Direct Democracy and UUA “Citizenship” by Rev. Dawn Cooley
I continue to play with the idea of direct democracy and how it might be applied to our Unitarian Universalist Association. There have been 3 assumptions driving my ideas:
Assumption #1: That we want to bring more diverse voices to the table of governance at General Assembly.
Assumption #2: What we have been doing is not working.
Assumption #3: Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
My first post on the subject was a thought experiment that engaged the idea that direct democracy might be possible and the benefits it could bring. The second post was about how participation in a UU covenanted community would be one criteria of how to determine “UU Citizenship.”
So what might other criteria for “citizenship” be? Let's add one more assumption:
Assumption #4: One-size-fits-all solutions don't really fit everyone.
For instance, there might be these three categories:
1) Participation in a UU Covenanted Community
2) Financial Contribution to the UUA (at some capacity, tbd)
3) Volunteering 40+ hours per year to the UUA (including regions & districts)
In order to achieve the bar of citizenship, one might need to achieve 2/3 of these categories. Or perhaps #1 would be required and then a choice of #2 or #3. So I might participate in a UU Covenanted Community and then also volunteer on a UUA committee.
It might also be that we have additional criteria and requirements. We are limited only by our imagination.
The central core of this idea is that there would be a list of potential qualifications from which an individual could choose a smaller subset in order to achieve the bar of “citizenship”.
In addition to the benefits already discussed in previous blogs, this methodology for defining citizenship would encourage people to get engaged at the district/regional/national level. With so many of our folks disconnected from such issues, this could be a great advantage to engaging around the issues with which our faith tradition struggles.
Of course, we would need to make sure the bar is high enough that a whole bunch of counter-UU types can't infiltrate the Association and take over – I know this was (is?) a worry for some of our congregations. I have confidence we could find a way to set the bar high enough without being so high as to become a barrier to participation, as well as put in proper precautions to prevent such an occurance.
Some of you might be saying “That is a whole lot to keep track of!” Since I come from a database and programming background prior to going into ministry, I think it is doable and that we should be tracking most of this type of information anyway! Particularly if the UUA were to recommend and provide standardization to covenanted communities for data management, tracking this information could be the least of our worries.
Another objection might be centered around technology from a different perspective: How would we allow these thousands of folks to participate at General Assembly? Technology for offsite participation in our governance is not quite there yet, that is true. But it will be soon – sooner, probably, than we could put this system in place and implement it. And of course, the structure of General Assembly would have to change. Instead of mini-assemblies on-site, for instance, such conversations should be taking place online in the weeks and months leading up to GA, possibly using the same teleconferencing software with which so many of us are rapidly becoming familiar. Possibly even using something akin to the flipped classroom model.
I continue to get more and more excited about this possibility and would love to talk to more of you about it. In the coming months, I hope to be engaging in online conversations about these ideas. If you want to participate in such a conversation, let me know! I look forward to some robust and exciting conversations around what future of participation in our faith tradition might look like.