The suggestion of adopting a mission statement has been widely discussed these past couple weeks. At tonight's General Assembly, we decided to endorse a draft mission statement, with the intention of perfecting it throughout the week to be ratified at next Sunday's General Assembly. Here's our current draft, as well as a brief summary of our reasons for pursuing this, and the rationale behind it.
"Occupy Newfoundland is a social movement that exists to amplify the voices of the 99%, for the benefit of the 100%, by providing our organization as a way to get involved at the grassroots level. We operate as a horizontal, consensus-based direct democracy, pursuing whichever goals or activities best represent the community."The wording of this draft is still a bit awkward, so we're hoping that people can help us out by giving feedback, or perhaps suggesting an alternative.
Is there anything missing from this mission statement, or anything present that shouldn't be there? Can it be expressed in a more clear, concise way?
Please leave a comment and tell us what you think.
What is a mission statement?
A mission statement is commonly regarded as encapsulating the ethics and the motivation of an organization. It does not usually deal with specific actions, because those flow from the mission statement. Essentially, it should be capable of explaining, on a high (i.e. abstract) level, the motivations behind our actions and the formation of our group. A good mission statement should provide the foundation for answering questions like "Why do you exist?", "How are you different from existing organizations?", and "What is the role of your organization in society?"
Generally speaking, an effective mission statement should be a clear description of where an organization is headed, that distinctly sets it apart from other organizations and makes a compelling case for the need it fills.
Why should we adopt a mission statement?
Our perceived lack of direction has been among our greatest weaknesses in the eyes of the public, from the very birth of the Occupy movement. We have been persistently labelled by the media, as well as members of the public, as being aimless, inconsistent, disorganized, lacking any central cause or motivation. Many different answers have been given to the question "Why are we here?", yet none has been generally accepted by the group or by the public. Yet, despite this, our participants all have a distinct sense of purpose. We all know we have a direction, goals, a vision for the future. Each of us has an implicit understanding of why we're here; why we assemble as a group on a weekly basis, and participate in Direct Action. It's time to put that understanding to words.
However, that can be difficult. We each have our own reasons for becoming involved in the Occupy movement. Ideally, a mission statement should encapsulate and provide a basic justification for all of our activities, including any directions we might decide to take in the future. The key to accomplishing this is to examine how the group makes decisions, so that any future changes in direction can be taken into account.
Among the core unifying principles of the Occupy movement has been our consensus-based decision making process. It's the one feature that almost every individual Occupy movement has. All of our goals, aims, and actions flow from the General Assembly process. By committing to the process, treating the General Assembly as a goal in itself, we can accurately and concisely describe our group. The process can also be framed as a service that we provide to the community; a means to ensure that everybody has the ability make themselves heard, and play an active role in how our society is run. We provide an alternative form of representation, and a way to participate in your community. It is through providing this service that we decide upon the rest of our goals and activities, in each instance doing whatever best represents our community (as decided via consensus).
On the other hand, the mission statement cannot and should not be an attempt to explain the broader Occupy movement. It isn't our place to do this, nor is it necessary to do so. We simply want to describe to the public who we are, and why we're here. To clarify this would ensure there is always a concrete answer to the question, "Why Occupy?", and it can also serve as an invitation to participate, and get involved.