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Amending the TDG Constitution

When I published the first version of Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG) in 2000, I really didn’t have all the pieces together. The first version had a chapter on “Consultation,” which is a process where decision makers combine their knowledge, wisdom, and experience into one voice. This chapter has remained fairly intact into the fourth version. 

One critic of the first version had a good question: “How do we move from HERE to THERE?” Well, I really didn’t have an answer for that question. But after some thinking, I surmised, “I need to give these early TDGers something to do—so they can get some practice making decisions with consultation.

So I let them write their local TDG constitution. The act of putting simple legalese together is great practice for building the culture that the TDG will require in the future.

After they have their first election, they are likely to find a few bugs with their electoral process or will see ways to improve the constitution. So, amending the constitution is also a great forum to practice and enhance consultation skills.

One of the advantages of the early TDG is that the stakes are not very high. There are no life-and-death issues. The sky won’t fall in if the constitution goes this way but not that way. Early TDGers need not hang their personal identity on a specific clause. They need only make their point clear, help other members make their point clear, have some good discussion about alternatives, pros, and cons—and follow where the consensus is taking the group.

Sometimes that consensus might put in some not-so-effective clauses in the constitution. The mistake will be realized as time passes. Then the local TDG will fix it. No one need get blamed or fired. The group just did its best with the knowledge, experience, and wisdom it had at the time. Now it has a little more knowledge, experience, and wisdom.

All these skills and attitudes will become cultural in the TDG. When the TDG moves into higher complexities of governance, it will have the tools to handle these issues much better than anything produced by western democracy.

So how will a local TDG amend its constitution? 

The executive committee (the people elected at the last election) will identify a constitutional issue to be fixed. This issue could be membership requirements, ballots, electoral procedures, or several other facets of TDG governance. Then the executive committee should set up a sub-committee to address the issue(s). At least one person on this committee should be a good writer. There should be two members of the executive committee present plus three or four TDG members from the general membership. When this committee has its draft ready, the entire executive committee will review their work. The executive committee might have concerns that need addressing, so the draft gets sent back to the committee. Eventually the executive committee will approve the draft amendments.

But the amendment to the constitution requires approval from the membership. So, the executive committee shall call an amendment meeting of the membership. In the communique/notice of the amendment meeting and at the amendment meeting, the executive committee shall give its reasons for the suggested amendments. Members have the right to challenge the executive committee’s work at this meeting.

Finally, there shall be a vote. Some TDG members might approve of the amendment after studying and agreeing with the proposal. Others might approve the amendments just because of their trust in the executive committee to make the right changes. Some members may not approve, and the meeting should have a mechanism for them to explain their reasons to the executive committee. 

If the amendment is approved by the membership, the amendments to the constitution are ratified and in force immediately after the amendment meeting.

If an amendment does not pass, the executive committee should have learned something from the objections. It can then make adjustments, rework the amendments, and hold another amendment meeting two or three months later.

Early TDG builders should plan on at least one amendment meeting a year. These meetings bring the executive committee and TDG membership together. These meetings require a lot of consultation beforehand to get amendments approved. And these amendments make the TDG constitution a little stronger. The future looks a little brighter when the TDG moves forward.

Published on Medium 2021

Diary of a Future Politician