, according to their constitution.

(More to follow in Part Two)

Posted by dael as Joburg, News at 1:03 PM, No Comments »