Consensus Proposal: Philanthropists becoming Members need only 1 additional sponsorship and 2 months of participation

Proposal for consideration starting from meeting Jan 25, 2022:

Philanthropists become Members when they satisfy the following conditions:

  • 1 additional Sponsor signature (Member) on their application form.
  • at least 8 weeks elapsed time since becoming a Philanthropist.

Submitted for consideration; conversation on this forum topic encouraged.

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Discussion of the contents of this proposal must include what’s intentionally not included: there’s no “read the name out for X weeks at the meeting”.

Philanthropists routinely demonstrate the trust and value they bring to the community by their actions.

The “Phil-to-Mem” pipeline would provide a means by which already-trusted participants could become Members via consistent application and demonstration of the trust Noisebridge already places in them.

Members could still block the application.

There will no doubt be a question of when Members would have the opportunity to block the application if it’s not being announced and processed via the weekly meeting. Not to worry! Noisebridge has a 2-week “Oh Shit” period during which any newly appointed Member can be blocked by another Member pseudo-retroactively.

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What is wrong with the process already in place / reason for changes?
I think what have currenty is good. Something Im missing?

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So glad you asked!

The main problem as I see it:

We have too few Members. The fewer Members we have, the worse decisions we make.

Right now people are reticent to apply for Membership. I would like to explore a potential structural solution to the reluctance of people to apply for Membership.

Members are important for Noisebridge’s decision-making capacities.

While “ideally” there are no differences between Members and anyone else when it comes to discussion, implicitly Members hold more power because they can block. Thus convincing Members of a Consensus decision has higher value than convincing most other people at Noisebridge.

When certain people are seen as higher-value in the decision-making apparatus, it means we subtly undervalue the opinions of non-Members.

Members are also the only people who can create more Philanthropists. Members are also the ones who are ultimately responsible for helping Philanthropists understand what trust means at Noisebridge. People who can’t find a Member to talk to won’t become a Philanthropist. If we have more Members, we will probably create more Philanthropists too.

When we created the Philanthropists level, we were trying to solve a very different problem from what we currently face. At the time, we had:

  • a lot of Members regularly showing up
  • a TON of people coming for classes, to use tools, etc
  • a brand new RFID access control system
  • a constantly-scary bank account.

Adding the Philanthropist level, which only required 1 Member signature and asked for a monthly donation, seemed like a worthy experiment. It worked: many people signed up as Philanthropists and got their keys and paid Noisebridge $40-80 a month.

Over the years, however, an unforeseen consequence occurred, which I would argue was decidedly negative. Because the Philanthropist level is decidedly easier to achieve, more people decided that becoming a Philanthropist was way easier than becoming a Member, and as such, the composition of Noisebridge skewed away from Members.

There was also a rather large crater in the community in 2018, it must be said, that caused many long-term committed Members to leave Noisebridge, e.g. notably Mitch Altman.

[my browser is screwing up… finishing this in the next post]

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As a function over time, Membership has decreased both gradually (natural attrition) and suddenly (2018 social cataclysm, 2020 pandemic), with nothing to help get people back into these ranks.

(It also doesn’t help that what constitutes “Membership” is now somehow a vaguely high bar – a problem I think can only be solved by all of Noisebridge collectively figuring out what a Membership is supposed to MEAN…)

In the context of present-day Noisebridge, the conditions do not really meet the same need for having two levels of participation. In all candor I would rather just do away with the Philanthropist level and convert all current Philanthropists to Membership.

However, I’ve heard enough people assert they just want to stay Philanthropists that I am softening my stance. Hence this proposal.

We really need more Members. We need more evenness across different positions and a greater variety in the types of people who are seen as pivotal in the “final decisions”. The lower of the diversity of the group, the worse decisions a group makes.


I am proposing this particular structure because:

  • Philanthropists already have the RFID access and are often doing more than current Members. Philanthropists typically demonstrate their trustworthiness, understanding of Noisebridge, and level of commitment within 6-8 weeks. Why force them through a demoralizing questionnaire gauntlet?

  • Philanthropists have already gone through an initiation process, albeit shorter. If they would like to become Members, why make them go through 3x the vetting process that a totally uninitiated person seeking Membership has to go through?

and finally, while morbid, it’s worth repeating:

  • We have a 2-week “Oh Shit” period during which anyone can block a newly-appointed Member after the fact. This structure protects us from accidentally bringing in the wrong people when our collective attention spans momentarily fail us.

So – those are my arguments.

Contend! Contend, i say! :smiley:

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I fully support this. If they last a few weeks as good standing Philanthropists, let them be Members.

The most open and fair way to create Members is to offer Membership to everyone who sticks around.

I think we need to get this through so we can focus on re-encouraging and mending Membership’s reputation.

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I mean, yeah that was the immediate result. It created a way for people sustain NB with a middle tier of involvement. If not everyone wants to be a Capital M member, I dont see the problem with that?

Maybe. But if thats the case, shouldnt we just define it better, rather than changing the vetting process?

I agree with this. But is that a problem of the membership process,? Some examples would help. Cause thats not what Ive seen, I think there are other causes for the lack of diversity at NB, and Ive mentioned them many times.

disagree with this characterization. The questionnaire is an important vetting process weve all been through, and I think it’s a huge asset to making sure we have quality members. I’ve never seen anything “demonizing” about it.

I’d be against this with the reasoning proposed here, but I’m open to learning more what the issues are (are members hard to access right now for sponsorship? Did someome have a bad vetting experience?) before changing a core structure of NB.

Im an advocate for having more diversity at NB especially, and would love to hear more about how to do that. Especially including more BIPOC folks, LGBTQ, and women in facilitatior, leadership, and membership roles. If the current process has been limiting that somehow I would sure like to know how / why with some examples.

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The questionnaire is an important vetting process weve all been through

I actually did not go through a process like that.

Relevant Invitation to Set the Bar for Membership (i.e. "What does Membership Mean"?) - #5 by nthmost

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I don’t like grilling people in the meetings either - it’s often been a bit jokey but then the jokes go wrong or are misunderstood. Right now there is only one question on the application form. I think it should be fine to ask people to say something about their interest in using the space.

I support anything that will make the process easy and get lots of people access to the space.

My prediction is we will continue having our usual problems and dramas whenever people are in bad conflicts or when someone behaves in problem ways and then we will still have to figure out how to ask people to leave/ 86 them/ revoke access. I don’t mind “voting” or doing consensus with as many people as possible. I also support doing away with two levels of membership. Or at least let’s call it something less pompous than “Philanthropist”.

I would like to be kind of more clear on how this works though. Fill out a form, put it in the binder, read it out at meetings – that all seems good! Then unless someone blocks after N weeks, they should set up recurring donation and they are a member . Great. We still need the physical binder and the reading- out part and to make tick marks on the forms to indicate # of weeks. 2nd, we need that access system with cards to be well understood and useable. 3rd I’d love if we could sometime soon figure out how to revoke card access if that becomes necessary. (I think currently, if we had a bad enough issue, we’d have to revoke everyone’s access and then re-enable people one by one, which is OK as a stopgap )

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I hope I didn’t just confuse things further. If we do want to keep the 2 level “access” to “member” tiers then sure, I would support this basic idea that people automatically convert from associate member to full member after several weeks (6-8 sounds good to me; I could be persuaded to 4 weeks but prefer to let it go a bit longer)

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I’d be against this with the reasoning proposed here, but I’m open to learning more what the issues are (are members hard to access right now for sponsorship? Did someome have a bad vetting experience?) before changing a core structure of NB.

There was an instance of a prospective Member, who did not become a Member, because of sentiment against him that nobody knew about until the last minute. People cited correlation to past Noisebridge trauma and occasional rudeness of the prospective Member as valid reasons for barring the Membership. Many people (me included) believe that sets the bar extremely high, especially since the person routinely holds themself accountable for their actions.

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I thought about Nthmost’s proposal and after considering it and Liz’s comments on how it might work in practice and asking some clarifying questions I had a couple suggestions during the last meeting that I think are compatible with the spirit of the proposal and also can satisfy concerns about potential loss of opportunity for notice or vetting of prospective members.

Nthmost’s original proposal says this:

Philanthropists become Members when they satisfy the following conditions:

  • 1 additional Sponsor signature (Member) on their application form.
  • at least 8 weeks elapsed time since becoming a Philanthropist.

I proposed the following additions:

*General questions we would like to know about all prospective member’s aspirations for Noisebridge can be added to the membership application form.
*A philanthropist can fill out the member application form with an additional member sponsor and any additional questions on it. They become a member after 8 weeks of becoming a philanthropist and 4 meeting weeks of the member application being filled out unless a member blocks it.
*A philanthropy applicant can fill out the member application form at the same time.
*Everyone is encouraged to get to know new philanthropists that may soon become members and learn about them through socializing.

I added what we’ve shopped so far to Current Consensus Items - Noisebridge – Here’s what i wrote tonight:

Philanthropists who wish to become full Members will require the following to become Members:

  • 1 additional Sponsor signature (Member) on their application form.
  • Fill out Membership questionnaire representing prospective Member’s aspirations at Noisebridge.
  • At least 4 weeks must transpire between becoming a Philanthropist and the start of the effective application for Membership.
  • Another 4 weeks must transpire between Philanthropist-to-Membership application (+1 sponsor and questionnaire) to become a Member.
  • A Philanthropy applicant can fill out the Member application form at the same time they fill out a form to become a Philanthropist.
  • Community members must be made aware of Philanthropist-to-Member applications during the 4-week lead period to a Philanthropist becoming a Member (up to current Membership’s discretion how this is done).

I’m glad this came together and got consensed. We’ve been announcing the change during meetings as well. Not sure if all our wiki pages reflect it yet. We’ve been letting people know they can apply for philanthropy and membership at the same time with 1 more sponsor. Anecdotally, more people seem to be applying for both membership and philanthropy. Could it be working?

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