Proposal for organizing model [Draft]

DRAFT VERSION September 18, 2017


The ultimate organizational decision making and coordination body will be a “Spokes Council” of representatives of “Affinity Groups.” Affinity Groups are groups of 20 or more Pittsburghers organized around issues, identities, or geographies.

Spokes Council:

Composed of representatives chosen by each affinity group, the spokes council deliberates , plans, and makes decisions about larger collective goals, platforms, strategies, tactics, messaging, and actions. Other members of each affinity group may attend open meetings and give input to their representative during caucus breaks, but only their chosen representative speaks and votes.

Affinity Groups

Members would join affinity groups composed of twenty members, organized around geography, issue, identity, organizational affiliation or identity:

  • Neighborhood or geographic location: residency in a geographic neighborhood and/or membership in organization(s) that represents or is composed of residents of a particular neighborhood or self-defined geographic community: ie. East Liberty residents, Hill District Consensus GroupPerry Hilltop Citizen’s Council, etc
  • Issue: Individuals or organizations that wish to promote some central human need or right of the platform: ie. unions, housing justice organizers, public education advocates, etc.
  • Organizational affiliation: Membership in an organization with goals and processes that align with platform principles: ie. the DSA, SA, ISO, TMC, etc.
  • Identity: groups that wish to represent the concerns, rights, and needs of their own identity: ie. African-American, GLBTQIA+, persons with disabilities, etc.

Individual members are free to participate in the activities of multiple affinity groups but may only be counted towards the 20 member quota of one affinity group. For instance, an activist who is interested in public transit who lives in East Liberty can participate in activities of the transit advocacy affinity group and the East Liberty neighborhood affinity group but she must choose whether her membership is counted towards the 20 member quota of the transit advocacy affinity group or the East Liberty neighborhood affinity group.
There are currently no proposed limits of number of affinity groups that share focus on particular issue interests, geographic focus, organizational affiliation, or identity representation. For example, there might be three affinity groups of 20 members each that represent Hill District residents and concerns, with each affinity group having one vote on the spokes council.


In order to become a voting member, individuals would:

  • Sign an affirmation that they agree with the platform;
  • Sign a pledge to support the platform in action. Action can be defined in many different ways, and expresses a general commitment to participate beyond just paying dues (ie canvassing, phone-banking, platform signature collection, work on Communications or Logistics committees.)*
  • Pay annual dues that they can afford.
    • The minimum payment would be $1 per month, but members can pay as much as they wish per month.
    • If the individual has a bank account, debit card, or credit card, automatic monthly payments would be set up through Nation Builder, Action Network, or similar organizing platform for automatic payment.
    • If the individual does not have a bank account, debit card, or credit card, one annual payment of $12 could be paid in cash.
    • No other member can pay for another person’s dues (to prevent buying voting power.)
  • Affinity groups may set additional criteria for membership or participation in their affinity groups. For instance, a student affinity group could choose to only invite students to participate.

“How we organize” document: 

The affinity groups and Spokes Council would develop a document which outlines basic common practices and principles of how we relate to each other, conduct transparent decision making process, and promote inclusivity, access, and equity

Functional Coordination Groups

In addition to affinity groups, functional coordination groups that take on important tasks that may also be organized and may participate in the spokescouncil. Members of these groups facilitate the execution of decisions reached by the spokescouncil. Functional coordination groups could include:

  • Communications: press, self-generated media, social media, arts
  • Finances: basic record-keeping and accounting, payment of expenditures, reports.
  • Logistics: arranges meeting places, event organization, child care, food, marshalling, etc.
  • Facilitation: agenda distribution, meeting structure, keeping stack, arranging note taking,

Functional coordination groups must include active participants from at least half of the recognized affinity groups.

* This proposal of a pledge is modeled on the “I’ll Be There” pledge used by Jobs with Justice. Nation Builder and Action Network can both track types of action taken by individuals if the larger group and affinity groups use sign-in sheets for various types of participation. (However at this point we don’t recommend spending the administrative energy or time on tracking participation for the sake of eliminating members who don’t participate.)

Draft (8/1/17) The working group exploring organizing models proposed this basic structure and organizing plan, which they adapted from the guide produced by Barcelona en Comú after researching initiatives in several other cities. This draft will be reviewed and revised by the working group as we learn from each other and from neighborhood projects.

A. Structure: The eventual structure of the group should allow a balance of representation from neighborhoods, organizations, identities, and policy issues of critical concern from across Pittsburgh, as well as of skill sets necessary for carrying forward the work. Committees of the larger group could eventually include:

  • Neighborhood Coordinator: space that facilitates communication of main concerns and proposals of neighborhood groups that have voted to support the City platform;
  • Content Committee: addresses main platform issues and policies: government accountability, health care, education, work, environment, transit, etc.;
  • Communication Committee: Press, self-generated media, social media, arts;
  • Logistics Committee: meeting places, event organization, finances;
  • Identity caucuses to represent diverse concerns based on race, culture, age, gender, sexuality, disability, etc.

B. Basic timeline (Provisional/ To be adapted as needed):

    1. Residents of neighborhoods collect contact information and signatures of support for the platform, with special focus on neighborhoods such as the Hill, East Liberty, Homewood, Lawrenceville etc. where inequities and struggles for basic rights and needs have been most apparent.
  • Neighborhood-based assemblies would be organized, facilitated, and attended only by people who are residents of their own neighborhoods, using the platform as framework to work on more specific diagnoses and proposals that reflect their own concerns.
  • Present platform to neighborhood groups and organizations and/or individual members of such groups that are working to address similar concerns, including collective organizations that are practicing people-centered systems of work, exchange, and mutual care beyond current capitalistic systems, examples of the positive vision of the society that we eventually hope to build together. (ie. worker collectives, tenant-owned housing, community land trusts, etc.)
  • Support parallel development of a Black People’s Assembly – which should also have voice in the Pittsburgh Assembly as a distinct and influential entity. The formation of identity caucuses would be encouraged to co-exist and intersect with the Black Assembly and other similar entities. Individual participation of people of all identities would be actively invited in all committees, Community Assemblies, and the Pittsburgh Assembly.
  • Late spring 2018: Community Assemblies: organize larger assemblies to convene neighborhood groups to publicly adopt platform and develop next steps. (Police zones? Other? Geographic divisions to be determined.)
  • Early fall 2018: Pittsburgh Assembly, bringing together all neighborhood groups and committees to publicly adopt the platform and to develop plans and/or to vote on proposals for next stage of action.