practical guide

Submitted by vlanto on Sun, 2008-08-10 12:58.

First of all: Welcome!  Hope your travel here went well.

- D.I.Y (Do It Yourself) ;1
- Program, Food, Money ;2
- Infopoint ;3
- Decision making, Spokes Council ;4
- Taking photos ;5
- Small facts about Greece + Tick Alert! ;6

1; DIY gathering. This meeting is DIY (Do it yourself). That means that even if some people have taken the initiative to organize it and have prepared some of it, we are all responsible and have to take care of the gathering (program, food, money, cleaning, atmosphere…)

From the centralized PGA gathering in Dijon 2006:
Unlike most massive political events, PGA conferences aim to blur the border between the organizers and the consumers of such political gatherings.

We’ve tried to conciliate practical necessities and things we really wish: avoid too much specialization, have everybody take part in the organization of daily life, avoid having just a few people managing the whole thing, so as not to end up with people getting burned out and/or having a huge amount of power over the whole of the organization process.

2; Program. Some workshops and discussions are already on the program. Of course, you are welcome to complete it. How to: 1. Choose the day and time that you want to have your meeting. 2. Choose the space where you want to do it. 3. Write the title of the meeting and a short description of what it’s about. Food. The food is vegan and vegetarian. Each day we need people to cook. Sign a name or a symbol on the volunteers lists and join the fun. Money. Unfortunately capitalism isn’t already destroyed and we have to pay for food and so on. The cost is around 4-6 euros per day. You can estimate by yourself what you can or want to pay.

3; Infopoint. Get all the info you want and need from the people at the infopoint, cause that’s what they’re there for.

4; PGA process – Decision making, Spokes Council.

>The flower - a decision making model. One big group breaks into smaller discussion groups. Proposals are made in the smaller groups and then shared with the larger group through a spokes person (a person chosen to speak for the group). The spokes persons of the groups sit in a circle with their affinity group sitting behind them. The affinity groups have a possibility to break in and correct or add information if needed.

When the proposals have been made, the large group breaks into the smaller affinity groups once again to discuss the different proposals, and then back again to share proposals with the larger group through spokes persons. The process continues the same way until consensus can be reached.

>Affinity group. Is a group of people that share common ideals and affinity. If people do not have an existing affinity group or prefer to work with people they do not already know some attempt will be made to create a space for forming temporary groups for the purpose of the spokes council.

>Consensus. Means to agree, to compromise until everybody can agree on something. It’s a method to practice direct democracy. It doesn’t mean that everybody should be of the same opinion. It simply means that it’s possible to agree on a decision that everybody can accept.

To be facilitated by a rotating group, 2 spotters, 2 minutes-takers, at any one time.

The spokes council will then be divided into five part of forty minutes dealing with each agenda item in turn. Discussion on each item will be suspended after this time so that consensus can be reached on the uncontroversial decisions from each agenda item. Controversial decisions will be given a chance to continue at the end if there is time left. (Remember we do not have to have consensus on everything sometimes it is not possible.)

Within each 40 minute agenda item each group will have 20 minutes to discuss the proposal amongst themselves. During this time member of the working group that produced the proposal will be available for questions and clarifications if group ask.

After this spokes person from each group will be asked first if their group has any alternative proposals / amendments, secondly if there is anything that they feel they need to block. (Any block will require an explanation). Any issue that is not mentioned by any group will become PGA consensus. Thirdly they will be asked if they have any new consensus on the agenda item in question.

Discussion will then only progress on the Blocks, amendments / alternative proposals and new proposals. The spokes person will speak for their group that will be standing around them in order to interact with them at any time. This will continue until consensus is reached or the time runs out.

5; Photos / Film. Is a sensitive issue for some persons. Always ask. Some have a pretty left profile. Some look good from the right. Some like to have their picture taken from the knees down (greek style). Others not at all.

6; Small facts about Greece. the sun: is strong, and you’ll go funny in the head and get skin cancer if you expose yourself to it for more than 20 minutes during the hottest time of the day (around 12 – 5 o’clock) tap water: is drinkable ticks* can be deadly! there’s some weird virus spread through ticks in the area. ticks are not common in the cities, but one person has died from a tick bite in Alexandroupoli, so in this case: DON’T do it yourself, take your tick to the local hospital and let them remove it for you. No kidding, this is serious serious.

* a tick is the bloodsucking little animal you usually find on dogs. the ones that bite and stay stuck on you for several days.

Meeting Techniques: 4 LESS CONFUSION ( & MORE INCLUSION )

Some basic hand signals
Minutes (fancy word for notes)
Sarcasm / Irony
Meaning of PC


One hand in the air. “I want to speak”

Two hands in the air. Direct & *short* response. You want to directly react to something the last speaker said.

Waving both hands, twinkling. “I agree”

Moving your hands (palms) up. “Speak louder”

Moving your hands (palms) down. “Speak slower”

Index finger and thumb in L-shape. “Language / Translation”

Wiggling your fingers in front of your face. “I don’t follow the discussion anymore / Another explanation is necessary.”

The speaker is repeating theirself. Nothing new is added. So“Wrap it up. Time to finish, and move on.”(use this sign with care)

T-shape. Technical point. “Food is ready. House is on fire…”

No sign for disagreeing in order to maintain a positive atmosphere. If you disagree. Raise your hand in the air, and give an explanation why.


Consensus decision making
Consensus is the agreement of all involved parties. We try to reach consensus in gatherings so all individuals can take part in the decisions over their own life in the gathering. The proposed consensus can be blocked by anyone who has strong objections also this power has to be exercised with utmost care and responsibility. In the following paragraphs we describe the most important methods that help the process.

The facilitator
Each individual is responsible to ensure that everybody has equal say in the meeting and that the discussion stays relevant. However especially when many people come together the need arises for a person who explicitly facilitates the meeting.

The facilitator (also known as moderator) has an active guiding role. The facilitator guides the discussion while making sure that each person is allowed to say their piece and that participants listen to each other and take each other seriously. She ensures a clear structure for agenda, agenda points in a logical order, and make sure that the meeting sticks to these points. The facilitator ensures that each point is introduced properly and that as many people as possible take active roles in the decision making process. She gives the word and periodically updates the participants on the status of the meeting, like which agenda point is under discussion, what are the major proposals and arguments, how much time remains to reach a consensus. If she smells that consensus maybe near, she summarizes the current proposal and asks the participants if they accept it.

In big and complicated meetings it is good to divide the roles and powers of the facilitator between several people. For example someone can keep a list of people who are waiting to speak and give the word, while another person takes care that the meeting constructively follows the agenda, and a third person ensures that the atmosphere stays under control.

The minute-taker
The minute-taker’s role in the meeting is equally important as that of the facilitator. The minute-taker listens closely to the arguments and writes them down as well as the decisions made. Good and complete minutes avoid misunderstanding. It’s important that the reader gets a complete picture of the discussion, the arguments exchanged and the decisions taken. When a degree of secrecy is required, the minute-taker can use only nicknames or perhaps completely omit reference to individuals.

The consensus meeting method
In consensus meetings, the group chooses the facilitator and minute-taker at the start of the meeting. Then, after a round of proposals the agenda is decided upon. If an agenda point is not explained well or is unclear, then reaching a good conclusion and decision is already impossible before discussion has even started.

Step one: When an agenda point doesn’t cause much discussion, then consensus can sometimes already be achieved after the first discussion.

Step two: When there are objections, probably more discussion and / or clarification is necessary. In order to avoid discussing all objections at the same time, a list can be made of the objections. This can then be grouped according to the type of objection.

Step three: Each group of objections is considered one by one. For each objection you try to reach a satisfying solution which shows considerations for the objections, then you try again to see if there is consensus.

Step four: If that’s not the case, then the point is obviously so sensitive that more discussion is necessary. You then note the remaining objections and ask the objectors for more clarification. Then you ask what would remove the objection. You do this for each individual objection.


ANTI-OPPRESSION ( All together now…)

Methods of Domination .1
Eye-Contact .2
Active Listening .3
Gender Stacking / First Speaker .4
Small groups .5
Oppressive Realities & Showing Sensitivity 6.

1. Methods of Domination. Making Invisible Are certain people talking all the time? Do some people only have eye-contact with each other? Are your suggestions ignored or are others gazing through their calendars or looking at their phones while you are talking? Is someone repeating what you have just said, and proposing it as their own suggestion? Ridiculing Are your suggestions laughed at or made fun of? Are you treated like a child? Are people saying that they know your suggestions wouldn’t work “cause it’s already been tried ten years ago”? Withholding information Does somebody in the group have all the important information? Does the discussion begin without presentation of the same information to all the participants? Are people swapping information without sharing with the rest of the group? Double punishment “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Is everything wrong no matter what you do? Are others saying you are not participating if you are quiet and that you are dominant if you are suggesting something? Blaming & Shaming Blaming happens through ridicule and double punishment. Blaming is what is done when people are judging you more for who you are than for what you do. This technique can be seen at a societal level in the way women who have been raped feel shame and blame ourselves for what has been done to us.

2. Eye-contact. Hierarchies and cliques are easily created by giving or not giving eye-contact. In order to avoid status-making, try to have eye-contact with everyone in the group. Not only with the most talkative ones.

3. Active Listening. The most common problem at meetings is that people don’t listen to each other. Active listening consists in really concentrating on listening to the person speaking, looking at the person and make an effort to show the same respect to all speakers. Without shaking your head, making faces, sighing or trying to interrupt.

4. Gender Stacking / First Speaker : To break with the monotony of having the same persons doing all the talk-talk-talk (a few brains doing all the speaking-out-loud thinking in the group), it can be super rewarding and fun putting new speakers (regardless of gender) and women (and why not other oppressed groups?) first in the speaking order. That is, if the facilitator spots someone who hasn’t said anything before >> they get to be number one on the speakers list. With gender stacking speakers go >> woman-man-woman-man, and since women usually speak less, this means that they also go first in the speaking order.

5. Small groups. Are more fun! And efficient! In every group there’s usually only 5-7 persons speaking. Splitting a large group into smaller groups is a good way of getting more interaction and ideas going. Then you go back to the large group and share!

6. Oppressive Realities & Showing Sensitivity.

SARCASM / IRONY brings about confusion in environments with a lot of new information (culture, language etc). keeping it simple makes it easier for us to get to know and understand each other.

PC world. At this gathering we have a great opportunity to learn from each others political sensibilities. Striving towards being Politically Correct is not about judging and finding faults. None of us is perfect. But we can sure as hell make an effort to be nice.