Friday, October 24, 2014

Democracy Cafe: a proposal to the UNA Board

The following is a proposal that I am brining forward to the UNA's Standing Committee on Governance as part of an integrated plan of improving and enhancing our local democratic capacity. 

The Democracy Café idea is based upon the concept set in play by the French philosopher Marc Sautet.  His idea is simple: a grassroots forum of discussion rooted in the general public.  Initiated in 1992 the idea has caught on world wide.  In the Lowermainland, SFU runs a widely popular and award winning series of cafés on all manner of subjects.  Our own Democracy Café would be designed to bring residents together in an informal, friendly setting to discuss face-to-face to discuss democracy, what if is, what it might be, what it can be.  As SFU states on it’s own web page: “Thinking the unthinkable, imagining the impossible, and discussing the improbable.

The UNA has a long history of creating general and specific purpose volunteer committees.  Currently the UNA sponsors the Garden Stewards, the Multicultural, and the Civic Engagement Committees which all act as volunteer gathering places with specific domains of activities and interests.  In the past the UNA created the Schools Action Committee, which was an advocacy committee. The UNA has also created volunteer sub-committees for by-law development regarding noise, parking, animals, and waste management.  Democracy Café involves aspects of all of the above, but is centered on creating a social space for creative engaged dialogue on an issue that is relevant to most residents in a setting that will be encouraging and welcoming and not directly tied to formal policy formulation.

Terms of Reference
1.     Purpose
The Democracy Café, a sub-committee under the Standing Committee on Governance, serves the UNA Board of Directors to promote engaged creative dialogue, on issues related to democratic practice locally and globally.

2.     Objectives
The main objective of the UNA Democracy Cafe is to build the UNA neighborhoods into a vibrant, inclusive, participatory, democratic community.  To achieve this, it will focus on the following activities:

a.     To host a series of ‘Philosophers’ Cafés at the Old Barn Community Centre.
b.     To facilitate a discussion of existing and potential democratic models. 
c.     To explore and discuss democracy movements in Canada and globally. 
d.     To carry out other functions and activities approved by the Board on engaging UNA residents in creative dialogue related to democratic practices locally and globally.

3.     Composition
The UNA Democracy Café is coordinate by a steering committee that consists of residents, and one or more elected resident directors and UNA staff as members.

4.     Procedures
The Steering Committee of Democracy Café shall hold meetings as needed for planning the activities anticipated under the objectives of Democracy Cafe.  The discussions at the philosophers’ café events will be summarized and made available to UNA residents and form a portion of the steering committee’s reports to the UNA.

5.     Reports
The Steering Committee of Democracy Café will submit a report on its activities at the monthly regular meetings of the Governance Standing Committee and at Board of Directors when needed. Additional reports may be submitted on special activities and projects carried out by the Committee

6.     Resources
The UNA Board of Directors will allocate resources needed by Democracy Café in carrying out its functions.

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