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I have been a long time member of a local expat community and have been serving on the committee for many years. We have been ticking along quite nicely for ages, organising a few events a year, sometimes new people joined the committee, some got bored and left. All very informal, consensus based and working well.

Since last year, however, one committee member began inviting more and more of her friends to our meetings, over time essentially taking over the committee by that group of close friends who are now almost in a position to outnumber any voting, any decision making, steering the community their way. Needless to say some long term members had enough and left, which further strengthens the newcomers numbers.

Currently our constitution permits new committee members to be voted in by the existing members present on a meeting and they immediately assume all rights - namely voting about events, money, etc. That's clearly suboptimal and is already causing problems.

Why they do it? I'm not entirely sure - we are only a small community, some 200 members across the town and a few hundreds dollars of annual budget. No big money, no big influence, the committee members are volunteers and not paid, sure they may score a free beer here or there but other than that no idea why they even bother... Must be an ego thing I guess. "Hey I'm a committee member, see!"

How to deal with this?

We decided to update our constitution after many years to deal with the problem before it's too late.

One idea is to introduce two levels of committee membership - New member and Active member. People could earn the Active member status by being the main organisers of an event for the benefit of the whole community. Only Active members could vote during the meetings on all questions while New members could only vote on issues directly related to the event/project they are organising (if any - most don't seem to bother working for the community at all, they only bother to eagerly agree with everything their mates say). This setup should effectively block the newcomers from running the show before "proving themselves". What do you think? Is it a good approach?

Have you got any other idea on how to deal with this kind of unwelcome "hijacking" of a committee?

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  • I'm not sure how well this works here, but it might be a better fit on Community Building. – cpast Mar 9 '15 at 4:48
  • @cpast Seems that the governance is ontopic. – user4012 Mar 9 '15 at 20:58
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0) Put up with it, you may be in a legitimate minority position

1) Counter stack: out organise by bringing people into the group

2) Require commitment for membership: dues, organising by time commitment, etc.

3) Institute candidate membership based on periods of time before people qualify to vote (a meeting, a year)

4) Restrict membership arbitrarily

5) Discuss the issue out with the recruiter in a setting outside the group seeking resolution

6) Discuss the issue with the recruited body in the meeting, win them to your position

7) Anti-democratic bureaucracy, such as replacing membership control with executive control

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  • Thanks that's a comprehensive list of options, definitely a food for thought. Thanks again! – MLu Mar 10 '15 at 0:05
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  • Make committee member elections scheduled events that happen annually or semi annually, vacancies that need to be filled between elections should be by appointment. Appointment should be done by president with confirmation of the rest of committee, or a vote by quorum of committee at a meeting scheduled for that purpose in advance.
  • require attendance to previous meetings before a person is eligible to become a voting member, ie must attend 3 of the last 5 meetings to be eligible to become a committee member.
  • institute a quorum rule.
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  • We would like to keep it as informal as possible so the rule should be something simple as "you don't work - you don't vote". But thanks for the ideas indeed :) – MLu Mar 10 '15 at 0:07

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