ways to judge a group or coalition

Please keep in mind that if you see a single one of these applying to a group, it does not automatically mean the group sucks and you should quit/denounce it; life is often a complicated compromise of working with imperfect groups for the advantages they do have.  (And then barging in and making them work better.)

  1. How many people show up?
  2. Who talks?
  3. What are the group’s demographics?  What mix or balance of race, gender, income, etc?
  4. Do you notice demographic double-standards, such as, when women speak are they interrupted, but never men?
  5. Is there a part of the meeting open for ordinary members or attendees to speak, or is it all just talking by the people up front?
  6. If there is a time for most people to speak, what percentage of the time is theirs, what percentage of the time belongs to the officials?
  7. If there is a time for most people to speak, is it a Q&A format where it has to be directed at the officials, or are people allowed to make their own statements?
  8. Do they use words like “old business” and “new business” and follow an extremely official-sounding set of procedures?
  9. Is there some other organization that set the coalition up?
  10. Would you say that other organization controls this one?  Or did they just help set it up?  Maybe it’s unclear?  Do they have a degree of influence but not absolute control?
  11. Are there paid staffers, or is it all people who just do it because they believe in it?
  12. Is there an official leader?  If not, the group might be disorganized; if so, there are other questions…
  13. Were they elected?
  14. Are they a paid staffer?
  15. If they are a paid staffer, again, were they elected?  Is there any hope that the ordinary members could vote to remove that staffer, or will that just be disallowed in conversation?
  16. Who determines what the organization does?
  17. Is there a system for making and discussing proposals?
  18. Does that system actually work, or get used?
  19. Is there a key set of people whose proposals always win, with everything else disregarded?
  20. Where does the organization get its funding?
  21. Does the organization try to control how its members speak in public?
  22. How much control?  Is it over the general purpose of the group, or is it over extremely specific issues?
  23. Is there a “party line,” or a set of ideas a person must hold to be in the group?  If not, maybe the group doesn’t have a good idea of what its purpose is.  If so, there are other issues…
  24. Is this “party line” spelled out anywhere?
  25. Is there an unwritten “party line?”  Stances members are expected to hold, but which are not written down, and you find them out as you go?
  26. Is the group confident in its statements? Do they seem well-read or well-researched?
  27. If you quit the group, would its members still talk to you?
  28. Does the group seem to have momentum?  Is it going somewhere?
  29. Does the group advertise its meetings somehow?  Does that advertisement seem to work?
  30. Do people in the group assess the things they do, ie what worked and what didn’t?  Or do they just go through the motions?
  31. Is it fun?
  32. Does the group make phone calls to public officials?  (if so, probably lame)
  33. Does it use a phone banking system for calling random people?  (not always, but maybe lame)
  34. Does the group take part in marches or demonstrations?
  35. Does the group try to march or demonstrate by itself, or is it part of a larger umbrella?
  36. Does the group commit civil disobedience?
  37. If/when it commits civil disobedience, how many people partake in the action?  Is it a small “symbolic” number, or a large number?  How many zeroes?
  38. Does the group have a message which would appeal to ordinary people, or something strange and exotic?
  39. Do the people in the group fit a stereotype of activism?  Or do they seem pretty run-of-the-mill?
  40. Are people in the group friends?
  41. If the group is mixed, ie friends/non-friends, do the already-connected groups reach out to the loners?  Invite them places?
  42. Does the social map (who is friends with whom) seem to affect the decision-making of the group, or do the lines of disagreement cross the social map?
  43. Does the group ever actually vote, or just talk a while and go with a certain option?
  44. Are there stated or unstated expectations of how you should dress/eat/talk/fuck/other cultural expectations?  Is it a big deal if you break these, or are they not really serious?  (Some of these can be really hostile and damaging, like everyone in the group has to do drugs/no one in the group is allowed to do drugs.  Some of them are just goofy and not serious, like most of the people in the group like Star Wars or something.)  on counterculture

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