Animal Rebellion UK’s Constitution
Guiding & Empowering The RebellionVersion 2 – February 2022 We pursue great demands, but we sometimes make mistakes. We are all crew together, but we often disagree. We want to distribute power and responsibility, but we’re challenged to do this and stay coherent as a movement. This Constitution provides a set of agreements to guide us in making decisions when we don’t know how. It is a modest tool in pursuit of immodest goals. Self-organising keeps us agile – able to draw on collective wisdom, but free from unnecessary interference. It cannot guarantee success, but it reduces the chances of us failing. As of July 2022 the Anchor Team was renamed the Mission Team.
B. Basic Principles
C. The Self-Organising System
Animal Rebellion UK Organism Structure
Roles Within A Circle
Joining A Circle & Asking People To Leave
How To Make Decisions
A. Introduction What this is, who it’s for, & how it changes
- This document defines the Self-Organising System for Animal Rebellion UK.
- To achieve our demands and see real progress in tackling the animal, climate and ecological emergencies we need our movement to work rapidly and effectively. The Self-Organising System provides an alternative to traditional ways of organising that empowers rebel teams to make decisions independently within agreed parameters. Through this system the movement entrusts groups with the responsibility to make the best decisions they can in a timely fashion so that we can be successful.
- The Constitution was originally created for XR using many of the principles of Holacracy, and was modified and formally adopted by Animal Rebellion UK’s Anchor Circle in Summer 2019. XR updated their Constitution in the Summer of 2021 with Animal Rebellion’s Anchor and SOS circles updating the Constitution at the beginning of 2022.
- The rules in this Constitution apply to everyone in the same way – there are no privileged classes, no exceptions.
- The rules appear in bold text, explanations and recommendations in plain text.
- All circles and roles represented within UK Anchor and its sub-circles are bound by the Animal Rebellion UK Constitution.
- It’s not complete or perfect; it’s always a work in progress, which will evolve as needed.
- If you have any feedback about how the Self-Organising System is working in Animal Rebellion UK, or you need training or support with implementing the System in your group or circle, then do please email the Self Organising System Circle.
- Minor changes to this document can be made by the SOS circle. Any significant changes must be approved by both Anchor and the SOS circle, using the Integrative Decision Making process.
B. Basic Principles
- The Self-Organising System is designed to enable groups to act quickly and be responsive to fast-changing situations when needed, and at the same time integrate the wisdom of multiple perspectives and harness collective intelligence when helpful.
- The System is based on distributed authority – groups and individuals within groups are given the authority and the responsibility to make decisions and do things by clear mandates that are created and agreed upon by the wider team.
- This means that we only use group decision-making when it’s necessary, and not for everything. (Group decision-making can take a lot of time and energy.)
- The structure of the System ensures that there is transparency about who is doing what and promotes communication between related teams so that we can work with a common purpose across a large number of groups.
- The System helps us embody two of our Principles and Values : that we are based on autonomy and decentralisation, and that we embrace collaborative power. (Values 7 & 10)
C. The Self Organising System
1. Animal Rebellion UK Structure
– How it all fits together…
- Animal Rebellion UK is a movement of groups and teams working autonomously in different parts of the country, or on different kinds of projects.
- Throughout this document we will use the word circle to refer to any collection of rebels who have come together in a group or team to work with a common purpose.
- Representatives from individual circles come together in broader circles, to share information and coordinate activities. And any circle can also create sub-circles to delegate some of its work to. The result is a series of circles sitting within one another like a set of Russian dolls.
- For example, Anchor is currently the broadest circle, and contains representatives from all the super-circles of the UK. For example; Anchor has delegated some of its responsibility to the Movement Growth Circle, which in turn has delegated some of its responsibility to the Integration Circle. You can see the overall picture in this diagram.
- Each circle must have its own mandate which will be defined by one or more of the following:-
- a purpose – the reason the circle exists / what it is working towards, as a smaller part of the purpose of the whole organism;
- some accountabilities – the ongoing work that the circle does, what tasks the circle is responsible for; and
- a domain – the resources or processes that the circle is responsible for, and which can’t be changed without their permission.
- Advice on how to write mandates can be found in Mandates And How To Write Them, together with some examples.
- Each circle is autonomous and self-governing within its mandate. This means that it’s up to them how they work within their area of responsibility.
- A sub-circle is also a part of the broader circle, to which they are accountable for the work that they do.
- A member of each sub-circle attends meetings of the broader circle, to ensure that information flows in both directions and that issues are addressed at the appropriate level of scale.
- The Animal Rebellion UK structure is published and available to all Animal Rebellion UK rebels on Glassfrog.
- All resources and processes are the domain of the Anchor Circle until they’ve been specifically delegated to another role or circle; and all decision-making authority also sits with Anchor until delegated to the mandate of another role or circle.
- Projects may emerge which don’t easily fit into the existing structure; for example, a project which involves people from multiple circles. In this case, we recommend that one role takes the lead on the project, and then creates an ad-hoc project team to do the work with people from wherever relevant.
2. Roles Within A Circle
– Creating responsibility for getting things done
- It is recommended that, wherever possible, all ongoing work within a circle is devolved to individuals in clearly defined roles with written mandates. This increases clarity and reduces potential confusion and conflict about who is doing what.
- Roles must be created or amended using the Integrative Decision Making process.
- When a circle defines a mandate for a role, the authority for whatever is included in that mandate is devolved from the circle to the role. This means decisions about whatever falls within that mandate are no longer taken at a circle level, but instead are made by the role-holder.
- Role-holders remain bound by this Constitution, and the policies of their role, circle and broader circles, and will need to get permission to impact the domain of any other role or circle.
- At a minimum, each circle must elect an Internal Coordinator, to be responsible for the healthy functioning of the circle, and an External Coordinator, responsible for liaising with the next broadest circle.
- The mandates for these roles can be found in Working Group Core Roles, along with other suggested roles that may be useful. The mandate of the Internal Coordinator can be divided between two or more people, if that makes it easier to do. (Suggestions on how to do this can be found in the short presentation : Arranging the Core Roles.)
- Each circle can define other roles in whatever way serves their work. But mandates for roles must always form part of the existing mandate of the circle creating them.
- A role can be dissolved by the broader circle using the Integrative Decision Making process. The role-holder will be included in the decision.
– Increasing effectiveness and de-centralisation
- When you have too many people attending meetings of a circle, it may be more effective to divide the work between sub-circles.
- All decisions to create a sub-circle, amend its mandate, move or dissolve it must be made using the Integrative Decision Making process.
- To create a new sub-circle, the broader circle must define and consent to the sub-circle’s mandate. This must form part of the existing mandate of the circle creating it, and cannot already form part of the mandate of another sub-circle.
- The broader circle may also delegate part or all of a domain to the new sub-circle.
- The broader circle will then elect the new Internal Coordinator of the sub-circle and task them with deciding what roles will be needed and how they will be populated.
- The broader circle has a responsibility to support the work of its sub-circles and ensure they are functioning healthily, and at the same time to review their work and hold them accountable.
- The External Coordinator of a sub-circle is responsible for communicating the strategy and work of the broader circle to their circle, so that the work of the sub-circle aligns with that broader strategy.
- The mandate of a sub-circle can only be changed by the broader circle. The sub-circle’s External Coordinator will be included in the decision.
- If the broader circle is unhappy with the way in which a sub-circle is fulfilling its mandate, the first step will normally be to offer feedback to the sub-circle’s External Coordinator. If this doesn’t allow difficulties to be resolved, then some form of conflict process may be appropriate.
- A sub-circle can be dissolved by the broader circle. The sub-circle’s External Coordinator will be included in the decision.
- If a sub-circle is dissolved its mandate will return to the broader circle.
- Sometimes it may be necessary to move a sub-circle into a different broader circle. (This will not often be appropriate, as the mandate of a sub-circle must always be a delegated part of the mandate of its broader circle.) When it is appropriate to do so, the correct procedure is to move the sub-circle and its mandate into the broadest circle from which it can then be devolved into its new position (using the Integrative Decision Making process).
4. Policies – Preventing it all falling apart!
- A system which only has authority distributed into roles and circles could easily create chaos and fragmentation, if there was nothing to constrain the distributed authority and create alignment when needed.
- A policy is a specific expectation which either grants or restricts authority beyond the mandates of roles and circles.
- For example, the last sentence of the Introduction to this Constitution (A9) creates a policy about who can update it.
- Policies must be created using the Integrative Decision Making process.
- A policy that is created by a circle applies to all people, work and roles within that circle and any of its sub-circles, but not outside of that circle. For it to apply outside of the circle that created it, it would need to be adopted by a broader circle.
5. Choosing Role-Holders
– Who has power and how to challenge them
- The simplest way to decide who fills roles within a circle is to let people volunteer for the roles they want to fill. Where this option is used, the facilitator must check that there are no objections to the appointment from other members of the circle (see the Integrative Decision Making process below).
- Where a role holds a lot of power, or needs meaningful expertise, or if there are more volunteers than are needed, any member of the circle can ask for the appointment to be made by election.
- The Internal and External Coordinators of a circle must always be appointed by election.
- There are two options for electing someone to a role:
- The Integrative Election Process, or
- A simple majority vote.
- The Integrative Election Process allows the whole circle to reflect on what is required and who would best fill the need.
- The Integrative Election Process is as follows:
- The description of the role, the term of the appointment, and the qualities required to do it well are reviewed and agreed by the circle.
- There’s an opportunity for questions to clarify what is intended.
- Everyone writes down the name of someone they would like to nominate for the role.
- Nominations are shared, and each person in turn explains the positive reason(s) why they have nominated their suggested candidate (without commenting on other candidates).
- In the light of what they have heard, each person has the opportunity to change their nomination and give the positive reason(s) why.
- Having heard the different reasons for the nominations, and taking into account the agreed criteria for the role, the facilitator makes a proposal for who to elect.
- Everyone is asked if they have any objection to the proposal (see the Integrative Decision Making process below).
- If there are valid objections, the facilitator makes a new proposal that seeks to integrate them.
- When there are no longer any objections, the nominated candidate is elected.
- More information about the Integrative Election Process can be found on this webpage and in Nominations Process for Roles.
- The Integrative Election Process may be used in a shortened form with the consent of the circle.
- Where election is made by a simple majority vote, the facilitator must check that there are no objections to the appointment from other members of the circle (see the Integrative Decision Making process below).
- It is recommended that candidates have the opportunity to meet the circle before the election process. It may be appropriate to conduct the process in their absence, so that objections can be voiced more candidly.
- Role-holders must be appointed for fixed terms, which must be agreed before their appointment.
- Internal and External Coordinators must serve a maximum term of 6 months, so that elections are held at least every 6 months for these roles. This ensures that authority within a circle is refreshed at regular intervals. A Coordinator can stand for re-election at the end of their term.
- The Internal Coordinator of a circle keeps track of when re-elections need to be held.
- In some cases it may be appropriate for a single role to be filled by more than one person.
- Where a large number of people are being elected to fill a role, it may be preferable to use a different method such as single transferable votes.
- Role-holders are accountable to the broader circle. They must be asked to give regular updates on their work, and other circle members periodically invited to offer feedback or voice any concerns they may have. It is recommended that this is made a routine part of the cycle of the circle’s meetings, and not left until there is a specific problem or difficulty that needs attention.
- Any member of the circle may call for an election for any role-holder at any time.
- The External Coordinator of the circle must call for an election for Internal Coordinator at the request of the broader circle they sit on.
- If a role-holder wants to step down before the end of their term, they must let their Internal Coordinator know, so that someone else may be appointed, or the mandate discontinued.
6. Joining a Circle & Asking People to Leave
– Keeping things healthy
- To be a member of a working circle, all rebels must agree to act in alignment with Animal Rebellion’s Demands and Principles & Values and this Constitution. They must also read and agree to our Volunteer Agreement (this document includes the ten Principles & Values and the three Demands).
- To join a working circle rebels must be invited by the circle’s Internal Coordinator on the basis of an identified fit between work that needs to be done and their skills and abilities. Any existing working circle member can suggest someone be considered, and potential new members may be invited to attend a meeting as an observer as part of that consideration.
- In this system authority is earned – people earn the right to be a member of a circle and attend meetings by actively filling a role and working on at least one project for the circle. This prevents meetings being clogged up by people attending and sharing their views about how things should be done if they aren’t actually involved in any work.
- Conflict within circles can be difficult to manage. This can lead to people withdrawing from their work, or even the movement. It can also be a rich source of creativity and strength, if handled well.
- If it becomes apparent to the circle’s Internal Coordinator that a circle member is:
- not properly fulfilling their role’s mandate, or
- not doing any work in the circle, or
- violating Animal Rebellion’s Principles & Values, Ways of Working, Volunteer Agreement or this Constitution,
- Then the following steps must be taken:
- The Internal Coordinator has a direct conversation with that circle member to attempt to resolve any issues and help them meet their accountabilities.
- If that doesn’t resolve the issue, the Internal Coordinator brings the difficulty to the whole circle for feedback and review.
- The circle and circle member may agree to use the conflict steps outlined in our Conflict System document.
- If a resolution can’t be reached after two or more reasonable attempts have been made, the Internal Coordinator may ask the circle to vote on whether to exclude the circle member from the circle.
7. How To Make Decisions
– Moving things forward together
The following ways of making decisions must be used for the following situations:-
Decisions to create or amend policies or mandates for roles & sub-circles
- These decisions must always be made collectively in meetings, because the views of the whole circle need to be integrated when distributing authority. Collective decisions can be made at any formal meeting of a circle. There are no attendee or quorum restrictions, but all circle members must be given reasonable notice of the meeting and enough time to consider the proposal.
- The facilitator must use the following Integrative Decision Making process:
- A person presents a proposal for a new policy, role or sub-circle, or to change an existing one, explaining the need that the proposal is seeking to address. (A guide to writing proposals is contained in A Guide To Writing Proposals.)
- Whoever needs to can ask clarifying questions. Only questions to better understand the proposal are allowed. No reactions. The proposer can answer.
- Each person, one at a time, gives their reactions to the proposal. No discussion or cross talk. If the meeting is online, no typing in the chat. The proposer does not react.
- The proposer can amend the proposal if they want to based on the reactions they have heard. This is optional. Only the proposer speaks at this step. The proposer can also respond to some of the reactions where helpful. No other discussion or feedback.
- The facilitator asks each person in turn if they have any objection to the proposal. This is not the same as asking if they like it, agree with it, or think it’s the best way forward. The question is not “Do you think this is a good idea?” or “Is this how you would have designed things?”, but rather “Do you object to giving this a go?” or “Is this safe enough to try?”. Objections are often helpful, as they may alert the circle to consequences that haven’t yet been fully considered. They are a welcome part of the process of making a good decision. Circle members respond from the perspective of their role, not their personal opinion.
- For an objection to be valid,
- Either all of the following conditions must apply:
- The objection must be a reason that the proposal causes harm – where harm is defined as degrading the ability of the circle to achieve its mandate; and
- The proposal must limit the objector from achieving the mandate of one of their roles; and
- The objection must be created by the proposal and not exist already; and
- The objector must give a reason why they are reasonably sure the harm will happen or why they don’t consider the proposal safe enough to try;
- Or the grounds for objection must be that the proposal goes against a policy of the circle or its broader circles, or breaks a rule in the Constitution, or clearly violates Animal Rebellion’s Principles and Values or the Volunteer Agreement.
- Either all of the following conditions must apply:
- If there are no objections, the proposal is accepted.
- If there are objections, the facilitator speaks with the objector to help clarify whether their objection meets the conditions above. It is the facilitator’s job to determine this. They do not consult the other circle members, but they must explain their reasoning. If in doubt, objections are considered valid. If the objections are not deemed valid, then the proposal is accepted.
- If there are valid objections, then the facilitator may decide either to process them immediately if they seem resolvable, or to suggest they are processed outside the meeting so that it doesn’t take up everyone else’s time.
- To process valid objections, the proposer integrates them where possible by adapting the proposal so that the objections no longer exist.
- The facilitator holds another objection round for the integrated proposal.
- Once there are no further objections the proposal is accepted and recorded on the Circle’s Glassfrog.
- For what seems to be a minor or non-contentious proposal the following short version of this process may be used instead:
- The facilitator asks if there are any clarifications needed or any objections to the proposal. If there aren’t any, they ask for a show of hands to formally indicate no objections.
- More support for using the Integrative Decision Making process can be found on the Governance Meeting instruction sheet.
- This process will not normally be used to make operational decisions, as these will be made by the role-holders with the relevant mandates.
- As a last resort, if the process above has been tried without arriving at a decision, and there is either:
- a reason the decision needs to be made in the current meeting, or
- if an item is being processed in its third meeting,
- If the vote is tied, then a casting vote is made by the circle’s External Coordinator. If the External Coordinator isn’t present, then the casting vote passes to the Internal Coordinator. If neither Coordinator is present then one person is chosen at random to give the casting vote.
Decisions where a role has been given a mandate
- All role-holders may make decisions about any issues covered by their mandate. These decisions are made outside of meetings.
- Where a decision is relatively straightforward, won’t greatly affect others, or needs to be made quickly, a role-holder may make that decision entirely on their own.
- Where a decision is likely to be more contentious or affect other roles or circles, and there is enough time to do so, a role-holder must consult other people who will be meaningfully affected, as well as those with relevant expertise.
- The idea is to create transparency, and collect input proportional to the impact of the decision, not require unnecessary delay or a burdensome number of meetings. The precise balance of how much or how little feedback to seek is up to the role-holder to decide.
- Once they have heard all the advice and perspectives they have received, the role-holder decides on what they believe to be the best course of action. The point is not to create a watered-down compromise that accommodates everybody’s wishes, it is about accessing collective wisdom in pursuit of a sound decision.
- More information on how to use this Advice Process can be found on this webpage.
All other decisions
- If a circle is set up correctly with clear role-holders, there will rarely be anything that doesn’t fall into the two categories above. For any other decision which falls within the circle’s mandate and is not covered by a specific role, the facilitator may decide which decision-making process to use. For example, they may:
- delegate the decision to a circle member, or
- simply seek agreement from circle members, or
- test for levels of support by show of hands, or
- use any other decision-making tool, or (if all else fails)
- take a vote.
- Suggestions on how to choose which process to use can be found in XR’s On The Streets Decision Making Guide.
– Who decides?
- Every full member of a circle who is present at the relevant meeting may play a part in collective decision-making processes.
- Role-holders must represent the perspective of their role, not their personal opinions; and External Coordinators must represent the mandate of their sub-circle, not the opinions of its members.
- If the External Coordinator of a sub-circle is unable to attend a meeting, they may nominate another member of the sub-circle to attend in their place. The Internal Coordinator of the broader circle must be informed before the meeting.
- Anyone present as an observer does not take part.
- In the case of a vote, each member of a circle has one vote, regardless of how many roles they hold.
- Where a circle contains link roles from other circles (not the External Coordinators of its own sub-circles), they will not take part in the circle’s collective decision-making unless that is specifically agreed by the circle, either at the time of the role’s creation, or in relation to a specific decision.
- Where a decision does not fall within the circle’s mandate it will need to be taken to a broader circle for consideration.
– Making them more efficient and enjoyable
- It is recommended that meetings follow the format in the Meeting / Minutes Template or something like it or a facilitated meeting (Tactical or Governance or Tribe Space) on Glassfrog.
- Every meeting needs a facilitator, who may be an elected role-holder, or someone who volunteers at the start of the meeting. It may be helpful to rotate who facilitates from meeting to meeting, unless someone has been elected to the role. Where possible it is recommended that Coordinators do not facilitate meetings. Support and training for facilitators is available from the SOS circle. The Tactical Meeting Card is a cue sheet for the meeting facilitator to use in order to provide a good structure for the meeting.
- Good facilitation will support rebels who don’t know how the Self-Organising System works to contribute their energy and ideas.
- Some circles create the agenda in advance. Others build it at the start of the meeting.
- Meetings work better and are shorter if circle members prepare clear proposals in advance where possible. A guide to writing proposals is contained in A Guide To Writing Proposals.
- A successful meeting will strike a balance between operational issues (who’s doing what) and governance questions (how we choose to manage things).
- It is recommended to regularly devote some time to review the way the circle is working. (What is working well? What needs improving? What might we need to change about the way we work together?) Consideration of these questions may lead to the creation of new roles and policies.
- Minutes and meeting outputs must be kept somewhere all circle members can view them.
- All circle members are entitled to attend meetings of the circle, but there’s no obligation for them to be present at every meeting.
- There is no required quorum or number of people for a circle meeting to happen. It happens with whoever shows up, unless otherwise specified in a policy that a certain number or mix of people are required to be there for a meeting to be quorate. However, whoever schedules the meeting must give reasonable notice to all circle members before a meeting takes place.
- With the agreement of the circle, a circle member may invite someone who isn’t a member of the circle to attend a meeting to address a specific issue and the guest may only participate for the processing of that issue.
- With the agreement of the circle, someone may be invited to attend a circle meeting as an observer. Observers do not participate in the meeting unless invited to do so by the facilitator, and do not take part in decision-making processes.
– Creating transparency & improving communication
- Every circle within Animal Rebellion UK must publish and maintain an up to date profile on Glassfrog, including:
- their mandate (purpose, accountabilities, domains and policies);
- a way for others to contact them (eg email address, or Mattermost channel);
- the names and mandates of their Coordinators and other role-holders; and
- a list of current projects, if appropriate.
Appendix AMandate of the Animal Rebellion Anchor Circle
- Defining the purpose & strategy of Animal Rebellion, or defining the processes by which these are decided
- Defining mandates of all roles/teams/circles in the Animal Rebellion Anchor Circle and policies
- Deciding on the use of resources between roles/teams/circles in the Animal Rebellion Anchor Circle where not decided elsewhere
Appendix BCriteria & Conditions for Membership of a Working Group Other countries may want to adopt their own version of this policy to create a boundary for membership around their national working groups. It isn’t included in the constitution as different countries may want to do this in different ways and create their own custom versions.
We all want to see real and urgent change in meeting the climate and ecological emergencies.
May this Self-Organising System empower us to be the most effective movement we can be!
This version of the Constitution was revised from a version originated by Nick Osborne at evolvingorganisation.co You are free to copy this subject to these licence terms.