Draft GOSH Constitution is waiting for YOUR input prior to referendum on 25 July 2024

This post was written by @hpy and myself

tl;dr

  1. Provide your feedback on the draft GOSH Constitution before 18 July 2024 (see below); and
  2. Register to vote NOW!

:loudspeaker: Pursuant to the 2024 Governance Plan as announced by @briannaljohns, we are now sharing with you the “feature complete” beta version of the proposed GOSH Community Constitution. This is a full draft with all the key components in place (hence, “feature complete”). From now until 18 July 2024, we warmly invite the GOSH community to collaborate on beta testing and bug fixing and tweaking the content of this draft document in preparation for it going to a community-wide referendum. We shall strive to schedule Community Call(s) for realtime discussion and feedback.

:link: Link to draft Constitution in suggestion mode (sorry Google Doc)

Please add your comments in the margin and/or respond to this thread!!!

In the meantime, we are developing the exact referendum procedure and will announce it in a separate thread. This referendum is scheduled to coincide with the 2024 Community Council Election taking from 26 July to 6 August 2024 (AoE). Registration is open, please register for this election which also qualifies you to vote in this referendum:

:point_right: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TO VOTE NOW! :rotating_light:

If this constitution is ratified in the referendum, then it will be “put into production”.

A couple other points worth recalling:

  1. Previously, we introduced the idea of a short constitution that links out to detailed, and independent, procedural documents that may be more easily iterated on over time without needing a constitutional amendment. See this forum post. We are calling them “Operational Documents”, which includes things like the detailed procedures in the Code of Conduct or Election Plan.

  2. For those of you who generously contributed operational details on partnerships, electoral processes, and Regional GOSHs, you may see some of the principles you brought to that work in the draft Constitution, while other details are contained in the linked Operational Documents.

  3. In this draft Constitution, you will see the idea — long championed in the GOSH community — that a community-wide referendum is required to ratify the Constitution. After ratification, the Constitution may only be amended through community-wide referendum. We have worked to create a referendum framework for GOSH that can accomodate this and other requested purposes. We’d like to get YOUR feedback on how it’s currently described in the draft Constitution.

  4. Another problem resolved by this Constitution is how the work that happens in existing GOSH community ad hoc processes relates to the Community Council; this Constitution specifies the procedural “handshake” to maintain the speed and accessibility of ad hoc working groups with the authority granted to the Council.

  5. This Constitution also codifies the operations of the Community Council itself, based on the practices that have emerged and endured over the first three Councils (2021-2024).

What happens if this Constitution is:

  • Ratified: GOSH will have a basic set of rules and principles that we can rely on for how we govern ourselves as a community, recalling that we as a community can always continue to amend and update our Constitution, and working groups can continue to update the Operational Documents with the backing of the Council.
  • NOT ratified: @hpy and I will leave this draft Constitution with the Community Council — and with the community as a whole — for future generations to have as a reference point. The Operational Documents such as the current (and future versions of) the Code of Conduct and the Election Plan retain their current level of influence on the community albeit without formal, constitutionally-derived power.

A personal reflection

When considering your feedback and your vote in the referendum, we encourage you to be mindful that while this Constitution is NOT perfect, for practical reasons it is an opportunity for us to have a “minimum viable product” with full capabilities for amendments in the future. In other words, we believe this referendum is a chance to seize the momentum that’s been built up through serious investment into GOSH governance over four years by over 40 community members since 2020.

Thank you for your engagement, registering to vote, and voting!!! :heart: :bowing_woman:

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Quick note that from the Community Call today (28 June 2024) we identified one thing, which is:

One key takeaway/todo item for tweaks is to make sure that the Constitution is not written in a way that assumes and relies on the existence of a GOSH Community Coordinator, so as to not cause a constitutional crisis.

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It struck me that the draft does not mention GOSH being about open science hardware. I couldn’t put it better than ChatGPT: “The Gathering for Open Science Hardware (GOSH) is an organization that promotes the development and use of open hardware for scientific research and education. It aims to make scientific tools more accessible, affordable, and adaptable, fostering collaboration and innovation in the scientific community.”

That being our raison d’etre, it seems appropriate for the constitution to feature it upfront and centre, no?

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Thanks @Harold! I’ll try to respond to your question, plus your other question in the Community Call thread:

  1. Mention in the Constitution that GOSH is about open science hardware - Great point! I agree having a small chunk of text about this would be good. I’m suggesting some text in the “vision statement” part of the draft Constitution to that effect. Feedback welcome!

  2. “Do you think or have you considered, that if infrastructure is provided to support administration… then the administration work load will grow to fill the capacity to do it?” - Short answer: YES. Longer answer: We didn’t explicitly include admin capacity as a design consideration for the Constitution, but in my view the current draft text is (a) more descriptive of what we are already doing rather than adding too many new things to do; and (b) provides some fallback procedures for “break glass in case of emergency” situations rather than day-to-day admin. For (b), I’m particularly eager to hear feedback on whether we covered the most likely “break glass” situations, and if things designated as "should"s vs "must"s are appropriate!

  3. “do you think the heft and number of these structures/procedures is appropriate for our organisation?” - I think my answer above addresses this, too?

Let me know what you think.

I moved the longer definition of GOSH and what GOSH stands for to the very first block of text that appears above the Table of Contents.

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The document seems to switch back and forth between “councilor” and “councilperson” I’d pick one or the other. I think councilor is a more usual term.

Thanks Julian, I can make that change throughout. Any other comments?

Honestly I wasn’t in proofread mode, but this just jumped out at me. I was actually looking at it to see what happens now that we have 2 people standing for 2 council seats? Do we need an election? Will the council have the power to co-opt a new member due to it being under 7… etc etc

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Oh interesting. Could you elaborate at all on the “co-opt” scenario you speculated?

In some types of councils, if they are short of elected members, the members have the right to add another by co-opting them. Therefore if someone rocks up in 2 months and is interested in being on the council then the council, which will be short of a member could decide to let them join without an election.

I am not stating an opinion on whether this is a good idea or not… I was just looking to see if we had the process written down for an not-full council.

Oh I see. Interesting! Right now, based on the input from the GOSHers who worked on the electoral aspects, the council’s composition is strongly held by the community, for instance, they advised installing a councilor recall process. A “walk on” councilor that only existing councilors select would not be in the same spirit.

While most of this constitution protects against unhealthy consolidation of power, (vibe: “in case of emergency, break glass”) , the next largest component of the Constitution is to strongly connect the community and the council in order to get work done. Someone who would be open to being a “walk-on councilor” could become a powerful contributor in a Council-backed working group which is where regular GOSHers and elected work together on issues in the Council’s domain. Working on such projects generates a track record of success working on issues in the Council’s domain, ideal results to show when campaigning in the next election.