Program Planning 101
The League uses the word “program” in a very specific way. According to the Glossary of League Lingo (see www.lwv.org), program consists of “selected governmental issues chosen by members at the local, state and national levels for study and action.”
Our Approach to Program and Action
League program arises from the suggestions of members. At every level of the League, the board of directors is responsible for reviewing and discussing these suggestions, formulating them in appropriate language, and recommending all or some of them for adoption according to procedures specified in the bylaws (the LWVN bylaws are in your 2012 Member Handbook and are on our website).
A local League’s proposed program is presented for approval by its members at the annual meeting. In the course of discussions about the coming year’s program, members often give suggestions to the board on scope of inquiry, timing, emphasis, and ways to handle the study and/or action phases for their area of interest.
The technique currently used most often in Leagues for reaching member agreement is consensus. Again, the League uses the word “consensus” in a very specific way: consensus is the “collective opinion of a substantial number of League members, representative of the membership as a whole, after objective study of an issue.” Consensus is not a simple majority, nor is it unanimity; rather it is the overall sense of the group as expressed through the exchange of ideas and opinions, whether in a meeting of the full membership or a series of smaller discussion meetings. Consensus will be the method used at our March program discussion meetings.
If a suggestion for program falls under an existing position, that suggestion can simply be considered by the board and voted on at the annual meeting, and action can be taken as appropriate. However, if the suggestion involves a new issue that does not fit under an existing position, members must first agree in broad terms about that issue; in “League Lingo,” the membership must first adopt an appropriate position.
It is essential that members have an opportunity to become educated before making a decision about adopting a new position. This is what makes subsequent League action on that issue uniquely credible and respected. Therefore, the League undertakes a study before considering a new position. During this study, members have an opportunity to examine the facts and key points pro and con, to discuss the political realities of action, and to contribute ideas for the board to consider when it formulates an action strategy after a position is reached.
Any member who introduces a particular program and/or proposal contemplating action on a community issue should consider the following:
- Does the League have an existing position that supports the proposed action?
- Do members understand and would they agree with the proposed action?
- Is it a priority for the League?
- Does the League have a unique role to play or would the League’s assets (time and money) be better spent on other activities?
- Does it have some chance of success or make an important statement for the League?
- Are other organizations or a coalition already working on the issue?
- What action techniques would be most effective?
- How will the League deal with controversy?
- How can members be involved in the proposed action?
- What kind of community involvement would best support the League’s efforts?