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Decision Making Process for Bewelcome

valid since 18/07/2013

This is the final text. Do not further edit.

The process

Making suggestions

The idea is to have a tool where every member can enter suggestions. A suggestion will typically formulate a problem. The suggestions entered in the suggestions tool are checked by a designated volunteer team ("Suggestions Team") for duplicates before they are published. The form for a suggestion includes a field for a link to a forum discussion: If a discussion on this topic already exists the link should be entered. Otherwise, after the check for duplicates, a new forum thread will be created automatically with the publication of the suggestion. The suggestions page itself will be kept free of discussions.

Life-cycle of suggestions

After a suggestion is entered in the suggestions system it goes through the following "life-cycle":

Phase 1 - Needs approval: When a new suggestion is entered, it is in this status until it has been checked for duplicates and published.

Phase 2 - Call for discussion: Discussions are essential to democratic decision making. Therefore, members are asked to discuss possible solutions in the linked forum thread. Time frame: 30 days.

Phase 3 - Call for discussion and entering solutions: 10 days after the discussion started, solutions can be entered into the suggestion system. Every member can enter suggestions and there is a short field for the description. If the Suggestions Team finds this short description totally biased, they can negotiate with the member about changes. Each description is linked to a wiki page which should be filled with a more detailed description. If we do not have the resources for negotiation (not enough active members for the Suggestions Team), we'll have to make do with the summaries provided by the members. Time frame: 20 days (parallel to ongoing discussion). If during phase 2 or 3 the discussion participants agree unanimously that the time frame should be shortened or prolonged they can request this from the Suggestions Team.

Phase 4 - Voting: After 30 days of discussion all entered solutions are voted on by majority judgment (if there is no solution, the suggestion will be removed from the suggestions system). Preferably, the following ranks are used: either "excellent - good - acceptable - bad" or "satisfactory - somewhat satisfactory - somewhat unsatisfactory - unsatisfactory". Every BeWelcome member is allowed to vote (see details below). The best solution (according to the majority judgment method) will be accepted into the priority ranking (see phase 5) if (and only if) the median is at least "good"/"somewhat satisfactory". If several solutions which are not mutually exclusive have received a median of at least "good"/"somewhat satisfactory" they are accepted as one combined best solution. All other solutions are discarded. If there is just one solution it will still be voted on by majority judgment. Voting period: 1 month.

The concept of "liquid democracy" could be implemented for this phase too.

Phase 5 - Ranking of accepted solutions: Accepted solutions then go into a priority ranking. A mechanism like on http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com could be used. It should be clear though that this is not another vote on whether the solution should be implemented but only with which priority implementation should take place. This step is for orientation for the development volunteers (or other team if it is not about software) only. Every member can participate once for each solution. This process remains open until the solution is picked up to be implemented.

Phase 6 - In implementation: Once the solution is picked up by the relevant volunteer team (usually developers) to be implemented, a ranking is no longer necessary. Therefore, the suggestion will be shown with the status "in implementation".

Details and definitions

What should be voted on?

  • Feature changes (additions, deletions, improvements)
  • Design changes
  • Changes of processes and rules and regulations which affect members

Not every small change needs to be decided on separately. If a new feature is developed or an old feature is re-developed, the developers and designers can present the complete feature (or a complete set of features) for discussion, improvement and voting. This should allow team members to work efficiently without discussing every single detail of new developments separately in the forum.

There are minor changes which do not need a vote (see below).

Financial or legal issues are not to be voted on. Also, no suggestions will be accepted that interfere with the workings/statutes of BeVolunteer. Additionally, there might be cases of privacy or safety related issues that will not be voted on if the Board of Directors (or the General Assembly) of BeVolunteer considers that a vote would negatively affect minority rights or the safety of members.

What is a minor change?

  • Textual changes on the website including names and texts for features and the removal of texts that are not correct anymore (e.g. rewriting FAQs or other informational pages, naming of features)
  • Changes which only affect the work inside of volunteer teams (e.g. translation tool, mentoring processes within teams)
  • Feature and usability improvements which are clearly a plus for everyone or do not affect anyone negatively (e.g. a better language chooser)
  • Bug fixes

The last two items can still go into the priority ranking (phase 5) but need no decision making process (phases 1-4).

Minor changes are the responsibility of the respective volunteer teams. However, if, after all, one of the minor changes is controversial, they can be voted on as well.

Who is allowed to vote?

In general, every BeWelcome member is allowed to vote. Their profiles need to fulfill some minimum requirements though before voting is possible, for example:

  • an active profile status
  • a profile picture (not necessarily a picture of oneself)
  • the sections "About me" and "Accommodation" on the profile are filled out

Involving members in the process

Once a month a number of randomly chosen members will be invited to review the suggestions page and to participate in the current phase of each suggestion (add suggestions, discuss existing suggestions, add solution, vote on, or rank solutions).

  • Only members that have logged in within the previous 6 months can be randomly chosen.
  • The number of randomly chosen members should be three times the number of voters that voted on the most popular suggestion.

By personally inviting members to vote, a special awareness and sense of responsibility should be created. Additionally, every newsletter will include a link to the suggestions page.

Involving volunteer teams

If a suggestion concerns a volunteer team, team members should be involved in the discussion as early as possible. For this reason, the Suggestions Team invites all affected teams to join the discussion when approving a new suggestion.

Volunteer teams have no veto options. However, by involving them into the discussions from the start, we want to make sure that members know if a suggestion makes no sense to the affected team or is impossible or extremely complicated to implement.

Validity of the process and review

  • This proposal for a decision making process should be decided on by going through the current decision making process. We assume the topic to be a general vision issue as it will affect all members.
  • Once this process is approved and implemented it should be valid for one year and then reviewed and fine-tuned/changed if necessary.