Every night at 7:00pm Occupy Boston gathers for either discussion groups or a General Assembly (GA), its core decision-making body. A second GA may be scheduled in the morning, if needed. Minutes from previous GAs can be read at: GA Minutes.

GA is open to all who want to participate in its defined process, described below. Whether you’re camping with us or just stopping by, your voice is welcome! Everyone’s voice is equal, but we cannot all speak at once so we use a procedure to organize our contributions. To offer proposals remotely to GA, submit them here: GA Process Proposals.

There are no governing authorities in the General Assembly, but a trained Facilitator directs an established process. Facilitators guide the GA process without imposing their views on the group. Facilitator training is offered regularly for anyone interested in volunteering in this role. Check the calendar or listen for announcements to become a trained facilitator. Trained Floor Monitors may also help participants find the right time in the process to raise their point. More information about the GA process is available through the Facilitators' page and a document at Google Doc

General Assembly Process

A typical order of GA business might be:
  1. Facilitator reviews consensus process, techniques and the order of the meeting.
  2. Working Groups and Individuals make their proposals for GA approval.
  3. Working Groups and Individuals give their announcements.
  4. Individuals or groups present proposals by adding their names to the "stack" of people waiting to address the GA.

At any time, a person may interrupt with a Point of Process if the process is not being followed or a different process applies. For instance, sometimes GA approval will be requested for something that the GA has previously agreed to. Someone can interrupt with a Point of Process to explain that there is no need to continue with GA approval in this case. If there is disagreement about this Point of Process, the Facilitator or possibly the entire GA will make a decision about how to proceed.
Each announcement or proposal is discussed by the entire group before moving on to the next one. Announcements may be followed by some discussion of questions and additional information. Useful hand signals for this open discussion process include:
  • Clarifying Question - Raise hand and curve fingers in the shape of a "C."
  • Point of Information - Raise hand and point index finger straight up like an "I."
  • Point of Process - Raise both hands with index fingers pointing at each other and touching.

Proposals are handled by a consensus process.

Consensus Process

When someone makes a proposal at GA, there is a process for the assembled group to share thoughts and work toward a consensus. The Facilitator directs this process and may modify it, as agreed by the group. Any member of the GA may speak up in any section, but we make an effort to not repeat things that have already been said. Each question or statement only needs to be made once for the whole group.

Discussion Process

  1. A proposal is stated or read. Ideally, a copy of the text is distributed at or before the meeting so people can consider it closely, especially if it is a complicated or important proposal.
  2. Clarifying Questions (hand signal = "C") are raised by anyone in the group.
  3. Points of Information (hand signal = "I") are raised to add information that has not yet been covered.
  4. Strong Concerns or Objections are voiced.
  5. Friendly Amendments are proposed.
  6. The proposers consider what has been said and, for each of the questions, concerns and amendments, whether to:
    • withdraw the proposal,
    • adopt any suggested amendments, or
    • keep the proposal as is and respond to the concerns.
  7. If any changes have been made, the amended proposal is stated and discussion steps 2 - 7 are repeated.
  8. If no changes are made to the proposal in discussion step 6, then it is ready for the decision process.

Decision Process

  1. Blocks are explained, if someone believes that the proposal poses a danger to the group's purpose or cohesion that is serious enough that the person would consider leaving the group. The hand signal to indicate a block is to cross arms at the wrist and hold them up in front of you so they can be seen.
    • A vote of 75% must agree that the block is a sincere and legitimate statement, whether or not they agree with the block. If 75% agree that the block is a fair statement, a vote is taken to see how many people agree with the block.
    • A vote of 10% must agree to support the block to make it effective. A blocked proposal is tabled and may be reconsidered at a later time.
  2. A show of support is requested using hand signals to show support, uncertainty or disapproval. (See Temperature Check, below, for a description of the hand signals.) If counting is required, raised hands may be used, or people may be asked to stand on one side or another to determine a count. 75% approval is a common threshold for consensus.
    • If Consensus is reached, the proposal is adopted.
    • If Consensus is not reached, but the Proposal is not Blocked, there may be a move to Indirect Consensus.
    • If timely Consensus cannot be reached, the Facilitator may ask the proposer to:
      • submit a revised proposal at a later meeting or
      • submit the proposal to a Working Group before returning it to GA.
See a typical GA process here.

Indirect Consensus

Indirect Consensus involves the following optional steps:
  1. Debate: Three Debaters For and Three Debaters Against will each speak for 30-120 seconds;
  2. The proposal is restated, and the GA is asked for a Temperature Check;
  3. If Consensus is not reached, a Facilitator asks for Strong Objections to be stated;
  4. The GA breaks into Small Group Discussion for 5-15 minutes;
  5. The GA returns to Step 2 of the Decision Process.

Useful Techniques

People's Mic

The People's Mic serves as amplification when there is no bullhorn or microphone. It is typically begun by someone yelling "Mic check!" Everyone who hears this is expected to reply loudly in unison: "Mic check!" The speaker then dictates a few words at a time, pausing for the crowd to recite each phrase. For large crowds, there may be a second echo of each phrase by those farther out in the group. This is a way to amplify one voice by using many voices together. On top of the fun factor, it has the added benefit of giving people time to make sure they hear and understand what's said.

Temperature Check

To informally assess support for a proposal or idea, the Facilitator may request a "Temperature Check." All GA participants then show agreement by wiggling their fingers in the air ("twinkling") or disagreement by wiggling their fingers pointed down ("squid fingers.") Those who are undecided may wiggle their fingers horizontally, parallel to the ground.

Hand Signals

To help communication in a large group, some hand signals are often used, shown below.