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A Democratic Model For Communal Governance

June 22, 2009 – 12:36 am34 Comments

By Yoram Symons

I am going to begin this post from the following assumption: The JCCV is not democratic nor is it representational.

Pages have already been filled on this blog debating this issue and it is an issue that can be argued back and forth ad infinitum. Whether it is or is not democratic or representational may ultimately come down to various definitions of what precisely constitutes democracy or representation. In my mind resorting to such arguments by definition is simply a way of avoiding genuine and substantive issues.

What is of far more interest to me are the following questions:

  1. What exactly should the mandate of communal governance be?
  2. Is the JCCV in its current form the best organisation to fulfil such a mandate?
  3. Is the JCCV’s constituency satisfied with both what the JCCV does and how it goes about achieving it?

The first question has thus far not been extensively discussed on this blog but  I will put forward the following:

  1. Strategic vision for the future of the community and activities to pursue these strategic aims.
  2. Coordination of all communal fundraising activities and then disbursement of those funds.
  3. Responsibility for the physical security of the community.
  4. Advocacy to government on the community’s behalf.
  5. Public relations between the community and the broader Australian community.
  6. Facilitation of greater interaction and involvement between different parts of the community.
  7. Hosting a number of major events every calendar year.
  8. Provision of key information to the community.
  9. A forum for the settlement of disputes between communal organisations and individuals.

The second question I would answer in the resounding negative. While the JCCV certainly performs some of the functions on my list, and indeed many others as well, its general lack of democracy, its inability to be genuinely representative and the lack of transparency surrounding so many facets of its general operation leave it as a body whose primary interest is the preservation of the status quo, not as a body that can drive positive growth and change.

As for the third question, the only way to arrive at an unequivocal answer would be to conduct a survey of every single Jewish person in Melbourne and ask them directly. As the mountains of anecdotal evidence referred to on this blog maintain, there is an unusually high degree of dissatisfaction with the JCCV and Communal leadership in general.

Thus, I propose the following:

  1. Abolish the JCCV in its current form entirely.
  2. Establish a new organisation that is not made up of affiliate organisations but one where members of the community can vote directly on matters.
  3. Establish a registry of every Jewish person in Melbourne above the age of 18 who wishes to participate. The registry would be stored securely online and operate very much like an online social community. The “Jewishness” of members would have to be verified by some process.
  4. This online registry would then become the constituency.
  5. The constituency would then vote once every term (lets say every two years) for the executive of the new body.
  6. The executive would be constituted of positions that address the aims described above. Hence there would be:
  • President /CEO – Strategic direction, ultimate arbiter
  • Treasurer/ CFO – Financial matters
  • Security Chief
  • Advocacy Director
  • PR and Communications Director
  • Events Coordinator
  • Director of Communal Affairs

7.    The Executive would use the online social community to communicate all substantive matters to the community. The community would be able to use the online social community to discuss relevant issues and create pressure groups around certain issues. As the affairs of the online community are easily trackable, verifiable and consistent metrics around communal attitudes can be gauged at all times.

8.    In addition to the online community, the Executive would meet in a public forum once a month where they would hear grievances, suggestions and debate from the community on any number of issues. The agenda of these meetings would be set by the online community by relevance and popularity of issues.

The establishment of such an online space for the community would have a number of significant benefits.

First, it would facilitate genuine democracy within the leadership structure. The actual will of individuals could be implemented as opposed to channelling their will through a number of dubiously representative organisations.

Second, it would bypass the need for surveys or other opinion gauging activities as the online community would be a living and dynamic gauge of communal attitudes at all times.

Third, by formalising avenues of information flow, both from and to the leadership, genuine transparency of the leadership’s actions can be maintained at all times, and the constituency will always have available channels for grievances and the like.

An approach like this, which utilises the internet’s unprecedented ability to enfranchise individuals is certainly the way forward for all governmental structures. Their ultimate implementation is more a question of “when” than one of “if”. There is no reason why the Jewish Community of Melbourne should not be a trailblazer in this regard.

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