I have given this quite a bit of thought in the past and it has on more than a few occasions been a topic of discussion around our camp fire for Geocaching globally and within Australia. I will add that the debate was well fueled buy port which I have not part taken in this morning. Although I have had a few cups of tea.
I read this topic yesterday and thought I'd sleep on my suggestions before posting. After 1/2 a nights sleep, some dishes listening to the Oil's (They know about organisational structure) and finally a few diagrams I've come up with this but first:
and...The term governance deals with the processes and systems by which an organization or society operate. Frequently a government is established to administer these processes and systems.
Ok.An alternate definition suggests that governance is:
the use of institutions, structures of authority and even collaboration to allocate resources and coordinate or control activity in society or the economy.
Succession is i! giving up the ownership (read control) of the Geocaching Australia Website and passing the responsibility onto another person or persons to take control and lead the direction of the site. This can be of course determined by that person themselves without consultation of those who use it "Autocratic" and a consultative systems at the other end which of course is "democratic". Modern day comparisons would be that a small business has an autocratic governance with the bank and a marital partner taken out of the equasion. A company is also autocratic but many people advice and decide of the correct course - usually referred to as a board. A city council is a democratic mean of governance which as we all know can be successful or not just like a small business and companies.
So what is the best for of governance for something / somewhere like Geocaching Australia?
We'll thats what your being asked. I'll give you my thoughts but they will be no means right and the way to go. Consider them a catalyst to debate and discussion. Really this should be the hottest topic in the forum but why isn't it. We'll there are lots of reasons but the biggest is really Australians don't care for organisational structure be it in government, business or non-profit organisations. Yes some will say I care but they (we) are really a minority and this is why the democratic process fails in some cases. There are a loud enough minority to get what they want because the majority dosen't know what's going on in the background. That's how things like the recent IR laws were changed and people are now going "What the?"
Like I said, feel free to challenge me on this, and it will only further prove my point if no one does add to this or suggest other means because I will discuss three on a continum of what is potentially an infinate number of ways to run an organisation / service / facility.
Should Geocaching Australia be fully democratic in its governance?
Well no I don't think so. This is a good structure but relies heavily on interest which I have mentioned and good, not I will rephrase 'excellent' communication channels. As we know the forum is ok for communication but simple conversations can take a long time and polls, ideas and explinations are often clouded with other discussion. I don't think GCA has the numbers of the channels of clear communication to be an effective method of governance. Other can come up with other reasons but I think these are the two biggest hurdles.
Should Geocaching Australia be fully Autocratic in its governance?
We'll it could be but this is a gamble. One is that you need to have faith that the leader/s have a good understanding of what direction the site should be taking and that the decisions they make are not just based on their own knowledge, understandings and skills. Secondly if the new autocratic leader does not listen to the populace (the people it provides for) they won't have a say in its direction and what it looks like, its improvement and changes for suitability the serve the people to its best end. This system has proven itself successful but its biggest failure is the change in the leader over time as a result of the power, authority and high status. Power struggles are often few but the worst thing about autocratic governance is its limited ability to adapt to change and reinvent itself quickly. One person cannot come up with the sudden change in direction that is needed when there is a competing force or a falling out with followers.
So where lies the happy medium? What should GCA adopt for the website?
I suggest a variation on a council based system that has both benifits of democratic and autocratic structures and yet has contact with the populace and can change direction quickly based on need. Here is how it looks and is structured. Normally I'd draw a diagram but I'll try to explain it and have attached a diagram as a simplified graphical way of explaining all parts.
Basically you have three bodies. Some or all can be made up of either individuals or small groups of no more than I would suggest seven, ideally five or four.
The pivotal member who is usually alone. This person we will call a "Clerk". All councils have them and they are a key advisor with the best interests of the community at heart but they do not have to do much work. In our case the clerk would hold the data, the passwords and registrations for the site and have ideally been a long term member of the development team thus far. The Clerk teachers and advises only and maintains contact between the other two / three groups.
The Council, Board, Directors (from the Australian word "direction") or Executive. what ever you want to call them. They are either volunteers or elected however you want to stand them up and they act and decide in the best interests of the body. For clarity sake we will call them the Honchos. They are trusted to steer the site and discuss and decide on the changes. They cannot make changes themselves but are charged with listening to the populace (the plebs) and from that cry of demand discuss and decide on what the change is going to be. Who it will affect, good or bad and how best to implement it. Most importantly the Honcho if voluntary should change individually after a set amount of time. This ensure a smooth transition and dosen't upset the process of the governance. If they are elected so some other system they should have a term. Being internet based I think this term should be short but that is impractical. It shoudl be long enough for the Honcho's to be creative and enact a major change and many small changes but short enough to for them to not become static and full of themselves. A term of three years would be a suggestion. Most really active caches have a shelf life of 2-3 very active years and settle into a pattern of some finds or leaving altogether.
The "IT gurus". This is the third and in my personal opinion the most important group. You can make all the decisions you want but these guys (and gals) make it happen. The clerk hold the keys to what these guys can and can't do and makes sure one person can't sabotage the whole thing. The clerk holds the backup data, all the html files and images gallery, but the IT gurus get to change it all on a regular basis. They say what can and can't be done and have the challenge of making it work. This team can be big or small. The advantages of a big team is less work but higher levels of communication are needed so everyone understands what is wanted by the Honcho's and the head IT dude. A small team has more work to do but they are better able to cope with problems and design of what is needed how.
As I said the Clerk must hold the history of the site and remember what has and hasn't worked in the past. People can suggest it and the directors can direct it but the clerk can say we tried that and then it didn't work but it could work now if you did this. (an advisory role like I said). This prevents the system dooming it repeating past mistakes and tearing itself apart over and over.
A fourth optional advisory group can be made up from parties that have an interest in what the site does, provides and how it generates income if any. This groups can change at will and comprises of the vocal minority who care and have good ideas and suggestions. They are the conscience of the site and are the first to complain when it dosen't suit them in some way. In society we would call these unions. They can have a representative which acts as a liason from on the honchos but it usually causes more trouble than it is use, especially in small organisations by not allowing the Honchos to work though the problem to a suitable decision. Usually a compromise is struck before creative thought can be allowed to happen.
- * A clerk who advises and trains the Honchos
* The Honchos who think there important but really only drink tea, listen and talk a lot.
* The IT Gurus who donÃ‚â€™t have time for tea but use Port for creative inspiration.
* The whingers who have good ideas and care but are to scattered to be effective.
I have drawn up a small diagram to best support my explination. I hope this sparks discussion. The structure might seem over kill to most since some will have the feeling that "it's just a website, not a bloddy country" but to me it's an important website because that geocaching is an important part of my life. I don't want to see it fail and I'm sure many who contribute after me don't either. I vote and I swing when I do because I like my rights, freedoms and my opportunity to give an opinion. I am quite happy to pay taxes that do or will in some way benifit me and my family.
Red Ochre Caching