POLICY ON CHANGING MAJOR AGREEMENTS
The Meadowdance Community agrees that it is sometimes necessary and beneficial to make changes to our existing agreements. However, we also recognize that it can be wasteful and unproductive to be continuously discussing things that have already been decided, especially when those things are major issues that generate a great deal of thought and energy.
So we have chosen to set forth a policy that describes when and how the various agreements of the community can be altered. In the policy that follows, distinctions have been made as to how the various varieties of agreements will be treated. While discussion of some agreements during consensus meetings has been restricted, outside of the context of consensus meetings we do not seek to limit or discourage discussion of existing Agreements.
Core Agreements + Policies
Community agreements that fall under these two categories are not meant to be casually altered, and under normal circumstances a proposal to alter one of these agreements could not be brought up in a consensus meeting. Nor could a discussion about altering an agreement of this sort be held in a consensus meeting. Only in the following circumstances can alteration of such an agreement be considered:
The person proposing the opening should include in their presentation the concerns and issues that have led them to feel a change to an agreement needs to take place. Discussion of the opening should center on these issues and whether or not it is necessary to consider altering the agreements. Also part of the proposal should be a suggested time limit on the opening. When the time limit has been reached, unless the community consents to extend the time, the agreement is considered no longer open and no more consideration of changes to the agreement may be made. If no time limit is proposed, the default limit will be two months.
During the open period, community meeting time may be spent discussing or considering proposals to alter the agreement in question. The community is not obligated to make any change to the agreement, but is free to make any change that the community consents to.
In order to propose opening a Core Agreement or Policy, several procedures must be followed. In a meeting prior to the one wherein the proposal will be discussed, the member must announce their intention to open the Agreement. The community will then take efforts to ensure that all Members are alerted to the upcoming proposal.
Also prior to proposing to open a protected Agreement, the member must privately read the Agreement in question completely no less recently than one week before announcing it. Following that, s/he must sit down with the Caretaker of the appropriate area and one other volunteer Full Member of the community of his or her choosing. The proposing member will present the reasons for his/her dissatisfaction with the current Agreement. The listening members will do their best to understand this dissatisfaction, and offer information or advice. The intent of this meeting is not to convince the listening members to agree, rather to clarify one's thoughts in a small setting, to hear any clarification or useful information the listening members can supply, and to work together to consider other solutions. Only after completing these requirements is the Member allowed to bring their proposal to the full meeting.
In the case where there is no appropriate Caretaker for the Agreement in question, or where the proposing members is the appropriate Caretaker, a substitute person will be chosen by the group when the item is announced in a meeting prior to the discussion.
Arrangements + Intentions
Agreements that fall under these two categories are meant to be altered whenever the community deems it appropriate, and so there are no restrictions on when an agreement of this variety can be discussed or altered. An alteration to an Arrangement or an Intention can be discussed and decided on at any community meeting.
By its definition, a One-Time Decision cannot be altered once it is made. The only course for altering an agreement of this sort is to alter its effect. At any time the community may come to consensus on an agreement that opposes or reverses a previous One-Time Decision.
The working group chose to reintroduce the concept of 'opening' an agreement for numerous reasons. We felt that requiring a discussion about opening the agreement would help to assure that the group properly considers their action, and does not change a Core Agreement or Policy casually or trivially, for example in the process of another discussion. It is also hoped that by requiring an opening, discussion will take place on the basic issues that are causing people to think of changing the agreements. By focusing on the concerns during the opening, the community will continue to remain open and consider other options and solutions other than altering the agreements. The opening discussion also provides an appropriate outlet for people with concerns about opening any agreements at all. And may result in less discussion by dividing the issues into two appropriately separated conversations, one about whether or not we need to consider changing the agreement, and others on how exactly we would propose changing the agreement.