open position protocol

An open position protocol is an organization protocol to choose common positions for a political party or other organization obligated to consult widely and choose an extremely carefully justified decision. It attempts to simulate the pressure positions will come under after they are ratified, including contrasting with others discovered or known to be held by rivals.

Its output is an answer recommendation means with minimal systemic bias or groupthink effects. It involves collaborative writing, consensus decision making and avoids rushing. It accepts as input one or more IPAs which it integrates and further develops. Simple rules that require dissensus to be stated clearly avoid rushing: attempts to "solve" problems that may not exist or may lack sufficient definition and parametrization to state in a way the entire group will accept, support and implement. Like good project management, open space or research methods it front-loads very difficult investigations and decisions to improve flow later on. See Platform 2005 test for a very robust example of post-facto tests.

An open position protocol: proper use of online tools, mail-in ballots in policy review in an open party

The GPNS policy committee is formally responsible for maintaining the platform that will ultimately be used during elections. It has responsibility between elections to seek expert input to press releases and any clarifications of standing positions. The GPNS Leader does not have the authority to make or state policy without seeking to "listen" to all relevant groups to "discover and ratify" positions of the party. Press releases should be vetted by multiple qualified editors. A single mechanism should exist to gather all this expert input.

To facilitate this participation, online tools such as a open wiki like Living Platform, associated intranet like Living Agenda or yahoogroup mailing list should be used, relying on issue/position/argument form. These will be available to any participant in any Green policy process. When time permits, outside experts and public input will be invited, including anonymous input, and input from non-citizens (especially those affected by decisions in foreign policy or in foreign aid or regulations that affect any non-citizens of NS).

In ordinary daily use preparing press releases and responding to situations, these tools are adequate and authorized as a way to take positions. Positions already taken can be easily represented, and should be integrated as quickly as possible for refinement and refutation. For instance, answers to questionnaires given to citizens during election must be integrated quickly and contrasted with other positions to discover contradictions before rivals and clarify where each position applies. To further avoid rushing, any position accepted must have at least one [[argument against]] and that at least two other positions must be represented with one [[argument for]]. It is accordingly impossible to approve any position that is presented as uniformly "good" - unanimity is not consensus! This effort can be managed more easily with a small number of highly trained people and is adequate when dealing with answers that few people read or hear.

The preparation of major positions and new initiatives (the platform drafting process) must include many more members and experts than the drafting of ordinary press releases. Plank drafts should be created from positions taken in press releases or in answer to citizen questionnaires, if no prior policy exists. A relatively slow consultative process should prepare the platform to be discussed, in the form of a number of open issues with positions the party might take, at a policy convention (a live meeting) to take place several months before any anticipated election.

The output of this meeting should not be the platform. It should be a mail-in ballot asking members to make the most important or controversial policy decisions. Those able to attend the conference will set the final ballot questions. Those able to use the online tools will frame all issues for that conference. But those who can do neither must also have a voice: Accordingly, the mail-in ballot should make the major decisions on which policy directions to take on the most controversial issues: those which do not come to a strong (U-1 or U-2) consensus at the live policy conference, where the party may take one of two or more contrasting positions. These become multiple choice questions on a mail-in ballot. The results of that ballot will be binding and the final platform will be authored by GPNS policy committee under GPNS protocols without contradicting the input as received on the ballot, again using a collective collaborative editing process, most likely a wiki.

A Green Party of Nova Scotia Living Platform, with anonymous input from the public, is the best base for such an issue system, it's an approach proven in the Green Party of Ontario and Green Party of Canada. The electoral achievements of both parties and their first full slate came in part from the use of such open consultative policy feedback systems.

Any GPNS issue advocates, whether or not there is a GPNS Shadow Cabinet (having an open position protocol may render those roles simply irrelevant), must demonstrate the capacity to use such a system.

Nominees to become a spokesperson on any issue must be at least consulting the discourse on that issue and mastering the positions, not just of the party, but of the other parties and groups consulted. They should be required to participate in answer recommendation so the party gives reliable answers to questions that it receives from citizens. The Green Party of Canada was able to answer many such questions during the 2004 election using the 2004 Green Party of Canada Living Platform.

Note to technophobes:

To participate in plank and press release drafting and share answers to questionnaires and other citizen questions they write during elections may require some training but it's actually exactly as difficult logistically as email: to click "edit", type, and click "save" having already found the appropriate page is no more difficult than to click "compose", type, and click "send" to a known mailing list address. It is simply wrong to claim the process is more difficult and there are thousands of 12 to 15 year olds who've managed it in such demanding forums as Wikipedia.

Comfort issues with wiki are social not technical. A party that wishes to use collaborative writing will have to encounter these issues sooner or later. Better sooner.